Expansion of rural wastewater treatment capacity is key to Egypt’s water woes

Significant new rural wastewater treatment capacity will be needed if Egypt is to secure its water supply over the next decade, according to a new report, Suitable Technologies for Egypt’s Wastewater Treatment Upgrade.

More than 75 per cent of rural areas in Egypt have no wastewater treatment facilities, and the Nile, from which 95 per cent of the country’s fresh water is sourced, is becoming increasingly polluted by untreated sewage.


Egypt aims to expand rural wastewater treatment coverage from 15 per cent to 50 per cent by 2018, and has raised $200 million in private investment and through Public-Private Partnerships to support this effort.


The World Bank estimates that $14 billion more of investment will be needed to reach 100 per cent wastewater treatment coverage, including servicing 4,000 villages in upper and lower Egypt, by 2022. 


The National Rural Sanitation Program covers upgrading existing treatment plants, clustering villages into networks to make best use of facilities, and building new plants in isolated areas. It has helped to invigorate local delivery by decentralising power to governorate level, to locally-operated private companies, and to local communities.


In 2015, the United Nation’s Environmental Programme predicted that the amount of freshwater per capita in Egypt will fall to 600 m3/y by 2025, and again to 350 m3/y by 2050. The country is already below the UN’s water poverty threshold.


An upgrade of Abu Rawash wastewater treatment plant is underway to supply city dwellers in Cairo, in a $2.7 billion design build operate transfer contract with Spain’s FCC Aqualia. Egypt is also upgrading Gabal Al Asfar wastewater plant, and building a new plant in Helwan.