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Egypt is part of:
Africa · Arab States · Middle East · Northern Africa ·
Water Basins of Egypt:
Jordan-Dead Sea · Nile ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Cairo
Neighbouring Countries Israel, Libya, Sudan
Total Area 1,001,450 km2
  - Water 6,000 km2 (0.60%) / 60 m2/ha
  - Land 995,450 km2
Coastline 2,450 km
Population 72,850,000 (72 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.716 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 34.4 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $158,300 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $5,500
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 34,044 km2 (3.42%)
     - Arable 29,067 km2 (2.92%)
     - Permanent Crops 4,977 km2 (0.5%)
     - Irrigated 34,220 km2
  - Non cultivated 7,168 km2 (96.58%)
Average Annual RainfallD 51 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 86.8 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 68.3 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 86%
  - For Domestic Use 8%
  - For Industrial Use 6%
  - Per Capita 1,015 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 98%
     - Urban population 99%
     - Rural population 97%
  - Improved Sanitation 70%
     - Urban population 86%
     - Rural population 58%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Egypt is highly dependent on water from the Nile River, obtaining 95% of its total water supply from this source. National food security hinges on water availability, and most agricultural land depends for its fertility on access to waters from the Nile. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1968 held marked consequences for Egypt’s access to water for agriculture and municipal use. While the dam allowed Egypt to control flooding, and increased the amount of water available for irrigation, it also resulted in raised water tables and problems with drainage. Per a 1959 agreement with Sudan, Egypt has the right to use 55.5 cubic kilometers of water from the Nile each year.

A second source of water is the groundwater held in six aquifer systems in Egypt, which include the deep groundwater of the Nubian Aquifer reservoir in the Western Desert. Although this aquifer contains vast quantities of water, it lies at depths of 1500 meters and is difficult to access. It is estimated that this water can be mined at a rate of approximately 4 billion cubic meters per year for the next 100 years.

Total water withdrawal in 2000 was estimated at 68.3 cubic kilometers. This included 59 cubic kilometers for agriculture (86%), 5.3 cubic kilometers for domestic use (8%), and 4.0 cubic kilometers for industry (6%). New irrigation projects, including the Northern Sinai irrigation project and the New Valley Project (planned for completion 2017) will require an additional 9.4 billion cubic meters of water.

Egypt’s water delivery system is immense, distributing water for agriculture, municipal and industrial use, generation of hydroelectricity, and navigation of freighters and tourist boats in the Nile. Water delivery infrastructure includes: the Aswan High Dam; eight main barrages; approximately 30 kilometers of public canals; 17,000 kilometers of public drains; 80,000 kilometers of private canals and farm drains; 45,000 private water pumps; 22,000 public water control structures; and 670 large public pumping stations for irrigation. Irrigation methods vary: flood irrigation is most common in the old lands, whereas more efficient, technological methods such as drip irrigation are more common in the newly settled, reclaimed lands.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

According to most interpretations of Islamic tradition, water cannot be sold. Consumers may be charged for the delivery of water, however, as is the case in Egypt for potable water and irrigation water in limited situations on some reclaimed lands. Egypt’s water costs are low for individual consumers and farmland irrigation because they are heavily subsidized by the government. A cubic meter of water is $0.04 on average for individual usage of 10 cubic meters per month.

Law No. 12 of 1984 and Law No. 213 of 1994 establish the legal basis for irrigation and drainage. Law No. 213 of 1994 established the legal basis for Water User Associations, and Ministerial Decree No. 14900 of 1995, issued by the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, gives greater detail about WUAs’ authority and responsibilities. Resolution No. 1383 of 2005 concerns protection of the Nile River and the coasts. It entrusts the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources with the control of the Nile River.

Egypt’s use-rights to the Nile River water are established per treaty with Sudan. Based on a 1959 agreement, the country has a fixed annual quota of 55.5 billion cubic meters of waters that are regulated by the High Aswan Dam.

Institutional Framework

The Ministry for Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) is responsible for managing the waters of the Nile, including irrigation canals, drains, and groundwater. MWRI also has authority over the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the transition to WUAs.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR) is charged with protection of agricultural land in Egypt, and has responsibility over agricultural land and water. MALR includes the General Authority for Reconstruction Projects and Agricultural Reclamation (GARPAR), which is the main governmental body for managing, developing and disposing state land for agricultural and reclamation purposes.

The Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development develops public housing projects and is responsible for urban planning issues related to urban housing and urban development.

Beginning in the mid 1990s, the Government of Egypt has shifted emphasis from its role as the central actor in developing and managing agricultural water-supply systems towards promoting participatory approaches in which water users play an active role in the management of irrigation systems and cost-sharing. Toward this end, the government has taken important institutional and legislative measures to create local WUAs and Water User’s Unions (WUU). The WUAs and WUUs are groups of farmers who, accessing water through a common source, join forces in the allocation, distribution and management of the water. WUAs are used in the old, settled areas while WUUs are used in the new reclaimed areas. The primary purposes for creating these groups were to improve water delivery to small irrigation canals (mesqas), to better operate and maintain the mesqas, and to improve on-farm water-use efficiency. WUAs and WUUs have reportedly decreased the costs of irrigation, increased agricultural productivity, and increased equity in distribution of irrigation water.

In 2004, the Government consolidated the public drinking-water authority held at the governorate level into a private Holding Company with central operations in Cairo. The Holding Company is considered public property but with a private sector mandate: it must efficiently deliver water to and collect sewerage from a broad customer base without public subsidies, and is subject to the laws governing the private sector. Price-setting has been challenging for the Holding Company, as it must balance the need for financial sustainability with the limited ability of poor households to pay tariffs. The State’s Regulatory Agency for Water and Waste and the Customer Protection Agency help to determine pricing and to evaluate the operations of the Holding Company.

Government Reforms and Interventions

To cope with Egypt’s water challenges, the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) has developed a National Water Resources Plan (NWRP) comprising three major steps: (1) development of additional water resources and cooperation with the Nile Basin Riparian countries; (2) making better use of the existing water resources and increasing water-use efficiency; and (3) protection of water quality and the environment. The planning horizon covers a period of 20 years from 1997 up to 2017.

Egypt has worked with many donors to develop and implement the Irrigation Improvement Project (IIP), a nation-wide program begun in 1984 by the Ministry of Water Resources. Goals of the IIP included: improving irrigation efficiency at the mesqa and farm levels; increasing local participation in irrigation management; and decreasing public costs for irrigation. This project has encompassed the development of the WUAs.

The Government continues to implement an aggressive land-reclamation policy, which includes the building of water-delivery infrastructure. It is not yet clear what percentage of the public costs accrued toward this end will be recuperated by private beneficiaries in the new settlements.

Over the last five years, the Government has privatized water-delivery and sewerage services, as discussed above.

Egypt participates in the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), formed in 2000 among countries that share the Nile River Basin (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda). The Initiative’s mission is: “To achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resource.” Goals include expanding a shared knowledge base regarding the river and the needs of the 160 million people who inhabit the Nile River Basin, and to increase cooperation, hydroelectricity generation and regional trade among member countries.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Egypt is facing serious water shortages in the coming years. The share of water per capita in Egypt was approximately 922 cubic meters per year in 1990, which placed it below the “water poverty level” (1000 cubic meters per year) accepted by the World Bank. It is predicted that per capita water resources will fall to 337 cubic meters by 2025. Under current water management and agricultural practices, up to 60% of agricultural lands can be irrigated. Causes of water shortages include ineffective water policies, water-intensive crop choices, increased population, and reclamation programs. Some observers think that Egypt’s water supplies are secure at least until 2017 given current Government policies, but that securing water for the long term after 2017 will require balancing the water needs of many sectors, including agriculture and industry.

Egyptian agriculture features the lowest level of water productivity in the Middle East/North African region, at the price of about US $0.20 per cubic meter. However, because Egypt reuses much of the water drained off through irrigation (approximately 4 billion cubic meters per year), which returns to the Nile for downstream use, the country has a relatively high overall irrigation efficiency rating. Still, overuse of water is a major problem in Egypt, and current agricultural practices are not considered sustainable. Other problems associated with overuse include water-logging (which creates health issues for rural families), salinization, and decreased soil fertility and productivity. Another unique problem Egypt faces is the corrosion of antiquities (including walls, foundations and columns) by rising groundwater tables and increasing salt concentration in the surface soils, which are worsened by poor sewerage treatment.

The greatest opportunities for maximizing productive capacity of water resources in Egypt may be continued focus on reuse and increased efficiency through demand management (primarily through local WUAs). The Government of Egypt estimates that it could make available an additional 20.9 cubic kilometers per year through greater focus on water recycling, and by changing irrigation practices, crop choices and crop patterns in order to improve water-use efficiency. Some observers have also noted that applying a tariff to agricultural water could help to improve efficiency. Such tariff could be linked to the land tax, and could encompass the costs of drainage and irrigation systems.

Water quality is of ongoing concern in Egypt, especially for areas downstream of Cairo and for groundwater. Household wastewater is often discharged untreated into the waterways; agricultural pollutants such as saline, nitrates and agrochemical residues flow back into both surface and groundwater; and industrial pollution contaminates water sources, although some reduction has been noted due to compliance with environmental laws. Many lakes are so polluted that fishermen are losing their livelihoods. Poor access to improved sewerage in rural Egypt threatens the water quality. Eighty-five percent of urban Egyptians have access to improved sanitation facilities, while only 47% of rural people have access. Most rural households make their own septic tanks, which often produce effluent that seeps into the soil and underground water.

Donor Interventions

USAID has directed over US $3 billion to water and wastewater infrastructure projects in Egypt since 1975. Projects have included: construction of water and wastewater treatment systems in many areas of the country; improving water utilities’ cost-recovery and revenue-generation; extending affordable water-delivery systems to villages and to individual rural households; raising hygiene-awareness in rural areas; and increasing private-sector investment in the water sector. Between 2004 and 2009, USAID assisted Egypt to establish integrated water-management districts responsible for 1.2 million feddans (15% of irrigated land), and to formulate 600 WUAs for 500,000 water users in 27 districts, which allowed farmers to participate directly in managing the irrigation systems, participating in infrastructure maintenance, educating the public, and resolving conflicts.

The World Bank loaned Egypt over US $200 million for The West Delta Water Conservation and Irrigation Rehabilitation Project. The objectives are to improve the livelihood and increase the income of people in the West Delta region of Egypt through: (1) mitigating further environmental degradation caused by excessive drawdown of the groundwater resources; and (2) establishing a framework for financial sustainability of irrigation infrastructure in the use of water resources. The Bank is currently working on several pilot projects in irrigation and sanitation that seek to increase the role of WUAs and establish partnerships through the International Finance Corportation (IFC) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

In 2010, IFAD launched a US $48 million project aimed at helping small farmers increase their water-use efficiency and crop production. The project targets 79,000 households in poor rural communities.


Recently updated articles on Egypt
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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Egypt

(this is a list of the 15 most recently updated entries. To see all projects click here)

  1. Formulating an Action Programme for the Integrated Management of the Shared Nubian Aquifer ‎(4,163 views) . . Katy.norman
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Case studies in or about Egypt

(by popularity)

  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Nile River Basin ‎(55,045 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Jordan River Basin Part II ‎(30,319 views) . . Katy.norman
  3. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Jordan River Basin Part I ‎(22,976 views) . . Adriana.miljkovic
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  5. The Nile: Moving Beyond Cooperation ‎(10,741 views) . . Katy.norman
  6. Jordan Case Study ‎(9,397 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented projects in Egypt


5 most recently updated publications on Egypt
  1. Egypt mission report of the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation ‎(2,594 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Jordan River Basin Part II ‎(30,319 views) . . Katy.norman
  3. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Jordan River Basin Part I ‎(22,976 views) . . Adriana.miljkovic
  4. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Nile River Basin ‎(55,045 views) . . Katy.norman
  5. The Nile: Moving Beyond Cooperation ‎(10,741 views) . . Katy.norman

5 most popular publications on Egypt
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Nile River Basin ‎(55,045 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Jordan River Basin Part II ‎(30,319 views) . . Katy.norman
  3. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Jordan River Basin Part I ‎(22,976 views) . . Adriana.miljkovic
  4. The Nile: Moving Beyond Cooperation ‎(10,741 views) . . Katy.norman
  5. Jordan Case Study ‎(9,397 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Egypt

Who is Who

People working in Egypt
  1. Emad Adly ‎(3,516 views)

See the complete list of Waterwiki users working in Egypt

Organizations working in Egypt

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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Egypt


See also

Nile Basin Initiative

External Resources

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Egypt" on wikipedia

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