THE BRIDLE OF THE FLOOD
THE irrigation of Egypt is a vast and complicated business. In some respects it is the largest enterprise undertaken by man upon the surface of the globe; for when it is completed, as it will be sometime by the head-works at Lake Victoria and Lake Albert, it will mean that over a length of 4000 miles human agency is at work, adapting and modifying the forces of Nature to serve its own ends and minister to its needs.
The problem of the Nile has become more complex in recent years since the old basin irrigation has been superseded. When Egypt was mainly a corn producer this system answered its purpose admirably. For the country then lived on the Nile flood, and the energies of its people were mainly devoted to utilising the flow to the utmost and restraining it within bounds when it ran to excess. Beyond that it could not go. If the rise was insufficient in any year, Egypt for that year suffered and starved; if the rise was too great the corvée of the peasants was embodied, and all hands went to the dykes to raise and strengthen them. The superfluous tide, doing much or little mischief, as the case might be, coursed away eventually to the sea. It could not be