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Water Resources in Egypt

Egypt- Nile river
Photo 1: Along the Nile River, Egypt. (Source: d.traveller, Flickr)

In 2015, annual per capita consumption of renewed fresh water was 650 m3, which is significantly below the 1,000 m3 water scarcity threshold.[1] About 98% of Egypt’s fresh water resources originate outside of its borders, such as the Nile River and groundwater aquifers. Indeed, the Nile River provides the country with some 93% of its water requirements.[2] This is considered to be one of the main challenges for water policy and decision-makers. The current water resources are shown in Table 1.

Water ResourceVolume (billion m3/year)
Nile water (High Aswan Dam)55.50
Deep Groundwater2.1
Rainfall \ Flash Floods 1.30
Desalination of sea water0.35
Shallow Groundwater (Delta)7.5
Re-Use of Ag. Drainage Water13.5
Total Water Resources80.25 BCM/Year

Table 1. Water resources in Egypt.[3]

Surface Water

Egypt has the following riverine and coastal basins:

  • The Northern Interior Basin, covering 520,881 km² (52% of the country) in the east and south-east. A sub-basin of the Northern Interior Basin is the Qattara Depression.
  • The central Nile Basin, covering 326,751 km² (33% of the country), is a broad north-south strip.
  • The Mediterranean Coast Basin, covering 65,568 km² (6% of the country).
  • The North-east Coast Basin, a narrow strip of 88,250 km² (8% of the country) along the Red Sea coast.[4]

The Nile River supplies about 93% of Egypt’s annual renewable water resources. A share of 55.5 billion cubic metres per year (BCM/yr) is allocated to Egypt according to the Nile Water Agreement (1959). About 10 BCM/yr is lost through evaporation from the Aswan High Dam reservoir (Lake Nasser).

Groundwater

Egypt has huge natural mineral water resources. However, most of them have not yet been significantly exploited.[5] The total amount of deep groundwater has been estimated at about 40,000 BCM.

The main obstacles in utilizing this resource, which represents approximately 8% of water resources, are the great depth (up to 1,500 metres in some areas) and deteriorating water quality at increasing depth.[6]

River Nile Basin Water resources in Sudan
Map 1 : River Nile Basin.
AquifersMain Features
Nile aquifer87% of the total groundwater in Egypt, 100-300 m3/hr
Nubian sandstone aquiferCovers 2 million km2, the total volume stored is about 150,000 BCM
Fissured aquiferCovers 50% of the surface area of Egypt, with productivity from 5 m3/hr to more than 300 m3/hr
Moghra aquiferFound near the surface from Wadi Natun to Wadi Farigh
Coastal aquiferOn the northern and western coasts. Recharged by rainfall
Hardrock aquiferLocated in the Eastern Desert and southern Sinai. Recharged by small quantities of infiltrating rainwater

Table 2. Main aquifers in Egypt.[7]

Map 2. Main aquifers in Egypt

Non-conventional Sources

Non-conventional water resources include agricultural drainage water, desalinated brackish groundwater and/or seawater, and treated municipal wastewater. These resources represent 22.2% of the total available water resources, and are generally used for agriculture, landscaping and industry through specialized processes.[8] Desalination is practiced on a small scale at present, mainly along the Red Sea coast.[9]

[1] Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Egypt, 2015. ‘Statistics of the Year 2015.’

[2] MWRI, 2017. ‘Facts Regarding the Water Situation in Egypt Report.’

[3] Ibid.

[4] AQUASTAT, no date. ‘Regional report.’ Available at www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries_regions/EGY/, accessed [10-11-2018].

[5] ‘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].

[6] AQUASTAT, no date. ‘Egypt.’ Available at www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries_regions/EGY/, accessed [10-11-2018].

[7] MWRI, 2005. ‘National Water Resources Plan 2017.’ Available at http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/egy147082.pdf), accessed [10-11-2018].

[8] ‘Sustainable development strategy: Egypt Vision 2030, Environment Pillar.’ Available at http://sdsegypt2030.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/10.-Environment-Pillar.pdf, accessed [10-11-2108].

[9] UN-Water Activity Information System. ‘Safe wastewater use in agriculture in Egypt: Case study.’’ Available at www.ais.unwater.org/ais/pluginfile.php/356/mod_page/content/114/Egypt%20FAO-Essam_3.pdf, accessed [10-11-2018].