CAIRO: Egypt is experiencing water poverty, as average water resources per capita have dropped to 663 cubic meters, and are expected to plummet to 582 cubic meters by 2025, according to a Wednesday statement by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Water poverty means the nearest source of water is far, unclean or unaffordable. CAPMAS noted that Egypt and Sudan’s share of the Nile water does not exceed five percent of the rainfall over the Nile Basin, and that upstream countries use rain-fed agriculture over a wide scale.
As Ethiopia continues to build the Renaissance Dam for its scheduled inauguration in 2017 despite Egypt’s objection, CAPMAS said that joint projects with Nile Basin states would allocate 10.6 million cubic meters to be used for mutual benefits.
Egypt’s exploitation of available water resources, including recycled agricultural runoff and sewage, extracted groundwater and seawater desalination, have increased by 23.7 percent since 2002, according to CAPMAS.
However, Egypt has lost an average of 15.7 billion cubic meters of water a year to irrigation system wastage from Aswan down to the Delta due to evaporation or seepage, CAPMAS said, adding that reducing this runoff requires costly investments.
The average loss of farmland is 25,000 acres a year after a significant increase since the January 25 Revolution in 2011, due to the illegal urbanization of farmlands, whose irrigation consumes 82.6 percent of water resources in rain-poor Egypt, according to CAPMAS. However, CAPMAS anticipated that the total area of agricultural expansion by 2017 would reach 3.5 million acres.
Presidential candidates Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahi both have expressed their views regarding how they will deal with the Renaissance Dam if they become president, in interviews on the CBC and ONtv. Sisi said he would research the matter since water is a matter of “life or death” for Egyptians, while Nasserist candidate Sabbahi said he would tackle the matter politically. Both candidates didn’t clarify further.
Ethiopia’s National Defense Forces Chief of Staff Samora Yunis said they would defend and protect the Renaissance Dam from any foreign threat, according to the Anadolu Agency on May 17.
Egypt has stated the dam would adversely effect Egypt’s Nile water share, especially as the dam’s reservoir fills. Ethiopia has countered Egyptian opposition by saying that the energy that will be created by the dam is essential to the country’s development.
A number of Nile Basin countries are seeking to implement a new Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) on Nile waters for more balanced distribution. The CFA has been signed by Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania Kenya and Burundi, but has not been enacted.
Under the old agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile water, is entitled to the majority of the Nile’s water, at 55. 5 billion square meters. At the same time, Ethiopia contributes 86 percent of the water sources for the river.