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Sustainable Water Management

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Nada Khroub


Sustainable Water Management

Critical Essay

14th April

Critically discuss three issues related to water management that pose a threat to sustainability in Egypt. Discuss whether and how they are interrelated. Suggest and critically discuss at least one solution to each problem.

          “Water, an indispensable commodity for life of all beings and for the development and

wellbeing of human societies, has a finite nature of availability at global, regional and national territorial theaters” (Sadek, 2009). In the last century, water use has been increasing globally at more than twice the rate of population increases. Egypt is one of the many countries faced with a water scarcity crisis due to increasing demands on limited resource which threatens the country’s economic development. According the UN indicator, Egypt reached water scarcity in the year 2000; having less than 1,000 cubic meters of freshwater available per person per year. The country’s arid climate and lack of fresh water sources led to heavy exploitation of the Nile River in the industrial, agricultural and domestic areas. Some countries are more fortunate than others since, water is a natural resource and the quantity of the resource with which the earth is endowed cannot be controlled. However, there are many water management factors that threat sustainability in Egypt. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Inefficient irrigation, and water usage in agriculture, are the present interrelated concerns for sustainable development in Egypt.

         The River Nile is the backbone of Egypt's manufacturing and agricultural segment and is the main source of drinking water for the country. With a share of more than 95%, the agriculture sector is the main consumer of fresh water resources in Egypt. “Irrigated agriculture absorbs 85% of the annual water resource and 89% of Nile flows” (Osman, 2015). It is evident that agriculture and irrigation in Egypt are practically entirely reliant on Nile water. In April 2011, Ethiopia announced the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. This could be major threat to Egypt’s sustainability since Egypt’s share of Nile waters is still being debated. “Egyptian experts give indications of a possible water reduction between 20 and 34 percent when the filling period overcuts the drought period. This is estimated to be 11-19 BCM over the Dam’s filling period” (Osman, 2015). Current statistics emphasize the importance of possible impact of water availability on the economic development of Egypt. A major threat resulting from the construction of GERD is “Evaporation losses will increase by 5.9% which will affect at the Nile water quantity and quality downstream of GERD by increasing the Nile water salinity” (El-Nashar & Elyamany, 2017), thus leading to outstanding effects on many aspects in the country such as the economy, agriculture and overall productivity of Egypt. Furthermore, according to Walaa El Nashar agriculture lands are expected to decrease by almost 29.5% in the upper Egypt and Delta areas. El Nashar and El Yamany  presented solutions that could help leverage the risks; which are mostly concerned with irrigation systems. Firstly “Improve the surface irrigation system by converting small field canals from surface canal to pipes. This will save 42% of water losses due to seepage and evaporation” (El-Nashar & Elyamany, 2017), overall 40 BCM of water is used in agriculture each year thus, efficiency in the process is critical. Other suggested solutions such as desalination of sea water as substitute to drinking and agriculture could help improve sustainability however, the process of desalination of sea water is very costly and Egypt is one of the developing countries that cannot afford to invest such huge amounts of money in order to yield sufficient amounts of fresh water. However, such changes require time and commitment from the government thus, “Political effort is also needed to postpone filling GERD’s lake which is expected to start in July 2017” (Abdel Dayem, 2011). Research shows that implementing such solutions could potentially save 40 BCM of water which exceeds the expected losses caused by GERD which is around 27.91 BCM (Keith, Ford, & Horton, 2016).  

          Contributing to risks caused by GERD construction, agriculture and irrigation systems in Egypt causes extreme water losses, decline in land productivity, waterlogging and salinity problems. “Unsustainable agricultural practices and improper irrigation management affect the quality of the country’s water resources” (Osman, Ferrari, & Mcdonald, 2016).Egypt receives around 80 mm of rainfall a year, moreover only 6 percent of the country is arable and agricultural land, with the rest being desert. Thus, leading to excessive watering and the use of wasteful irrigation techniques such as flood irrigation (Bedawy, 2014). Egypt’s irrigation network is almost entirely supplied from the Aswan High Dam, thus controlling more than 18,000 miles of canals and sub canals that extend into the country’s farmlands nearby the river. This method is highly inefficient “losing as much as 3 billion cubic meters of Nile river water per year through evaporation” (Dakkak, 2017). There are several issues with the Egyptian irrigation system, firstly liberation in agriculture is increasing the freedom of farmers to choose their crops leading to, many farmers choosing water intensive crops such as rice and sugar cane. In order to control this, The ministry of Water Resources are drafting a new water resources irrigation bill which calls for “penalizing farmers who grow water intensive crops, especially rice, outside the land pots authorized by the government” (Gad, 2015). A proposed solution is “Eliminating rice and other water consuming plants from the crop pattern which could save Egypt nearly one BCM of water, annually” (El-Nashar & Elyamany, 2017). Moreover, using modern irrigation systems such as drip irrigation and sprinkler will lead to almost 80% efficiency. The amount of water saved is about 8.8 BCM more than surface irrigation systems.



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