Nile’s headwaters witness average rainfall rates, too early to judge volume of this year’s flood: Egypt’s irrigation minister

Ahmed Morsy , Sunday 25 Jul 2021

The Permanent Committee for Regulating the River Nile Revenue 'is in a permanent session' to follow up the rainfall rates over the Nile's headwaters to determine the quantities of water reaching the High Dam lake

File photo for the view of Egypt
File photo for the view of Egypt's Nile River, Cairo (file photo: AFP)

Rainfall rates are around average at the Nile River’s headwaters, but it is still too early to judge the volume of the flood this year, said Egypt’s Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati on Sunday.

During a meeting of the Permanent Committee for Regulating the Nile River Revenue, Abdel-Ati indicated that the committee “is in a permanent session” to follow up the rainfall rates over the headwaters of the Nile so as to determine the quantities of water reaching the High Dam lake, a statement by the ministry said.

The permanent session, he adds, will enable the ministry’s agencies to dynamically manage the water system with the highest degree of efficiency.

Egypt relies on the Blue Nile – originating in Ethiopia – which is one of two main tributaries of the Nile River that, along with the White Nile, converge in Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.

Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 billion cubic metres annually, mainly from the Nile. However, its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 100-million-plus country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, at 560 cubic metres per person annually.

In the presence of the executive officials from the ministry and the National Centre for Water Research, the committee, which is headed by Abdel-Ati, held its meeting on Sunday to follow up on the water situation for the current water year and on the measures taken by the ministry to achieve the optimal management of water resources.

The large gap in water resources in Egypt is overcome by importing 54 percent of its virtual water and reusing 42 percent of its renewable, Abdel-Ati said in an earlier statement.

Virtual water – which is the embedded water required to produce commodities – is measured as a percentage of the already existing water resources and is increasingly recommended as a good policy for water-scarce areas.

During Sunday’s meeting, Abdel-Ati also directed the ministry’s agencies to continue improving their readiness to meet the country’s water demands, and to continue measures across all governorates to monitor water levels and the condition of canals and drains.

Egypt is currently building 14 seawater desalination plants that are expected to be completed by June 2022, with a total capacity of 476,000 cubic metres of water per day, at a cost of EGP 9.71 billion (about $620 million). When completed, these plants will bring Egypt’s total number of desalination stations to 90, with a capacity of 1,307,69 million cubic metres per day.

According to the Minister of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities Assem El-Gazzar, Egypt is also constructing 151 dual and triple sewage treatment plants across the country, with a total capacity of five million cubic metres of water per day, at a cost of EGP 31.59 billion (about $2.01 billion).

In parallel, the irrigation ministry is also working on a national project of lining canals – meant to improve the management and distribution of water – which is set to be completed in 2022 at the cost of EGP 18 billion (about $1.14 billion). Out of the 7,000 kilometres planned, the ministry has successfully rehabilitated more than 1,248 kilometres of canals so far.

The ministry is also encouraging farmers to adopt modern irrigation techniques, instead of surface irrigation, to reduce water consumption. Some 237,000 feddans are currently being irrigated with modern techniques.

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