Researchers Seeking Ways to Save Egyptian Ruins

But "it would not be a minor expenditure," he says. And "if you're going to do drains like that, how do you trench without disrupting the monuments or other buried features?"

In other words, might it be necessary to destroy the monuments in order to save them?

Fogg thinks a drainage system probably would work, but he also believes there may be a better answer. During the coming months he plans to study the irrigation systems used in the region. It might be possible to make the systems more efficient, thus reducing the amount of water that is used in irrigation.

"When you do that, you don't recharge the groundwater as much," he says.

Then, perhaps the water table would eventually recede, thus ending what some scientists believe to be a crisis. But maybe not.

More Mouths to Feed

Egypt is caught in the same predicament as many other areas of the world. It takes crops to feed a growing population, and farming can have very serious consequences.

In this case, the effort to provide water to grow food may spell doom to ancient monuments that have stood for thousands of years as testaments to clever people who, so very long ago, figured out how to do some things that still baffle modern scholars.

We cannot allow these ruins to become, in the worse sense of the word, ruins.

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on ABCNEWS.com. A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

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