Egypt depends on the Nile River for 97 percent of its water needs and climate change will increase water shortages in the country, the minister said during the opening session of the Environment & Development Forum: The Road to Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change COP27.
The event, which kicked off Sunday and is scheduled to run through Tuesday, is part of the country's preparations for hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in the Red Sea city of Sharm El-Sheik in November.
Several countries suffer from water shortages due to increases in population, unstable water shares (the percentage of water from shared sources, like the Nile, allotted to each country) and climate impacts, which has led to shortage of water used for drinking, agricultural and industrial purposes, said Suweilam according to Ahram Arabic gate.
The irrigation minister urged all countries to strengthen cooperation amid extreme climate phenomena, stressing the need to place the water sector, food and agriculture on the global climate agenda.
He said shedding light on these sectors will contribute to increasing the ability of countries to deal with water issues in a way that is consistent with the related sustainable development goals.
Egypt, one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, needs 114 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually, but it only receives an average of 60 bcm, mainly from the Nile River, according to official remarks.
Egypt overcomes water scarcity by importing 54 percent of its virtual water and reusing 42 percent of its renewable water.
Virtual water, which is the embedded water required to produce commodities and measured as a percentage of the already existing water resources, has been relied on for decades in the form of food imports and is increasingly recommended as a good policy for water-scarce areas.
Egypt’s annual share of water is 560 cubic metres per person, placing the country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, according to the cabinet's figures.
According to the UN, a population faces water scarcity when annual water supplies drop below 1000 cubic metres per person and “absolute scarcity” when it drops below 500 cubic metres.
Suweilam said Egypt is making great efforts in improving water management, which includes rehabilitating canals in order to better deliver water to farmers.
Additionally, the country has established huge water treatment plants, such as Bahr Al-Baqar plant, to be used in agriculture, a sector on which about 40 million people in Egypt depend as a main source of income.
The minister added that water is a key element in agriculture and food security.
The minister underlined the necessity of expanding water desalination projects, studying ways to find less costly and more efficient ways of reusing wastewater, including by using renewable energy.
Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati has previously highlighted the adverse effect of climate change on Egypt’s fertile Nile Delta, as the rise in sea levels makes it one of the world’s most at-risk area for decreasing fertility due to the interference of saline water.
This affects the quality of groundwater and could lead to the displacement of millions of Egyptians residing in the north of the delta, according to Abdel-Ati.
These challenges, Abdel-Ati added, require strenuous efforts to confront them, adding that Egypt has prepared a strategy for water resources until 2050 at a cost of up to $50 billion that may reach $100 billion, in addition to developing a four-pronged National Water Resources Plan running through 2037.
The three-day forum is organised by the Arab Water Council under the auspices of Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, with the participation of a host of officials and experts from 30 nations.
The forum – through eight main elements – is meant to focus on the impacts and solutions of climate change on the environment and development fronts, including climate adaptation and mitigation measures.
It also focuses on food and water security in light of climate change, clean and renewable energy and sustainable development. It also focuses on ways to preserve the environment, protecting biodiversity, and controlling emissions carbon dioxide as well as sustainable transportation and cities.