Launch of a National Learning Alliance in Egypt
The ReWater MENA project launched its first national learning alliance (NLA) in Egypt on May 20, 2019. The NLA was organized by a project partner – the Center for Environment and Development of the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) – in cooperation with the project as well as the International Center for Agricultural Research (ICARDA). CEDARE and ICARDA are leading the implementation of project activities in Egypt. Lisode, the project partner responsible for stakeholder engagement, facilitated brainstorming and discussions during the launch event.
The NLA launch offered an opportunity to bring together diverse stakeholders. These included the Government of Egypt (Ministries of Housing, Agriculture, Defense and Environment); project partners – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Arab Water Council (AWC), ICARDA, and Holding Company for Potable Water and Wastewater (HCWW); and representatives from academia, non-governmental organizations, water users and farmers’ associations, and the private sector and media.
This launch was the first in a series of six national dialogues to be held over the next 2 years. The NLA aims to promote stakeholder participation in formulating Egypt’s national 2030 strategy for water reuse. This first NLA dialogue was designed to encourage water management experts to share their views on the status of water reuse in Egypt as well as its constraints and potential for expansion. The dialogue also contributed to the development of a national baseline assessment dealing with water reuse status, systems, regulations, policies, economics, awareness, and institutions in Egypt.
The NLA event opened with welcome remarks from Dr. Khaled Abu Zeid, Regional Water Resources Director, CEDARE, who highlighted the importance of reused water as an important “renewable” water source. He added that Egypt is facing water scarcity as a result of increased demand from a growing population and economy. He stated that an important challenge for the country is to find new water resources that can help bridge the gap between supply and demand.
Dr. Amgad El Mahdi, Head of the IWMI-MENA Office, emphasized that wastewater is still an unused resource, adding that enhanced management of water reuse would lead to social, environmental and economic benefits. Dr. El Mahdi also noted that collaboration between government, civil society, the private sector, and national and international research organizations would lead to the development of innovative technical solutions, which can improve water reuse management. In his opening speech, Dr. Mamdouh Raslan, Chairman of HCWW, stated that Egypt aims to increase sanitation coverage from 34% to 60% by 2020 and to increase drinking water access to 98%. He added that Egypt has focused on providing water to coastal cities by desalinating seawater. Dr. Raslan drew attention to Egypt’s code for water reuse, which was updated in 2015 and promotes the safe reuse of treated water in plantations of certain crops, fruits, and vegetables.
The opening speeches were followed by an overview of the ReWater MENA project, presented by Dr. Gihan Bayoumi, Regional Project Manager with IWMI. She explained that water reuse presents many challenges, such as institutional fragmentation, and added that responsibility for water reuse is scattered among many ministries, impeding progress towards appropriate management of water reuse systems. She emphasized the importance of raising awareness of wastewater as a resource. Dr. Khaled Abu Zeid presented the Egypt 2030 Strategic Vision for Wastewater Reuse. Dr. Refaat Abdel Wahaab, Sector Head, Research & Development, HCWW, presented a roadmap for reuse of agricultural and municipal wastewater. Mr. Jean-Emmanuel Rougier, the facilitator from Lisode, introduced the learning alliance dialogue process, stressing the importance of every participant’s participation in the working groups.
NLA participants split into working groups to discuss the expansion of safe water reuse in Egypt, topics to be included in the national baseline assessment, data and information sources for the baseline, and current policies and legislation. Participants stressed that information should be incorporated into the baseline assessment in a participatory and transparent way. Dr. Diaa El Qoussy, ReWater MENA consultant, presented a draft outline of the baseline assessment, emphasizing that it would comprise general information about water reuse in Egypt; technical information about the amount, quality and source of wastewater generated and reused; the existing treatment plants; and current policy instruments and regulations.
The national baseline assessment will be developed in the coming months. A second national dialogue will be held in the fourth quarter of 2019 to validate the findings of the assessment. The first two national dialogues will clarify the current status of water reuse in Egypt, providing the ReWater MENA project with the basis to develop a water reuse strategy.