From north-to-south, the delta is approximately 160 km in length. From west-to-east, it covers some 240 km of coastline. The delta is sometimes divided into sections, with the Nile dividing into two main distributaries, the Damietta and the Rosetta, flowing into the Mediterranean at port cities with the same name. In the past, the delta had several distributaries, but these have been lost due to flood control, silting and changing relief. One such defunct distributary is Wadi Tumilat. The Suez Canal runs to the east of the delta, entering the coastal Lake Manzala in the north-east of the delta. To the north-west are three other coastal lakes or lagoons: Lake BurullusLake Idku and Lake Maryut.

The Nile is considered to be an “acurate” delta (arc-shaped), as it resembles a triangle or lotus flower when seen from above. The outer edges of the delta are eroding, and some coastal lagoons have seen increasing salinity levels as their connection to the Mediterranean Sea increases. Since the delta no longer receives an annual supply of nutrients and sediments from upstream due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the soils of the floodplains have become poorer, and large amounts of fertilizers are now used. Topsoil in the delta can be as much as 70 feet (21 m) in depth.

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