Source: IRIN

SHARQIA, 18 October 2011 (IRIN) - Leaking water pipes, evaporation and a rapidly growing population may be significant concerns for those trying to manage and plan water supplies in Egypt, but compounding such problems - and forcing Egyptians to rethink how they use water - is the threat posed by downstream countries which also want to take more water from the Nile, say observers.

“Egyptians have to adapt to less water every day,” said Rida Al Damak, a water expert from Cairo University.

Egypt has a population of about 85 million, and receives an annual Nile water share of 55.5 billion cubic metres, according to experts. Around 85 percent of that water is used in agriculture, but a lot simply leaks away.

According to a 2007 research paper by Fathi Farag, an independent water expert (link in Arabic), Egypt loses two billion cubic metres of water to evaporation, and three billion cubic metres to grass growing on the banks of the Nile and on river islands.

Around 40 percent of the remaining water - used domestically and in industry (2.3 billion cubic metres) - is lost to leaking pipes and drains, while 2.5 billion cubic metres are used to generate electricity, the paper says.

“If you calculate all this amount of lost water, you will discover that Egyptians are left with a fraction of what their country receives every year from the Nile,” Farag told IRIN. “This can also show why we should start to worry.”

For farmers like Hamdy Abuleinin, who was able to irrigate his 2.1 hectares of rice only after an argument over water with neighbours in Sharqia near Cairo, this year has proved difficult. “Finding water for irrigation is becoming a daily worry for farmers here,” he told IRIN.

International threat

A 1959 water-sharing agreement between Egypt and Sudan gives Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of Nile water, but according to Maghawri Shehata, an adviser to the irrigation and water resources minister, population pressure means the country is already facing a shortfall of 10-15 billion cubic metres annually, and “plans by upstream countries to redistribute the water will be very harmful to Egypt”.

According to the Nile Basin Initiative countries that share the Nile River basin have demanded the revision of colonial-era agreements that allot the bulk of the river’s water to Egypt and Sudan and allow Cairo to veto upstream projects.

For the complete article, please see IRIN.

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