“Egypt is embarking on the biggest desalination and water treatment project in its history,” said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a speech. “We cannot allow a water shortage in Egypt and we have to be prepared so that all citizens across the country get their share of water for both farming and drinking.” This statement coincided with growing concerns over an impending water crisis as construction of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam progresses and negotiations between the two countries have not so far resolved any of the technical disputes. While this project is presented as a contingency plan, its ability to make up for lost Nile water if the impasse persists is put to question.
Desalination expert and professor of water chemistry Hossam Ahmed Shawki agreed that the project is required to solve current problems apart from future ones to because by the Renaissance Dam, yet admitted that the dam played a role in pushing the project forward. “The construction of the dam alerted us all to the necessity of looking for alternatives to Nile water which we now depend on almost exclusively,” he said. Shawki explained that Egypt’s share of Nile water is 55.5 billion cubic meters and another seven billion come from subterranean water while the country’s needs exceed 80 billion. “That is why the desalination of sea water was seen as one of the best choices, especially that it depends on an inexhaustible source.” Shawki added that Egypt’s production of desalinated water was 20-30 thousand cubic meters daily 25 years ago then kept increasing until it reached 130,000 one and a half year ago, is currently 250,000, and is expected to reach 700,000 in three years’ time.