7:43am , Sunday 7th March 2021

The Empty Half of the Cup

10 February 2021

I suffer a lot in my efforts to obtain water. We bear the costs in full because if we didn’t, we would never get water. I can no longer bear this! If you go into people’s homes here, you would wonder how anyone lives in these places!

The families of Najah Ihsan and Abu Al-Ola are two Egyptian families that are representative of around one million and 180,000 Egyptians who do not have a supply of drinking water. Their struggle to get a single cup of water continues. Although it is easily attainable, water is still very scarce. In this investigation, we will examine the scandalous waste in the Egyptian water supply system..

By using open source data, the investigators document how the mismanagement of drinking water facilities in Egypt has led to a decline in the share of water for each individual. They also illustrate how this has led to a rise in the percentage of the population that is deprived of water or has minimal access to it.

Between 2014 and 2018, the percentage of the population that had access to drinking water for 24 steady hours was constant at an approximate rate of 95%. However, the percentage of the population without access to this key utility increased threefold during that same period. The figure used to be 380,000 people in 2014, that is 0.41% of the population and rose to one million and 180,000 or 1.2% of the population. This marks an increase of 800,000 people, according to the annual report of the Egyptian Drinking Water Regulatory Agency.

Sherif Abu Al-Ola from the Nagaa Salem district is one of those people who did not receive this utility, so he was forced to get water from one of his neighbors on a daily basis. Despite this, the water was not sufficient for his family of eight. As for the quality, he says, “The water we drink is of the same quality as the water we give to livestock, but what are we going to do about it? It’s all in the hands of God!”

The population and types of water services

A Flourish chart

Large quantities of water are wasted during the distribution process due to loss through the supply networks. The average annual loss reaches 3 out of every 10 liters produced by the stations. As a result, the share of drinking water per capita per year decreased from 86 cubic meters in 2011 to 63 cubic meters in 2018, with a reduction in the rate by nearly a quarter.

To determine why this is we traced the journey that drinking water makes, starting with its source and annual reserves, through the process of transportation, desalination and distribution. We conclude with an examination of the state’s expenditure on this facility. It was revealed that there were deficiencies at every stage and this was the cause of the decline in the share of water per capita. It also highlighted the reason for the discrepancy in the share between individuals and communities in different governorates.

The percentage of drinking water is constant, but the numbers of those deprived of the service are on the rise

Egypt’s water resources come from the River Nile with 7 out of every 10 liters of water coming from the river. Approximately 2 liters come from the reuse of wastewater while the remaining liter is derived from groundwater and rainwater. This is according to the 2019 report published by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation on water resources. The total of these resources reached more than 80 billion cubic meters in 2019, compared to approximately 74 billion cubic meters in 2011.

Despite this increase, the percentage of drinking water out of total usage has remained almost constant in recent years at 13 per 100 liters. At the same time, water use in industry increased three and a half times since 2015 to reach 7 per 100 liters, instead of only two liters previously.

Najah Ahmad is a teacher who lives in the village of Ash Shawriyyah in the Nagaa Hammadi district in Qena. She says, “Our village is supplied by water pipes coming from a neighboring village, but the water is either weak or intermittent. The pipe fittings are old and some of them are made of iron. This has worn out over time, leaving some residue in the water.”

She adds, “We have a motor to pump the water up because without that, it would not reach us at all. We also put a large tank on the roof of the house, and it must be filled every day.”

Najah belittles her suffering compared to the situation of her sister who “suffers more because her house is on the second floor. In the summer, she gets water from distant spots filling jerrycans and carrying them all the way up”.

She continues, “Some women cannot carry jerrycans or buckets, so they put them in wheelbarrows that are used to transport bricks. I often suffer like them in the search for water because the tanks empty quickly, and sometimes the motor cannot pump the water. We buy empty barrels and fill them with water and allocate one or two to the bathroom and the same amount to drinking. Most women suffer from back pain as a result of carrying jerrycans for long distances.”


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