Egypt's minister of irrigation and water resources said on Saturday that his country has entered "an era of water poverty," with a current yearly shortage of 23 billion cubic metres, state news agency MENA reported.
Hossam Moghazi said that Egypt's current yearly consumption of water amounts to nearly 83 billion cubic meters while its share of Nile water stands at 55.5 billion cubic metres. Egypt receives an additional four billion cubic metres from rain and groundwater.
"Egypt has entered the era of water poverty," Moghazi said in a ministry event to celebrate the international day of water. "We have to rationalise consumption so we are accountable to Egypt's agricultural, industrial and drinking water needs," Moghazi added.
Last week Egypt signed a declaration of principles with the Nile basin countries Ethiopia and Sudan, where they agreed on broad guidelines over Ethiopia's contested dam, feared to affect Egypt's water share.
While local media reports hailed the Egyptian president's visit to Ethiopia and the "historical" tentative agreement, some critics say the declaration of principles acknowledged the Grand Renaissance Dam as an incontestable fact and stripped Egypt of potential channels for further negotiation.
The presidency insisted that the declaration of principles protects Egypt's water rights and is consistent with international laws. The document is not binding.
A company to conduct technical studies on the effect of the dam is expected to be picked by the three countries soon, after months of bidding and delays.
Ethiopia's 6,000 megawatt dam, of which 40 percent is already complete, is set to be Africa's largest and it is feared that it may negatively affect the Nile share of the downstream countries: Egypt and Sudan.