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Monday, 5 August 2019

Gov’t plans for new desalination, treatment plants unveiled as part of water conservation strategy

Housing Ministry’s water conservation plan eyes new desalination and treatment plants, efficient resource use: The Housing Ministry has unveiled an ambitious water conservation plan that would see new desalination plants and new and upgraded wastewater treatment facilities. Thorough details of the plan — which is primarily focused on drinking water — were picked up yesterday by Youm7.

Desalination: The plan involves setting up some 39 desalination plants across the coast at a cost of EGP 29.3 bn, and with a capacity of 1.4 mn cubic meters (cbm) of water per day. The projects are underway in Matrouh, the Red Sea, North and South Sinai, Port Said, Dakahlia, and Kafr El Sheikh. Of the 39 plants, 16 are being fast-tracked and are due for inauguration in 2020.

Wastewater treatment: The government has completed 26 of a total of 52 sewage treatment plants being developed in Upper Egypt, and the remaining 26 are due for completion by the end of the year. The plants will have a combined capacity of 418 mn cbm per year and serve 8 mn people. They are estimated to cost EGP 8.1 bn, Housing Minister Assem El Gazar said in March. Last December, the World Bank said in its Egypt infrastructure report that water needs USD 45 bn in groundwork above current baseline projections. Some USD 14 bn will need to be invested in wastewater treatment facilities, according the the bank.

Controlling water waste: The final part of the ministry’s plan involves minimizing wastage in drinking water through encouraging consumers to install water saving devices, setting up district metered area (DMA) to quantify and control waste, working toward wider metering coverage, and launching a national awareness campaign.

Using treated wastewater to grow “economically useful” plants: The ministry is working with private sector players to set up wastewater-irrigated plantations specialized in cash crops. One example is a project to harvest hardwood in partnership with Egypt Kuwait Holding (EKH), which is planned to be up and running in the near period. The hardwood plantations will span two 3k-feddan land plots in New Beni Suef and Sadat City, 6k feddans in New Minya, and 1k feddans in Samalout. The government has already signed a contract to set up a compressed wood factory with a capacity of 300k cbm a year to process the harvest. The factory is expected to be up and running by 2020. Although there was no explicit link or mention, the plantations and facility seem to be part of the project to invest in wood production announced by EKH in a bourse filing late last year.

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Atti announced earlier this year a parallel USD 50 bn strategy to combat water scarcity through 2037 by encouraging the use of modern irrigation methods, cultivation of fewer water-intensive crops and establishment of desalination plants.

The plan could heavily impact how we use water in Egypt: News of the plan came a week after the Irrigation Ministry said that it expects Egypt’s share of the Nile to fall by 5 bn cbm by the end of 2019.The ministry called for a nationwide state of emergency as a result of this prediction, which is being driven by decreasing rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands. Egypt may also be in for a more acute water shortage when Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam is up and running in the near future.

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