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Water Challenges in Egypt

Photo 1: The fishing girl, Hanaa sits on the boat on Nile River, Egypt, Oct. 23, 2009. (Source: Ning, Zhang, Flicker)
Photo 1: The fishing girl, Hanaa sits on the boat on Nile River, Egypt, Oct. 23, 2009. (Source: Ning, Zhang, Flicker)

Egypt faces significant challenges to water resource development and use, the solution to which requires the mobilization of other natural resources, such as land and energy, and integrated management. The main challenges can be summarized as:

Water losses: The failure to rationalize water consumption in all consuming sectors, particularly the agricultural, industrial and housing sectors.[1]

Climate change: Water is one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change, the others being coastal zones and agricultural resources. As the most downstream country on the Nile, Egypt is affected by climate change impacts, not only within its borders but also within the whole basin. Economic developments in upstream countries and measures they might take to adapt to climate change are likely to put more pressure on water resources in Egypt.

Deterioration of watercourses and drainage systems: Watercourses and drainage systems require greater attention as they have been significantly degraded both as a result of the opening of illegal irrigation channels or the disposal of wastewater and industrial waste into them. This has resulted in water pollution and a shortage of water at the end of watercourses, which generally affects the efficiency of water resource use.

Deterioration of the current water transmission pipelines: This results in the loss of treated fresh water, leading to a demand for water resources that exceeds actual needs due to the amount of water lost during transmission.

Raising awareness and understanding: Includes public awareness of water scarcity and water quality deterioration. The government introduced a plan to raise awareness of water consumption using the state media, mosques and churches. However, there is still a lack of information regarding water quality across the country and the actual water level in Lake Nasser.

Cooperation with Nile Basin countries: Egypt will be influenced by developments upstream. Cooperation with Nile Basin countries is needed to ensure equitable development of the resource. There are many challenges facing the cooperation process. Egypt withdrew from the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in 2010, and negotiations to settle the legal and institutional dispute are still pending.

[1] ‘Sustainable development strategy: Egypt Vision 2030, Environment Pillar.’ Available at http://sdsegypt2030.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/10.-Environment-Pillar.pdf, accessed [10-11-2018].