On transboundary water management

Eszter writes*

Water allocation requires complex management directives, with inevitable tradeoffs between different recipients of the agricultural, industrial, or residential spheres and nature, suitable domestic and international policies, as well as a multifaceted decision-making approach, including political, economic, and environmental considerations.

Békéscsaba, in the southeastern part of Hungary, faces the same challenges. Located on the Great Hungarian Plain, the city and the surrounding area are in one of the country’s most agriculturally intensive regions, responsible for feeding many people. On the other hand, a substantial part of Békés County (which holds the city) falls under environmental protection as part of one of Hungary’s ten national parks. Further complicating water management is the proximity and aquatic interconnectedness with neighboring Romania as the main rivers surrounding Békéscsaba originate on the other side of the border, in the high Carpathians.

The following blog post will elaborate on this latter international dimension by looking at the cooperative steps taken for integrated water resources management of the Körös/Crisuri sub-basin.

Figure 1 source

The aforementioned system of three rivers converges near Békéscsaba, one of the main sub-basins of Hungary’s longest river, the Tisza. The catchment area of the Körös approximates 30000 km2, with an average water volume of 3,437 million m3 annually, thus bearing prominent environmental, economic, and social values both in the southeastern region of the Great Plain as well as in the Western parts of Romania (GWP Toolbox, 2010).

As a response to the pollution calamities striking the river Tisza in the early 2000s and facilitated by their admittance to the EU, Romania, and Hungary developed a collaborative water management strategy over their shared resources in adherence to the requirements enclosed in the EU’s central law for water protection since 2000, the Water Framework Directive (WDF). The WDF is aimed to “protect and […] restore water bodies to reach good status and to prevent deterioration” (European Commission) across the EU, and to incentivize transboundary regional management by allocating districts based on river basins irrespective of national borders.

Enabled by the collaboration of French, Romanian, and Hungarian experts, the strategy, which started in 2005, successfully set up a management body to administer technical assistance over the coordination of respective organizations in the environmental sector. During the span of the first 2 years of operation, the initiative achieved the harmonization of ecosystem monitoring, structured stakeholder, and public involvement through consultations on local water issues, provided economic analyses as well as professional training on quality conduct. Subsequently, the project also aimed to alleviate the impact and occurrence of frequent floods, posing great threats to the agriculturally prominent regions surrounding the river system. Perhaps most importantly, however, it facilitated efficient transboundary data collection and processing in the form of a catalogue of metadata, which lies at the heart of transboundary decision-making on the allocation of shared resources (IOWater 2007).

Bottom Line: Despite the steps taken for the sustainable and responsible management of the Körös/Crisuri basin, the area still faces substantial water shortages throughout the summer, with occasional water flows dropping below 1m3/s. Such dry periods can have detrimental consequences for the local natural vegetation and ecosystem as well as the agricultural production reliant on the river, requiring on average 30-40 million m³ of irrigation water per season. On the other end of the spectrum, certain years are afflicted by inland water and floods (Behír, 2017). These severe fluctuations are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and will pose serious challenges to the co-managed region of the Körös catchment area with the probable proliferation of extreme weather events in correlation with global processes.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Modern twist on tradition: Chennai

Conor writes*

Storms are looming on the horizon. With climate change churning its course, cyclone events are only expected to worsen in the Bay of Bengal. Chennai needs to be ready.

Chennai, an Indian coastal city on the Bay of Bengal, suffers from mass storm surge events. Historically, Tamil Nadu, the state within which Chennai is a part of and acts as the capital, has found ingenious ways of dealing with the storm surge and flooding caused by these monsoon cyclones. The city is pockmarked with large and ancient holes that have been carved into the landscape. This is the Eri system.

Eris are an ancient method of dealing with the annual struggles of drought and flooding, commonly seen in Chennai. They are tanks that aim to both contain flooding events during the monsoon season, but then also act as water harvesting methods, capable of irrigating large swathes of agriculture and recharging the groundwater that Chennai relies on. The way in which these Eris are constructed, however, is the final stroke of genius. When one Eri fills up entirely and starts to overflow, the runoff is directed towards the next Eri, and this system continues, sort of like a cascading waterfall, until finally the water is released into natural ‘Eris’ such as rivers or wetlands.

To understand the importance that this system of Eris plays within the Chennai urban ecosystem, one must first understand the geography of the region. Chennai lies on the Eastern Coastal Plains, where the city is, on average, only 6 meters above sea level. Additionally, while three rivers pass through the city, none of the rivers are perennial, needing to be recharged by rainfall. This means that the city relies entirely on rainfall for its water. As such, the city also requires a lot of rainfall, 1440mm of average annual rainfall to be exact. The Eri system is integral to the management of this rainfall and is needed for the survival of the residents.

Most recently, Ooze, a design practice based out of the Netherlands, which focuses on architecture and urbanism has launched their project “The City of 1000 Tanks.” This project aims to increase the functionality of existing Eris existing within temples in Chennai, while also creating new ones, and complementing them with artificial wetlands and bio-swales which can help to filter water and act as “Nature-Based Solutions.”

The main modernization of the Eri concept that is seen within Ooze’s design plan, is its dynamic nature. Since the monsoon and drought seasons are so climatically different, urban solutions to these problems need to be flexible in their implementation, such as having detention tanks that can act as children’s play parks in the drought season and then fill up in the monsoon season. In doing so, the modernized tanks bring with them a social benefit that was lacking in the traditional Eri system. This does not mean, however, that the modernized versions do not take anything with them from the traditional methods. Ooze also plans to create “Blue/Green Canals” that will interlink all the existing Eris and new tanks to be able to create the cascading waterfall effect from the traditional system. The project started in 2018, promotes a promising future for Chennai’s multidisciplinary water problems.

Bottom Line: The traditional Eri system within Chennai was one of the most ingenious solutions to the city’s water-based problems. Now it is being revamped and modernized to fit the needs of a growing city in need of better solutions.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

The economy over residents

Fauve writes*

Despite the city of Abeokuta being one of the largest water distributors to urban cities in Southwestern Nigeria, the residents of Abeokuta themselves suffer greatly from water scarcity.  A growing population and intensifying climate change (pdf) is making the already poor potable water supply even more scarce. But politicians are prioritizing economic development over the interests of residents.

The Oyan dam, one of the main supplies of water to Abeokuta, was built in 1983 by the Ogun Oshun River Basin Development (pdf) for municipal uses in hopes of solving the water scarcity problem. However, rather than supplying a sufficient amount of water to residents, the Oyan dam is barely distributing water. Poor infrastructure, insufficient connections, and a lack of maintenance means that only 1.3% of Abeokutians get their water from Oyan.

It is important to note, however, that the dams built were not only meant for municipal uses, but also for industrial and irrigation uses in hopes of the state gaining more financial income. After a study in 2019, it became clear who the state prioritizes. Whilst the unmet potable water supply for residents was 4.5 MCM (millions of cubic meters), the demand for industrial and irrigation uses was often fully met. Unmet demand becomes understandable when looking at the revenue and expenditure of the main regulator in Abeokuta, The Ogun State Water Corporation (OSWC). In spite of gaining N9.1 billion a year (US$20k), with a recurrent expenditure set at N1.6 billion (US$3k), and capital expenditure at N7.5 billion (US$16k) supposedly used to tackle water scarcity in Abeokuta, the government prioritizes rehabilitation of dams, leading to the issue of its populace not having water being put on hold.

Due to the dam not supplying Abeokutians with enough water, the residents choose to take matters into their own hands by investing in self-supply via “private utility companies.” Therefore, if residents are able to afford it, they tend to install tanks to ensure clean drinking water. In fact, 68.6% of residents rely on their own private utilities whilst only 2.63% rely on the pipeline connection provided by government water supplies.

Not only has the lack of government action to provide potable water to Abeokuta resulted in residents installing private utilities, but it has also increased the price of water due to the costs of aging infrastructure. Residents who commonly relied on tanks to gather water face a price increase of 33% (N500 or US$1.09) per m3 of water. Though this may not seem drastic, for a family or community with an unstable income, this could decrease the average number of liters they buy, or set a stop on buying clean water at all, leading to high risks of developing waterborne diseases from unsanitary water supplies.

Bottom line: The dams constructed in Abeokuta are inadequate in ensuring a sufficient potable water supply to its residents due to insufficient funds put towards the reconstruction and building of pipeline connections as a cause of government interests lying in the economy rather than its citizens.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Seville: public water, private interests

David writes*

The Mediterranean Basin is one of the regions that will suffer the most from climate change. From soil erosion to heatwaves and heavy precipitation, this territory has already started to endure the consequences of the changing weather. Within this context, Seville serves as a particularly interesting case to study the availability and management of one of humankind’s most precious (and yet vulnerable) natural resources: water.

While average individual consumption was 176 litres per capita per day (LCD) in 1991, it was down to 113 LCD in 2022. This 36% reduction results from the combination of a drought in the 1990s that almost forced an evacuation of the city and awareness campaigns carried out by EMASESA – the public company responsible for water in Seville’s municipality.

Since then, however, the region has not suffered from autocratic changes in its administration nor turned to market-based solutions. In fact, the price of water has been frozen for the past three years, which demonstrates the efforts to protect the current system, regardless of increasing worries about water availability and the activation of a drought status last October.

So far, it is possible to say that Seville’s administration has been successful in managing the existing resources and has benefited its consumers by creating a Water Observatory initiative where the population takes part in publicly supervising water – ecologically, politically and socioeconomically.

Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about future scenarios where scarcity becomes more pressing and, in so doing, how society will react to these changes. In other words, while leaving economics aside has helped Seville’s governments so far, can subsidies and government assistance help tackle Spain’s changing climate?

Another aspect to consider is the underlying taboo on raising prices. Last week I talked to an environmental activist who works in the water sector in Seville, and I asked his opinion on increasing prices. Unfortunately, and yet not surprisingly, he answered that higher prices would cause so much civil dissatisfaction that legislators would be punished at the polls.

This response raises a critical question of water governance, i.e., how much civic participation is beneficial and sustainable for citizens?

To be clear, I am not (yet) supporting a full market-led system wherever shortages are possible, but it is worth questioning which mechanisms can best protect water availability without being obscured by politics or individual interests.

Seville has a constructive system that has made water management more participatory and transparent, but this system could bring negative consequences in the future. Put differently, the combination of EMASESA’s monopoly over water and Spain’s political system can create challenges.

Prices that reflect scarcity, in contrast, might help “democratise” access to resources, while increasing infrastructure investment and public awareness.

Bottom Line: Seville’s functional and participatory public water management disguises water’s treatment as a political resource. The city’s droughts and successful awareness campaigns might be postponing governments from translating the true cost of water into prices. Civilian democratising efforts mixed with a system dependent on populist policies that disregard the economic value of water may lead to catastrophe in a region that is slowly drying out.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Bad management and dry taps in Turin

Kiara writes*

Water scarcity in the metropolitan area of Turin (Italy) is the result of climate change, weak government policy, and corruption.

Turin’s watershed stretches across 570 km2 at the foot of the Cottian Alps. With water coming from the Sangone, Dora, Stura and Po rivers (Italy’s longest), Turin does not seem a natural place for water scarcity, but now its citizens struggle for water.

The first issue Turin faces is leakage. According to a member of the Turin Water Committee, 47% of its 356 million m3 (MCM) supply is lost to leaks (Transnational Institute 2018). In 2022, Prime Minister Mario Draghi blamed leakage on bad management and weak governmental supervision of water allocation. SMAT (Societa Metropolitata Acque Torino), the public organization that has managed Turin’s water since 2001 has not made much progress in reducing leaks. Their Consolidated Financial Statement for 2021, 2022 says very little about investing in leak management.

Second is climate change. In 2022, Turin experienced a drought of 110 days — the second longest drought in 65 years (Corriere Torino 2022). The 80 percent drop in precipitation left the Po dry in places.

The weakness of SMAT’s management is clearly shown in the leakage statistics, but also in social tensions over sharing scarcity.

A state of emergency was declared in June 2022, with many limits on water use. Outdoor watering and irrigation, car washing, and refilling pools and fountains were prohibited, on pain of fines ranging from €25 to 500. The state of emergency shows how bad management can take away peoples’ right to use water for recreational but also for farming.

With surrounding cities re-entering a state of emergency in February 2023, it will not be long before Turin is also in a state of emergency. It is urgent that SMAT, the Municipalities of Turin, and the Italian government work quickly to reduce the harm that water scarcity will bring to Turin’s people.

Bottom Line: Poor management has increased water scarcity in Turin. Citizens deserve better.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Zurich vetoes water scarcity

Max writes*

On the first day of 2022, residents of Zurich saw their water bill shrink by 15%. With numerous water economists pointing to price increases as a solution to water scarcity, how did the Swiss achieve this reduction? Two words: effective governance.

Much like ancient Athens, Switzerland is a direct democracy [pdf] wherein its political decisions are made by citizens with less of a reliance on representatives. This is encapsulated by quarterly federal referendums (the United States has never held a federal-level referendum). When it comes to water management, the federal government has little authority as most cantons and municipalities hold the discretion to design policy that works best for their communities. This policy is guided by the frequent canton and municipal level referendums which have enabled the country to properly manage its rich water resources.

Image source

The vote of the people has resulted in a 2019 veto of the privatization of the Zurich water utility (WVZ) by the local government. The inhabitants of Zurich believe that water should not be a for-profit commodity and that its price should reflect necessary revenue for operation and maintenance. This explains the decision to reduce the water consumption fee by 15%.

The matter was put up for a vote in 2021. However, this time representatives were involved. The City Council of Zurich applied to the Municipal Council to make revisions to the Water Tax Ordinance and the Water Tariff. Both of these councils are elected by the residents of Zurich and decisions made can be challenged by residents. Furthermore, residents hold the right of revocation which can be used to dissolve the local government and install a new one if the government does not live up to its promises.

The Municipal Council voted in favor of the revisions reducing the water tariff by 15% starting in 2022. In Zurich, customer tariffs are made up of a consumption fee and an annual basic fee. The Council’s decision resulted in consumption fees being reduced from 1.08 CHF (1.16 USD) to 0.92 CHF (0.99 USD) per m3 of water. The annual basic fee remained largely unchanged. This reduced the average cost of water per m3 from 2 CHF (2.14 USD) to approximately 1.6 CHF (1.72 USD).

The healthy financial performance of the WVZ enabled this change. Efficient water infrastructure as well as less-frequent leakage problems have made the utility more cost-efficient. Another contributing factor to the decision is that Zurich continues to benefit from an abundant supply [pdf] of water. These supplies are significantly larger than the water demand of 160 liters [pdf] per day per resident.

Power to the people sounds great but what is to stop people from making water free and abusing its abundance? While the local government holds most of the decision-making authority regarding water policy, the Supreme Court can step in if things fall completely astray. Moreover, given the supply and demand outlined above, the price of water could likely be reduced further. But the Swiss are aware of their responsibility to protect precious water resources and ensure supply for generations to come so it’s being kept at a break-even point.

Bottom Line: The Swiss system of governance has allowed the residents of Zurich to have a direct say in the city’s water policy and benefit from reduced water prices. Prices remain low for now but in the future, they can be adjusted to reflect scarcity.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Marseille: full canal and empty streams

Margot writes*

Despite being located in a dry and warm region, Marseille is described as the “world capital of water” by the World Water Forum. Indeed, Marseille is known for its efficient water management and water infrastructures like the canal of Marseille, the Roquefavour aqueduct, or the Palais Longchamp.

The Marseille Canal diverts water from the Durance river, which takes its source in the Alps, takes it to Marseille and provides the city with two thirds of its drinking water (Webzine Voyage). The canal, the primary water source of the city, is the main reason why taps could keep running last summer, when the city experienced the driest summer ever measured in France and the country was hit by several heatwaves (La Provence).

However, the Durance resources are not infinite as several portions of the river dried up last summer (Olive Oil Times). The prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône had to declare a state of crisis and restrict water use in some areas of Marseille to preserve its water (Olive Oil Times). Restrictions during the maximum alert level included a prohibition to water lawns, to fill swimming pools, to clean waterproofed surfaces or to clean vehicles to name a few (Bouches-du-Rhône Prefecture). Prevention campaigns organized by the city and the water provider fostered collective awareness around water scarcity, encouraged citizens to respect restrictions, reduced demand and ultimately enabled Marseille to preserve its water resources even in a time of intense droughts (La Provence). Hence, while walking around Marseille in July 2022, one could see dry and yellow lawns or empty water fountains, but water would still flow if they turned on their tap (La Provence).

While this scene depicts how water management in Marseille succeeded in coping with water scarcity for urban dwellers, it is not the full picture. Unfortunately, local water streams and rivers independent of the Durance, in the hills surrounding the city were not able to resist droughts and global warming (La Provence). Thus, even if water is available at the tap, the drought affected local ecosystems and farmers who depend on irrigation (La Provence). According to the “Coordination Rurale” farmer’s organization [pdf], droughts in Marseille’s department resulted in crop losses of 30% for several crop types and 50% for olive crops.

Water scarcity in Marseille’s region also threatens biodiversity. For example fishes and insect larvae in dried-out streams or rivers with reduced flow rates are adversely affected (La Provence). The flora is also impacted as La Provence newspaper reported that oak trees died and wild boars and deers came inside villages near Marseille in search for water.

These problems will intensify in the future as drought periods become more frequent. For instance, there was a drought this winter (2023), and Le Monde explains that the river flow of the Huveaune, a river near Marseille, has never been so low in February.

Bottom line: Water scarcity and droughts in Marseille do not impact everybody in the same way. There is a discrepancy between the urban canal and the local streams and rivers. Consumers who rely on the Marseille Canal experience water scarcity as simple water restrictions during droughts whereas consumers who rely on local streams and rivers are economically impacted by water scarcity. The flora and fauna in and around streams are directly threatened by water scarcity.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Saudi: The management crisis

Zoe writes*

Over the past fifty years, Jeddah has experienced rapid and varied growth. The negative side effect of the development areas was environmental degradation due to a lack of effective maintenance. There are numerous integrated management and environmental issues today which concern Jeddah’s water resources as well as its air, land, and marine resources.

According to Magram, concerns about the environmental quality of the city are relatively new, meaning there is an overall lack of awareness and common information both from authorities and civilians, which in turn makes it challenging for the country to adopt and execute solutions/ plans, especially when this field is not of their priority.

The management of water is one of Jeddah’s most challenging problems, reports Al-Juaidi. There are numerous needs, including providing home and industrial water supplies for a sizable population, cleaning and disposing of sewage, draining water from both natural and man-made sources, and managing a sizable marine environment for both commercial and recreational uses.

With the expansion of the city, the supply, usage, and removal of water in the Jeddah region have undergone fast change. A reliable water supply has been developed for city residents across the infrastructure. According to Haddadin, however, the volume and composition of the water utilized in Jeddah today which must be disposed of, is larger than the environment’s capacity to remediate it naturally.

According to Bradbury, 98% of freshwater supply to Jeddah comes from desalination plants, a process which creates several environmental issues. Two main impacts are of concern: the impact on the marine ecosystems due to thermal pollution and the elevated levels of salt and chlorine in the return waters. Likewise, these plants are expensive to construct and manage, as well as running on fossil fuels, thus contributing to the ever-increasing greenhouse gasses and impacting the air quality in the city.

There are also major issues with sewage removal and treatment. As seen in the figure, a significant area (approximately 66%) does not have access to central sewage treatment facilities. As mentioned by Magram, sewage is gathered on-site in tanks or vaults, hauled out to collection lakes or dumped in the desert. On-site disposal methods include direct dumping in the sea, treatment through leaching systems, and disposal through deep wells. Magram concludes that the capacity of the current lake/disposal site has been reached, there is a rise in the level of the groundwater in the area of north Jeddah said to be caused by this supply of water, and the groundwater has been contaminated as a result of these disposal techniques, among other issues.

The cost of treating these conditions are high, and increasing. Future disposal strategies must be organized, taking into account the ongoing urban expansion. Future environmental and socioeconomic effects of actions about development must be anticipated, notes Lee.

Bottom Line: Jeddah’s rapid evolution has led to many environmental problems, and all of these impacts will only be magnified as the population continues to grow. As a water-scarce nation heading into a future of climate change conflicts and uncertainty, there is an urgency to adapt.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Hossegor: towards water shortage?

Victor writes*

Soorts-Hossegor (or “Hossegor” as the city is called by locals) is located on the western coast of France, and it has always been the perfect place for summer holidays with idyllic beaches and beautiful landscapes. Yet in this heaven-like city, something is increasinly becoming a concern: water. According to the French media, last August (2022) the city decided to stop water use on public showers located by its beaches. Why? Because of an important drought happening at this time which was seriously affecting the city’s water resources.

Other factors may also have played a role in such willingness to economise water. Last summer, Hossegor was also hit by a serious heatwave. In addition to this, tourism is also crucial for the city’s economy with around 40 000 tourists which are expected each summer, contrasting with the approximately 4000 year-round inhabitants. Such an increase in population also impacts water use. As an illustration at the beginning of August 2020, water consumption increased by 20% in the city’s region.

To better understand water scarcity in Hossegor, we need to understand where and how does water is ‘produced’. Hossegor’s water is 100% provided with underground reserves: aquifers. But these are becoming an increasing concern nowadays. As of today (26/02/2023), they are reported to be lower than expected, leading regional officials to worry as the region will know more heat periods and less rainfall in the coming years – making it harder for the city’s natural water reservoirs to fill up again.

This situation does not only concern Hossegor but the entire region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Last year, around 300 municipalities in this area were at risk of or directly impacted by water shortages.

If we focus on Hossegor’s “département” (sub-region in French), namely the Landes, agricultural activities of the inland areas also play an important role in water consumption in addition to tourism on the coastline. Irrigation accounts for 74 % of the total water use for the Landes while 77% of this water comes from ground water reserves and 23% from surface water. In drought situation, the “irrigation calendar” is modified: agricultural exploitation need to start pumping water around one month before the time they would have traditionally done it. As a result, water is a highly sensitive subject for farmers who demonstrated on the matter on the 21st of February.

However, even officials and various reports on the situation of aquifers in the Landes acknowledge that the situation is not dramatically bad for now. According to a recent report, groundwater reserves are low indeed but this can still be ‘fixed’ according to weather conditions before the summer. Everything now depends on the amount of rain the region will receive in the following months. Furthermore, Hossegor’s water situation is far to be as bad as it is in other French regions such as the Pyrénées-Orientales, one of the most impacted départements, in which water is already reserved for the “essential” users even during the winter.

Bottom Line: In Hossegor, water scarcity is very much a reality every summer. However, shortages seem to be only a few years away from reality for the city and its region but people have yet to learn how to deal with water reserves that are harder to replace every year.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Ethiopia and Egypt: A dam conflict

Eve writes*

Borders establish limitations, separations between political regimes, economic opportunities and resource rights. So how do we deal with the allocation of trans-border goods?

Colonial agreements, climate change and increasing demographics are all contributing factors to the tensions revolving around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

This is a case study about Cairo, we could hence wonder why an innovative project in Ethiopia could create such concern to all of Egypt? Well, GERD threatens the source of, according to Egypt Today, 95% of Egypt’s water.

A non-negligible fact is understanding the colonial 1959 agreement that “entitles” Egypt and Sudan to 55.5 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM) and 18.5 BCM of Nile water, respectively (Nashar).

Growing population contributes to Cairo’s water scarcity and food insecurity. Abdelkader says that Egypt is the most populous country in MENA (Middle East and North Africa), with a population of 92 million and a population growth rate of 2 percent.

Indeed, more people imply more mouths to feed and lives to sustain, hence increasing demand and further accentuating the need for supply. The later, hence increases reliance on this Egyptian watershed, a dependency that is not complementary to decreased water flows, due to the GERD. As the matter of fact, the filling of the reservoir is a primary concern linked to the dam. Though the filling time remains unpredictable, estimations vary from 3 to 7 years. The British Journal of Applied Science & Technology predicts that the Nile’s flow will decrease by 12-25% during this period.

The country is already food and water scarce. Currently, according to Falkenmark (1989), Egypt’s renewable per capita water resources of 630 m3 per year are already too low for food self-sufficiency. Indeed, the Nile plays a crucial role in Cairo’s economy. As mentioned by Abebe, 2014 the River provides almost 86% of Egypt’s freshwater for agriculture and benefits industrial production and sewage treatment.

However, it’s not all negative: the GERD could have numerous benefits on Sudan and Egypt. Tesfa’s research concludes that the GERD could remove up to 86% of silt and sedimentation, regulating the flow year-round and reducing flood risks.

Can we hope for cooperation? As we face the global issue of climate change and increasing population threats in countries such as Egypt, the need for regional cooperation rises. Water management issues demand cooperation between the Nile Basin states. Proposed adaptation strategies by Dr. El-Din suggest mutually beneficial adaptation strategies along the borders of the riparian countries, by the means of which water distribution corresponds to trade in water intensive goods, for example food and hydroelectricity. Cooperation could help everyone.

Bottom Line: The agriculturally dependent Egyptian society of Cairo faces food and water scarcity as unpredictable changes, due to the GERD, modify the flow of the River Nile.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂