Egypt - Building an artificial wetland to treat wastewater

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See the Video
(Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jS7b2U3Skk)
The Natural Alternative

Egypt needed an inexpensive way to treat wastewater. It produces around 5 billion cubic metres of untreated sanitary wastewater per year. The country could not afford the high cost of implementing conventional sanitary systems, so it opted for what may seem like an unlikely alternative: creating wetlands.

Experts recognize that natural wetlands can greatly improve water quality. When water enters at one end of the natural wetland loaded with a high concentration of heavy substances and toxins, it leaves the other end with reduced loads of these contaminants and pollutants, most of which are taken up by the reeds.

Given Egypt’s water scarcity, its vast amount of untreated wastewater, the availability of empty land, and the need for low-cost technology, engineered wetlands were suggested as a viable alternative with which to treat and reuse wastewater.

The total budget of the project is $4.8 million: $4.5 million as a contribution from GEF and $0.3 million as a contribution from the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency and the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, in addition to the 245 acres of land which was granted as an in-kind contribution.

Context

GEF-UNDP initiative for ascertaining the suitability of wetlands as alow-cost alternative for treating sewage.

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

; Egypt
  • Lake Manzala Engineered Wetland
  • Bahr el Bagar drain

Stakeholders

The project is funded by GEF and implemented by UNDP.

Contacts

Mohamed Bayoumi - ARR/ Team Leader, UNDP Egypt


Contents

Background and Significance

Background

Egypt needed an inexpensive way to treat wastewater. It produces around 5 billion cubic metres of untreated sanitary wastewater per year. The country could not afford the high cost of implementing conventional sanitary systems, so it opted for what may seem like an unlikely alternative: creating wetlands.


Goal and Objectives

The Lake Manzala Engineered Wetland Project investigated the suitability of using artificial wetlands as a low-cost alternative for treating sewage from cities, towns, and villages located on the fringes of the Nile Valley and Delta, where ample land is available.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

WHAT

Given Egypt’s water scarcity, its vast amount of untreated wastewater, the availability of empty land, and the need for low-cost technology, engineered wetlands were suggested as a viable alternative with which to treat and reuse wastewater. The wetland area was designed to treat 25,000 cubic metres per day of water lifted from the Bahr El Baqar drain, which discharges 3.0 million cubic metres/day into Lake Manzala.

WHO

The team works together with communities and local authorities on the rehabilitation of social infrastructures.


WHERE

The project area is located at the tail end of the Bahr El Baqar drain, on the boundaries of Lake Manzala. The project was allocated 245 acres by the Egyptian government, and the engineered wetland currently occupies 60 acres. The site was ready for use in 1999.

WHEN

Construction began in 2000, with final components finished in 2004.

HOW

The project, funded by the GEF, with UNDP as an implementing agency, first investigated the suitability of using engineered wetlands as a low-cost alternative for treating sewage. Once they were deemed suitable, the project went ahead with the construction of the Lake Manzala Engineered Wetland, an experimental wastewater treatment area located in the north-eastern corner of Egypt.

Results and Impact

A 60 acre engineered wetland was designed and constructed to treat 25,000m3 per day, lifted from the Bahr El Baqar drain. The treated water could subsequently be used for the irrigation of crops, the raising of fish, and the replenishment of the natural wetlands located around Lake Manzala.

Lessons for Replication

Main Results

Lake Manzala
Lake Manzala

Engineered wetlands have a number of advantages.

  • The capital cost of wetlands is one quarter the cost of the cheapest conventional treatment method, and the wetlands are able to treat multiple types of waste – unlike many conventional methods.
  • Also, one of the most important advantages of the wetlands is that the operation and maintenance costs are almost zero.
  • The analysis from the collected field data, after over one and a half years of operation, indicate that the removal efficiency of the facility was much better than expected.
  • The treated water can be put to multiple uses such as the irrigation of crops, the raising of fish, and the replenishment of the natural wetlands located around Lake Manzala.


Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

References

See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

External Resources

Interviewees and Key Contacts

Mohamed Bayoumi - ARR/ Team Leader, UNDP Egypt

Enrergy Information Administration (Official Energy Statistics from the US Government) The Energy Information Administration (EIA), created by Congress in 1977, is a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy. The mission is to provide policy-independent data, forecasts, and analyses to promote sound policy making, efficient markets, and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment.

EarthTrends Country Profile of Egypt

Nile Basin Initiative The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was initiated in the mid-1990 by UNDP then joined by the World Bank. What started off as a dialogue among riparians has now become the single largest transboundary initiative, with over 13 partners providing their support. The NBI brings together the 9 riparians of the longest river in the world: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, DR Congo, Uganda and Tanzania with Eritrea as an observer. These countries have jointly decided to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources”.

World Bank on Water Management in Middle East and North America countries

Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency In June 1997, the responsibility of Egypt's first full-time Minister of State for Environmental Affairs was assigned as stated in the Presidential Decree no.275/1997. From thereon, the new ministry has focused, in close collaboration with national and international development partners, on defining environmental policies, setting priorities and implementing initiatives within the context of sustainable development.

Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation In 1964, decree no. 301 was issued to form a new government and limit the ministry activities on irrigation and drainage. Hence, it was called the Ministry of Irrigation. In 1977, a decree was issued to add the responsibilities of land reclamation to the Ministry. So, its name changed to the Ministry of Irrigation and Land Reclamation. In 1987, decree no. 449 was issued to change the name to the Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources. In 1999, the decree no. 409 was issued to change the name to the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.

Agricultural Research Centre The Agricultural Research Center (ARC) was created in early 1970s. Over the past two decades, numerous achievements have been realized, including the development of new varieties, improved agronomic practices, livestock development, maintenance of the national herds and better food processing techniques. New crops and animal breeds have also been introduced and research has been dedicated to problem- solving, side by side with basic science. The overarching goal is to maximize the economic return per unit of land and water.

USAID Egypt - Water Assistance Programme USAID's infrastructure program assists the Government of Egypt to construct facilities to expand water utility services and coverage, helps the utilities operate more efficiently, supports legal and regulatory reform, and promotes private sector participation in the financing and management of Egypt's infrastructure services.

Attachments

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