About the Author

Sylwia Presley
Social Media Consultant (United Kingdom)

Always interested in social media, the 2010 web, marketing, photography and design, activism, domestic abuse, currently focussed studying for CIM Marketing Diploma in Oxford and working in non for profit sector, as well as for Global Voices.

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Water supplies in Cairo

Published 03rd February 2011 - 7 comments - 3935 views -

I know, completely unexpected! Well, I was partially prepared for the events at the Cairo airport on the way to Kenya trip with the TH!NK team, as I was keeping an eye on the situation on the streets of this historic, but currently extremely stormy city. Instead of flying to Nairobi I was forced to spend three days in the Cairo Airport together with many other stuck tourists and locals under the unknown threat of what the street events might provoke. So you can imagine that I had time - time to think.

First of all, due to the revolution, most of the airport shops were closed, so we ourselves had a very limited access to drinking water - the bottled water sold out in few hours, and we were left with the bliss of Coca-Cola and Pepsi (oh, how I love those brands now, for just being popular enough to survive this crisis). With no warm food and no normal place to sleep a person switches almost to a survival mode, which in my case boiled down to the meditation of the conflict itself (listening to stories of people coming back from the center of Cairo; watching the local national TV and it's propaganda), trying to establish any contact with the outside world to somehow seek help (Internet was down most of the time, my phone's battery low or dead) but also in re-considering my own approach to water as a resource. 

Can you imagine 3 days without water? Imagine this is your last bottle (it was mine!)

I think I understand it better now myself...

So I looked at the state of drinking water in Cairo and Egypt. Not so good, I must say. First, Al Jazeera, the most reliable source on any topic in the region:

Secondly, a bit closer to the date, blogs like this one here:

"Mostafa el-Shimi, a housing ministry project manager, has said that 40 percent of Cairo’s drinking water is wasted either as a result of deteriorating supply networks or bad social habits like using water to wash building stairwells and cars.

“Cairo’s water company produces 6.4 million cubic meters everyday and collects bills for only half this amount,” el-Shimi explained. “The rest is wasted water that the company cannot track.”

Using El-Salam City as an example, el-Shimi said that the area’s water network was built 35 years ago and has not been renovated since then. “The government has only started renovating it to make the network fully operational as of next year,” he said."

And finally facts. Initially the stats from Wikipedia look pretty good (impressive for the region, if I may say):

Access to Water and Sanitation in Egypt (2008)[1] 


(43% of the population)

(57% of the population)



Broad definition




House connections





Broad definition








But other facts remain really worrying! "Only about one third of the population is connected to sanitary sewers. Partly because of low sanitation coverage about 17,000 children die each year because of diarrhea. Another challenge is low cost recovery due to water tariffs that are among the lowest in the world, requiring government subsidies to the country's 14 public water and sewer companies even for operating costs. Poor operation of facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants, is also an issue." All this with financial support from EU, US, World Bank, Germany and France. 

Well, I do hope that the current Uprising will not affect the policies and programmes so far implying that the country will meet the Millennium Development Goals, but for now all we can do is to refer to creative solutions like the Integrated Water Resource Management - which stands for "the optimum use of water throughout its cycle, without negatively impacting the environment. In the Egyptian context this includes, for instance: 

  • using waste water treatment for desert grown crops (in desert development)
  • separating potable water from that of other uses: cleaner water to be bottled and sold, but turbid water to irrigate gardens
  • co-operation between Nile Basin countries
  • devise mechanisms for law enforcement
  • decentralization of institutions
  • involvement of GoE and NGOs
  • technical issues; monitoring, GIS, mathematical models."

Unless you have any other ideas? Let me know if comments!

Category: Shortage | Tags:


  • Avgi Lilli on 04th February 2011:

    All of your suggestions, especially the first 2, are good and could easily work, but usually when a country is in a state like this matters such as water, health, food are never on the front line. Unfurtunately. The best solution for Cyprus, for example, which has always problems of shortage of water, is desalination (more on that soon!). Egypt could do the same, all medeterranean countries, actually.

  • Sylwia Presley on 04th February 2011:

    I think it’s worth at least giving it a go - if not locally than at the international scale, but I would love to hear more about desalination!:)

  • Larisa Rankovic on 04th February 2011:

    Hi Sylwia,
    Dramatic experience you had. How did it end/solve with flights and the rest for you and other people at the airport? Have you reached Kenya?

  • Sylwia Presley on 04th February 2011:

    It took a bit, but in the end the agency handling our trip has managed to put me on a Turkish flight to Istambul and from there back to London- huge respect to those airlines, they even had the representatives at the airport!
    Benno was travelling via Cairo a day earlier, and managed to get through with 3 hrs of delay. other took different routes, so all are there now, safe and sound;)

  • Sylwia Presley on 04th February 2011:

    Due to the initial technical issues I had to update the post slightly, I hope it still makes sense;)

  • Andrea Arzaba on 05th February 2011:

    Syl! Good post! We will be waiting on news from your think3 trip :) Glad u are all good

  • Sylwia Presley on 05th February 2011:

    Well, Andrea, the news is there was no trip and I do not think there will be any alternative…the agency handling flights was a bit light on the Cairo topic and I ended up having to go back to London. Looks like I will need to discover Kenya some other time. #disappointed

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