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Alaa A. Abdel-Motaleb
Professor & Director
Drainage Research Institute
Delta Barrage, Kaliobia, 13621
Mobile + 20 1221056331

Country Profile:

Egypt is a country of ancient genuine civilization and deeply rooted culture and is situated at the north-east extremity of Africa in the heart of the Arab world. It lies between latitudes 22° and 32°N and longitudes 25° and 35°E. The country has a geographical area of 1,001,450 of which about 4% is inhabited around Nile valley and delta. The country has a population of over 104 million (2017) and ranks second largest in Africa. 

Land Use

Majority of the land is desert. Most cultivated lands are located close to the Nile banks, its main branches and canals. Currently, the inhabited area is about 12.5 million feddans (1 feddan = 1.04 acres) and the cultivated agriculture land is about 7.85 millions feddans. The per capita cultivated land declined from about 0.23 feddans in 1960 to about 0.13 feddans in 1996. The per capita crop area declined from 0.4 feddans in 1960 to about 0.2 feddans in 1966. The sharp decline of per capita and both cultivated land and crop area resulted in the decrease of the per capita crop production.The current system of land tenure resulted from the limited growth rate of arable lands along with the high growth rate of population. The average holding size of lands dropped to about 1.5 feddans in 1995 with a large number of holders and tiny farms to irrigate.


Climate and Rainfall

Egypt has a hot, dry climate with only two seasons scorching summers and mild winters. Summer lasts from around May to October, and winter lasts from around November to April. January temperatures range from an average high of 18°C in Cairo to an average high of 23°C in Aswan. July temperature reaches an average high of 36°C in Cairo, and 41°C in Aswan. Daily temperatures in the Egyptian deserts vary greatly. The average daytime high temperature is 40°C, while the temperature may drop to 7°C after sunset. North winds from the Mediterranean Sea cool the coast of Egypt during the summer; so many wealthy Egyptians spend the hot summer months of July and August in Alexandria.

Very little rain falls throughout most of Egypt. But winter rainstorms sometimes strike the Mediterranean coast. Most of Egypt receives very little rain. Winter rainstorms occasionally strike the Mediterranean coast, where about 20 centimetres of rain fall each year. Inland, rainfall decreases. Average annual rainfall in Cairo is about 2.5 centimetres. Southern Egypt receives only a trace of rain each year. Around the month of April, a hot windstorm called the Khamsin sweeps through Egypt. Its driving winds blow large amounts of sand and dust at high speeds. The khamsin may raise temperatures as much as 38 Celsius degrees in two hours, and the hot winds can damage crops.


River Basins

The Nile is the only river basin of Egypt. Nile is the longest river of the world. The Nile River flows through Egypt and 10 other countries viz., Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, the Democratic Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya. Egypt lies at the end of Niles route towards sea and it receives the Nile water after it gets emptied along with the route. There are no tributaries joining Nile in the Egyptian territory. 

Water Resources

Water resources in Egypt are limited to the following resources as of 2015:

55.5 Km3 ; Nile River Water,
1.3 Km3 ; Rainfall and flash floods,
2.5 Km3 ; Groundwater in the deserts and Sinai and 
0.7 Km3 ; Possible desalination of sea water

Each resource has its limitation on use, whether these limitations are related to quantity, quality, space, time, or use cost.


Nile River Water

Egypt&&146;s main and almost exclusive fresh water is Nile water, which supplies 96 % of its total water. To ensure a fair share of Niles water, in 1959 Egypt signed an agreement with Sudan on its use. The agreement specifies that Egypt&&146;s share of Nile water is 55.5 km3 per year and it is to be released from Aswan High Dam constructed at the border of the Egypt.


Rainfall and Flash floods

Rainfall on the Mediterranean coastal strip decreases from eastward from 200 mm per year at Alexandria to 75 mm year at Port Said. It also declines inland to about 25mm per year near Cairo. The rainfall occurs only in the winter season and in the form of scattered showers and therefore, it cannot be considered as a dependable source of water.

Flash floods due to short period are considered a source for fresh water and the mechanism has been developed to harvest through this water. It is estimated in 2015 that about 1.3  km3 of water can be utilized annually by this source.


Ground Water Resources

Ground water in the western desert in the Nubian sandstone aquifer and extends below the vast are of the New Valley governorate and the region east of Owaynat. The ground water in the Sinai is mainly encountered in three different water-bearing formations, the shallow aquifers in northern Sinai, the valleys aquifers and the deep aquifers. The total amount of ground water abstraction in the western desert and Sinai in 2015 was estimated to about 2.5 km3.


Possible Desalination of Sea Water

Egypt has 2400 km of shore lines on both the Red Sea and Mediterranean sea therefore desalination can be used as a sustainable water resource for domestic use in many locations. This is actually practiced in the red sea coastal area to supply Tourism villages and resort with adequate domestic water where the economic value of the unit of water is high enough to cover the cost of desalination. The future use of such resource for other purposes (agriculture and industry) will largely depend on the rate of improvement in the technologies used for desalination and the cost of needed power. If solar and wind energy can be utilized as the source of power, desalination can become economic for other uses. It may be crucial to use such resource in the future if the growth of the demand for water exceeds all other available water resources. Nevertheless, brackish ground water having a salinity of about 10,000 ppm can be desalinated at a reasonable cost providing a possible potential for desalinated water in agriculture. 

The amount of desalinated water at 2015 is in the order of 0.70 km3 per year.


Non-conventional Water Resources

Other sources of water that can be used to meet part of the water requirements, which are called non-conventional resources, which includes:

13.5 Km3; The reuse of agriculture drainage and treated sewage water
6.0 Km3; Shallow ground water in the Nile valley and Delta (usually water seepage from irrigation and drainage systems)

These recycled water sources cannot be considered independent resources and cannot be added to Egypt 60 Km3 fresh water resources. These sources need to be managed with care and their environmental impacts evaluated to avoid any deterioration in either water or soil quality. The total amount of such resources is estimated to be 19.5 km3 in the year 2015.

The total water resources at 2015 is as under :



Water in km3

Nile water 55.50
Ground water 2.50
Desalination of sea water0.70

Rainfall and flash floods


Non-conventional water





Population and cereal production

The population of the country in 2017 was 104.3 million and it is concentrated in the Nile valley and delta. The projected population in the year 2025 is 115 million. 

The per capita availability of mean natural water in 2015 was 667 cum per year and it will be 522cum in the year 2025.

The cereal production in the year 2002 was 21 million tones and it will have to be raised to 35 million tones in the year 2025 (estimated in proportion to population).


Water Demand

Agriculture and Water Demand


Most of the cultivated lands are close to the Nile banks, its main branches and canals. Currently inhabited area is about 12.5 million fedans and the irrigated agricultural land is about 7.85 million fedans (1 fedan = 1.04 acres). The average annual water for agricultural use is estimated to be 60.5 km3 in the year 2015.

Agriculture requirements in future include two main parts: the irrigation needs for the existing cultivated lands and the expected expansion of irrigated lands.

Two main land reclamation projects have been launched, in the year 1997, the first being El-Salam Canal west of Suez Canal and El-Sheikh Jaber east of Suez Canal to reclaim about 620,000 feddans. The second project is El-Sheikh Gaber Canal to reclaim about 500,000 feddans in the south of New Valley. The agriculture requirement in the year 2025 is estimated to be 66.80 km3.


Domestic & Industrial Water Demands


The total municipal water requirement was estimated to be 10.6 km3 in the year 2015, a portion of water is actually consumed and the rest returns back to the system (either to the sewerage system or by seepage to the ground water). The requirement of domestic use is estimated to be 12.2 km3 in the year 2025.

The industrial water requirement during the year 2015 was 5.4 km3 and it will be 5.4 km3 in the year 2025

Navigational Demands


The river Nile main stream and part of irrigation network are being used for navigation when the discharges to meet other agricultural demands are too low and provide minimum draft required by ships.

Hydropower Requirement

There are no special releases for hydropower at present, and releases for irrigation, municipal, industrial, and navigation purposes are used to pass through turbines at the High Aswan Dam.


Water requirement for different sectors at present (2015) and estimated requirement in the year 2025 are given below.


Sector Demand in 2015
Demand in 2025
Agriculture 60.5
Domestic water 10.6
Industry 5.4
Navigation and evaporation3.0 3.0
Total 79.587.40


This can be met from the following resources.



Water resource (km3)

Nile Water  55.50
Ground water (Nile aquifers)6.3
Ground water (in desert and Sinai)4.2
Drainage reuse in delta 13.1

Savings due to changes in cropping patterns

Irrigation improvement2.0
Waste water use4.0
Flash flood harvesting1.3


Water Quality 

Water supply system in Egypt relies heavily on reuse of wastewater and drain water, high % of which is untreated. Other issues are salinity from agriculture water, pollution from municipal and industrial use and ground water contamination from Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potash due to excessive use of fertilizers.

One of the major issues facing Egypt is the accelerated decline of water quality, which has a direct impact on the quantity available for a specific use. The future policy aims to implement a long-term strategy and prevent different resources of pollutants from discharging the Nile water and other work bodies.


Strategies for Water Management 

Strategies for water management are as under :


1. By optimizing use of available resources :

  • Minimizing water losses,
  • Carrying out improvement in irrigation projects.
  • Diversification of cropping patterns
  • Increasing the cost of recovery for the services of water distribution 

2. Develop groundwater strategies

  • Using aquifer as a storage reservoir the supplement surface water supply
  • Use of modern irrigation method like sprinkler using ground water.
  • Renewing aquifers underlying the Nile valley and delta and in western desert and Sinai.

3. Re-use of agriculture drainage water, sewage water and industrial waste water


4. Development of surface water resources

  • To increase the inflow into the lake Nasser by implementing plant project
  • Augmenting flash flood harvesting.
  • Increasing the use of desalination of brackish water

5. Establishing water uses association to promote farmer&&146;s involvement and the participation in water management.

6. Strengthening institutes, dealing with water resources management to reflect integrated approach of water management.

7. Privatisation of part of activities such as operation and maintenance of some part of network.

8. Review of all existing water resources laws and decrease classifying them into categories according to their relation to water management aspects.


Egypt and ICID

Egypt joined ICID in 1950 as founder member and has since been actively associated with ICID activities at national as well as international level. Egyptian National Committee hosted the 19th IEC (1968), 47th IEC and 16th Congress (1996), 6th Afro-Asian Regional Conference (1987) and will organize the 1st African Regional Conference in December 2004. Mr. M. Suleiman was President, ICID (1954-57). Mr. M. Suleiman (1950-54), Mr. M.A. Selim (1966-69), Mr. I. Kinawy (1971-74), Dr. M.A. Abu-Zeid (1986-89), Dr. M.H. Amer (1989-92), Dr. Safwat Abdel-Dayem (1992-95), Dr. Fatma A.R. Attia (1995-98), Dr. Dia Ahmed El-Quosy (1996-2001), Dr. Hussein Ehsan El-Atfy (2004-2007) and Dr. (Mrs.) Samia El-Guindy (2008-11)were the Vice Presidents. Egyptian National Committee will organize 11th International Drainage Workshop at Cairo, Egypt in September 2012. Egyptian National Committee is actively represented in ICID workbodies.