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Egypt and Water Issue

Monday، 20 July 2009 - 12:00 AM

Water is a priority issue in today’s world. Civilized nations have given great attention to developing and conserving water resources. 
Egypt leads not only in Africa but throughout the world in the area of water management. 
Nile water is estimated at only 5 per cent of the amount of torrential rain falling on the Equatorial and Ethiopian plateaus. Wasted and unused water is put at 95 per cent. 
The amount of rain falling outside the waterway as it crosses the ten Nile-basin countries is 5 times that which constitutes water sources in the two plateaus. 
Nile-basin countries are currently seeking fruitful cooperation to ensure a package that will serve their respective interests. An agreement is in the offing by which Nile waters would be regulated and distributed based on each country’s historical and acquired rights as provided for in previous covenants. Agreement has already been reached on 95 per cent of the articles and experts are currently working on the remaining parts. 

Water Policies

Egypt’s first water strategy was developed in 1998. Projects under implementation until 2017 are estimated to cost EGP145 billion. The strategy covers:

- Maximizing the use of water resources.

- Eliminating water pollution.

- Cooperating with other countries sharing the Nile waterway in order to develop and conserve the river’s waters.

Water studies until 2050 depend on two basic approaches:

• Optimizing the management of water resources.

• Introducing alternative cooperation policies between Nile-basin countries to reduce water waste.

Water challenges faced by Egypt

The water challenges facing Egypt increased after the Ethiopian government has already completed the construction of the Renaissance Dam. It is certain that 2013 marked the beginning of practical steps to affect Egypt's share of Nile water. Despite the steady population growth in Egypt and the increasing need for water for agriculture, domestic and industrial uses, the figures of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics clearly indicate the decline of Egypt's water resources in 2013/2013 to 70.5 billion cubic meters, compared to 72.36 billion cubic meters in 2008/2009. It is imperative for the Egyptian government to preserve Egypt's water resources and development it to keep pace with current and future needs.

Renaissance Dam

The Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River. Construction of the Renaissance Dam started on April 2, 2011. It is in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, about 20 km east of the border with Sudan.  The estimated construction cost of the project is US$4.8 billion.

Impact on Egypt

- The Renaissance Dam will cut into its water supply, destroying parts of its precious farmland and squeezing its population of more than 90 million people, who already face water shortages. The Nile provides over 95 per cent of Egypt's water supply. Almost the entire population lives cramped in the sliver of the Nile Valley. Around 60 per cent of Egypt's Nile water originates in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile, one of two main tributaries.

- There is a possibility that the dam will collapse as it is constructed on a sloping area, which could cause massive flooding that could destroy some villages and cities. In the event of a complete collapse, the huge water rush behind the dam would cause the flotation of many cities.

- It is expected that the filling period of the dam will continue for 6 years, which will be accompanied by a deficit in the production of hydropower in Egypt along with the low level of Lake Nasser to about 15 meters.

Based on the above, the Nile water crisis is one of the biggest and most important challenges facing Egypt as it is a crisis related to the Egyptian national security and the destiny of the future generations.

Current and future water resources

One of the most important national issues that Egypt is interested in at the present time is maximizing the utilization of water sources as water is the main pillar for development.

Egypt's traditional water resources include: River Nile, groundwater, rainfall and flood, while untraditional resources include: treated wastewater and agricultural drainage water.

Current water resources

River Nile

The River Nile has certainly played a critical role in Egypt. It is the main source of water in Egypt, where Egypt's share is 55.5 billion cubic meters, representing 79.3% of the water resources that covers 95% of the current water needs.


The quantity of groundwater used in Egypt is estimated to 6.1 billion cubic meters per year in the valley and the delta. This amount can be increased in the future to reach 7.5 billion cubic meters per year without endangering the underground stock.


Rainfall is not a major source of water in Egypt. Rainfall is minimal at 1.3 billion cubic meters per year, occurring mainly during autumn and winter time.

Reuse of agriculture drainage water

It is a significant source of water. The annual average of agricultural drainage water is 12 billion cubic meters per year. Currently, about 5.7 billion cubic meters are being reused. Efforts are being made to reach 9 billion cubic meters in 2017 for agricultural expansion projects.

Treated wastewater

It is one of the water resources that can be used for irrigation purposes provided that it meets the internationally recognized health conditions. Its quantity is about 2.5 billion cubic meters per year; about 1.3 billion cubic meters are reused after being treated in desert land cultivation projects.

Water usage

The agricultural use of water represents the largest part of the uses as it consumes about 59.3 billion cubic meters representing 85.6% of the total uses in 2006/2007. The industrial sector consumes about 7.8 billion cubic meters; about 1.15 billion cubic meters are actually used in 2006/07 while the rest goes back, after being polluted, to the Nile, canals and banks.

As for drinking water and sanitary purposes, it is estimated to 6.5 billion cubic meters, 9.4% of the total uses in 2006/2007.

Future water resources

There are many projects in the Upper Nile to control the loss of water and the management of additional resources, the most important of which:

Jonglei Canal

It is estimated that the Jonglei Canal project can provide about 4 billion cubic meters in its first phase and 3 billion cubic meters in its second phase divided equally between Egypt and Sudan.

Bahr el-Ghazal project

Bahr al-Ghazal project provides about 7 billion cubic meters divided equally between Egypt and Sudan and the project of South Sudan Marsh Swamps which provides about 4 billion cubic meters.

Sea water desalination

One of the most important future axes of increasing water resources, especially as its cost is decreasing with the use of modern technologies. Currently, Egypt's water resources from sea water desalination are about 0.06 billion cubic meters, which is expected to reach 0.14 billion cubic meters in 2017.

Modification of crop structure

The plan is to modify crop structure to cope with the State's water, productivity and export policy. The ministry's plan aims to provide about 1.5 billion cubic meters of water per year by replacing the beet plantation with sugar and reducing the cultivated area from 1.3 million feddans to 950,000 feddans.

Reducing water losses

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation estimates that water losses are about 35% of the total water discharged from the High Dam, or about 19.4 billion cubic meters, which is likely to be lost by leakage and evaporation. The loss in irrigation channels is about 2.3 billion cubic meters annually.

Egypt's water needs until 2017

Egypt has identified its agricultural policy during the new century by rehabilitating and cultivating 3.4 million feddans by 2017 to meet the growing food needs of the population. Egypt therefore needs additional resources to meet the estimated 20.4 billion cubic meters of irrigation water needed for these lands.

Egypt's efforts to secure its Nile water needs

Egypt has endeavored throughout the ages to secure its water needs, especially Nile waters, as the main source of water.

It also worked to establish projects that would enable it to benefit from the river's water. One of the greatest and most important projects was the High Dam.

Economic benefits achieved by the High Dam

- Increasing Egypt's share of Nile water by 55.5 billion cubic meters annually

- Converting 970 thousand feddans from the system of pelvic irrigation to the system of permanent irrigation, which increased the productivity of acres.

- Expanding rice cultivation to 700 thousand feddans annually

- Protecting Egypt from annual floods from the River Nile

- Protecting the country from the dangers of drought

- Providing about a half of Egypt's power supply.

- Improving navigation along the river by keeping the water flow consistent

- Creating a 1.2 billion feddans increase in the cultivatable land in Egypt

The flow of water into Toshka Lakes

The water flowed into the Toshka Lakes for the first time on 15/10/1996, where the water level in front of the High Dam reached 178.55 meters.

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