Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Wasted water

Environment Week in Suez Canal University tackled mounting pressure on Egypt’s water resources

Wasted water
Wasted water

Suez Canal University in Ismailia has just rounded up its fifth Environment Week, one of the activities the university sponsors yearly to promote its developmental objectives and as part of its social services programme.

“Environment Week seeks to profile the university’s mission to serve society,” said the university’s president, Mamdouh Ghorab, in an address in which he described the activities of the event, including workshops and seminars, displays of products and charity exhibits in which students and staff from the faculties took part.

Atef Abul-Nour, vice president of the Suez Canal University for Community Service and Environmental Development, said that in the course of the week, members of the various faculties contributed to such activities as cleaning the pavements and painting curb stones in the campus grounds, giving lectures on the importance of environmental protection, planting trees and flowerbeds, and other university beautification projects. Al-Nour added that the Faculty of Nursing held campaigns to measure blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as one of the health, cultural and environmental awareness raising campaigns that week.

The week opened with a seminar on the Renaissance Dam and Egypt’s water security, featuring contributions by a number of scientists and other experts in the field. Salah Al-Itribi of the Suez Canal University’s Faculty of Science said the reservoir’s capacity of the huge dam will be about 67 per cent as large as that of the High Dam. It will take several years to fill, Al-Itribi said. It took five years for the High Dam reservoir in Aswan to fill up completely since, for the most part of the year, a portion of the water that was received during the flood season would be let out for the purposes of generating electricity or irrigation.

Another speaker, Abeer Al-Shahawi, discussed the mounting pressure on Egypt’s water resources. In 2015, the total demand for water was 82.2 billion m3, which brought the per capita share of water down to 660 m3 a year, Al-Shahawi said, adding that the international water poverty threshold is 1,000 m3 per year. The government, therefore, has begun to step up the search for unconventional sources of water. It has increased tapping renewable subterranean water resources, recycling agricultural run-off water, and wastewater treatment. It has also increased desalinisation. The amount of water accumulated from unconventional sources rose to 22.2 billion m3 that same year.

Water scarcity is not just a question of quantity but also of how available resources are put to use, Ismail Abdel-Ati of Suez Canal University’s Faculty of Science said in his presentation. Abdel-Ati explained that at present, agriculture consumed the greatest amount of available water resources: about 67 billion m3 per year or 81.2 per cent of available resources. By contrast, drinking water and water for the industrial sector use about 11 billion m3 per year, or 13.40 per cent of the resources. This ratio underscores the need to develop a new concept for water consumption so as to optimise the benefit from available resources.

Ahmed Ibrahim, of Suez Canal University’s Faculty of Agriculture, urged the creation of a comprehensive plan to increase Nile water revenues from its equatorial sources. The plan would be carried out in collaboration with Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan. Also, some earlier projects towards this end which had been abandoned should be revived, Ibrahim said. He explained that some 20 billion m3 of water is lost through evaporation and transpiration in the marshes and shallow waters of Lake Kyoga in Uganda, that another 17.5 billion m3 is lost in the marshes of Bahr Al-Jabal and the Naam River in South Sudan, and that around 15 billion m3 more water is lost in the vast Bahr Al-Ghazal marshlands in South Sudan.

These areas should all be the subject of large-scale projects for augmenting the flow of the Nile, the additional yields of which would be distributed among the Nile Basin countries in an equitable way.

Ibrahim stressed the need for Egypt to immediately implement a strict regime to regulate water consumption. Part of this entailed a transition to drip irrigation for vegetable and fruit cultivation and night-time spray irrigation for crops that can sustain this form of irrigation. By expanding the use of such alternative forms of irrigation, Egypt would save huge amounts of water that are wasted due to the use of surface canal and flooding irrigation which is still the prevalent mode of irrigation in Egypt.

Also addressing the question of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, Kamal Hafez of the university’s Faculty of Engineering pointed out that the reservoir capacity of the dam was not its only danger. Another was its location and the terrain it is being built on near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan. He added that even if international safety criteria are applied to the letter in the construction and management of such huge hydraulic projects, it was not a 100 per cent guarantee of their safety.

Mohamed Al-Sayed of the Faculty of Science explained that analyses of satellite imagery and digital modelling indicated that Egypt will lose about 15 billion m3 of water over the next seven years, whether as a result of the filling of the Renaissance Dam reservoir (10 billion m3), evaporation (3.5 billion m3) or seepage into the ground (1.5 billion). At the same time, Al-Sayed noted that there appears to be more serious efforts towards tapping subterranean water resources in order to alleviate pressure on Nile water. He pointed out that the Nubian aquifer has the largest store of freshwater in Egypt. The aquifer spans beneath the surface of four countries with 17 per cent of it located in Sudan, 34 per cent in Libya, 11 per cent in Chad and 38 per cent in Egypt. According to the analyses of the GRACE satellite’s monthly images from April 2002 to June 2016, the Nubian aquifer in Egypt loses about 2.8 billion m3 a year.

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