Egypt is one of the developing countries that expect facing a serious water crisis very soon. This is due to its limited water resources represented mainly by its fixed allocation of the Nile River water (about 55.5 milliard cubic meters per year according to the 1959 Water Agreement with Sudan), and in view of the increase of water demand as a result of the rapid growth of population, social changes, and agricultural & industrial growth.

    Egypt had no other opportunities but to have the initiative in formulating water resources strategies and policies due to its geographic location as the most downstream country in the Nile Basin and because of its limited rainfall resources. The policy's overall objective is to utilize the available conventional and non-conventional water resources to meet the socio-economic and environmental needs of the country and bridge the gap between supply and demand. The formulated policy focuses on the following major aspects:

    •  Demand management by achieving the optimal use of available water resources through minimization of water losses, irrigation improvement projects, cost recovery, cropping pattern reform, groundwater development strategies, reuse of agricultural drainage water,

    •  Water Resources development through increasing the Egypt 's share of the Nile water (Upper Nile projects such as Jongli Canal ), distillation of ground water and harvesting rainfall,

    •  Environmental conservation through separating domestic and industrial sewage from agricultural drainage, treatment of domestic sewage, enforcement of water quality law to industrial facilities, reducing fertilizer and pesticide usage in cultivation, and monitoring surface water and groundwater quality,

    2-Irrigation Management Improvement Stages

    To bridge the gap between the limited water supply and the increasing demand, through the efficient use of the available water resources, the EWUP Project conducted and financed by USAID as a research project took place during the period between 1977 until 1983. According to the projects' results, the Egyptian government represented by the Ministry of Water Resources & Irrigation (MWRI) has started a national program for improving irrigation management in the old areas located within the Valley and the Delta. This national program constitutes a well-identified framework including the major project requirements and specific components for implementing improvement of the system management covering an area of 3.5 million feddans by year 2017. A physical system was commenced in 1984 through USAID financed improvement project covering an area of 65,000 feddans including the branch canal level and the tertiary level. It was finished by 1996.

    The second stage began physically in the year 1997. It is a $182 million investment to improve the existing irrigation system in 248,000 feddans of land in the northern part of the Nile Delta in Behira and Kafr El-Sheikh Governorates, with co-financing provided by the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Development Association (IDA) as well as the German Kredetanstall Fur Wiederaufban (KFW). It was planned to complete the physical works by the end of year 2005.

    The third stage of the national program for improvement began in 2003/2004 and still within the preparation phase. According to the lessons learnt and the cumulative experiences, it was found that the improvement should consider the integration for different components of irrigation infrastructure (irrigation, drainage, IIP and ground water resources for irrigation management).

    Hence the 3rd stage is called Integrated Irrigation Improvement Project (IIIMP) as it would conduct the project considering the integration of water management understanding to cover 500,000 feddans in five command areas with an objective of completing what had been begun in WB, IDA, KFW financed stage. It is planned that the IIIMP would build on the IIP but will adjust broad and integrated actions to reduce the distribution inequities and water losses, decrease the supply reliability and increase the operational flexibility, reduce the overall demands and increase the crop yields and farmers' incomes.

    3-IIP Main Activities

    The Irrigation Improvement Project (IIP) as one of the means of achieving optimal use of water resources in cultivation and the maximum agricultural productivity per feddan would also overcome the water distribution problems among farmers. The project main activities consist of the following:

    •  Improvement of the water delivery system in main & branch canals through installing new regulating structures (DS control gates) on branch canals, together with applying the continuous flow instead of rotations, channel protection, and telemetry system to allow centralized remote control of regulators on main canals.

    •  Modernization of irrigation infrastructure at tertiary or mesqa level through installation of a collective pumping station at the head of each mesqa (single point lifting), high-level mesqas (raised, or low pressure buried pipelines).

    •  The Establishment of the Irrigation Advisory Services (IAS) in project area to provide technical support & training for the WUAs at mesqa and branch canal level in operation and maintenance of improved mesqas

    •  Formulation of an environmental program to evaluate the project environmental impacts

    •  An On-farm irrigation management program to improve farmers' irrigation practices and water use efficiency.

    •  Institutional support to IIP for project implementation including staff training, consultancy services, facilities and equipment

    4- IIP Main Objectives

    The main objectives of the irrigation improvement project are listed in the following points:

    •  Increase the agricultural production and the farm income by improving the irrigation infrastructure, a more equitable distribution of water, and improving on-farm water management.

    •  Improve the long-term sustainability of irrigation through the assumption of responsibility for operation and maintenance at the tertiary level by farmers, cost sharing arrangement for tertiary level investment costs.

    •  Strengthen the institutional planning and implementation capacity of MWRI within the irrigation Sector.

    5- Original Components

    The project components as presented and valued in the SAR (including contingency allowances) were as given below . The total estimated project cost was US$ 182.3 million . Financing was to be provided by IBRD (14.7 percent), IDA (29.2 percent), KfW (24.6 percent), the Netherlands Directorate General for International Cooperation (NDGIC, 2 percent) and Government of Egypt (29.5 percent).

    (a) Irrigation Systems Improvements.

    This component included

    i)- Improvement of Main and Secondary Canal Delivery System (US$25.3 million, 13.9 percent of total cost) , comprising concrete lining and slope stabilization along about 70 km of main canals and 680 km of secondary canals, replacement of deteriorated old structures including bridges and cross regulators, installation of downstream control gates in secondary (branch and sub-branch) canals and of a telemetry system for centralized remote control of main canal head and cross regulator gates, and installation of pumps at selective locations for controlled reuse of drainage effluent;

    ii)-Improvement of Tertiary System (US$126.4 million, 69.3 percent) , providing for single-point lifting pumping stations at intakes to about 2,700 tertiary canals (mesqas) and construction of about 1,000 km of lined and 1,500 km of piped raised mesqas with gated or Alfalfa valve outlets at the heads of quaternary canals (marwas).

    (b) Institutional Support (US$13.3 million, 7.3 percent) . Support is to be provided under this component to MWRI and its implementing agency, the Irrigation Improvement Sector (IIS), was for design and construction supervision and for M&E.

    (c) Communication (US$3.6 million, 2 percent) . A communication program to achieve general public awareness of water resources scarcity and conservation issues was to be supported under this component at the level of the ministry.

    (d) Irrigation Advisory Service (US$10.3 million, 5.6 percent) . This component was to provide the IAS with technical support for the organization and strengthening of about 2,650 mesqa-level WUAs and 67 branch canal WUAs (BCWUAs) at the branch canal level, to train WUA members in mesqa O&M, to foster links between BCWUAs and external support agencies, and to assist in the conducting of a communication campaign for farmer awareness of project benefits, issues and training programs.

    (e) Environmental Assessment and Management (US$1.4 million, 0.8 percent) . This component covered strengthening of MWRI and IIS staff capacity for environmental assessment and management, development of environmental assessment (EA) guidelines covering screening and evaluation of irrigation development projects, and monitoring of water quality particularly in relation to reused drainage effluent and soil water.

    (f) On-Farm Irrigation Management Demonstration Program (US$2 million, 1.1 percent) . This program was to include provisions and demonstrations on about 50 selected farms of improved irrigation application efficiency and irrigation practices, and of land leveling, selective soil amendments and production inputs and equipment.

    6- Some of the Project Achievements

    1-  Improvement of delivery system for main & secondary canals

    Within the project life, delivery designs for 68 branch and sub-branch canals ( 134 km length) serving 210,000 feddans were completed. This included 116 downstream control gates and 39 discharge control distributors, with associated regulators that require about 56,000 m3 of R.C., 39,000 m3 for masonry pitching, and 190,000 m3 of earth works for canal modeling .

    2- Mesqa Improvement

    A design of about 2,263 km of mesqas (91 % of the Staff Appraisal Report SAR) is made. At start, estimations were such that 60% of the mesqas to be pipelines, and 40% for lined. Such distribution did not agree with the farmers' preference of the pipelines. Therefore, the final designs were made for 2127 km (94 %) for pipelines (2,785 mesqas) and 136 km (6%) for elevated (150 mesqas). Instead of installment of single pump in each, IIS prefer installing multiple pumps with various sizes to meet changes in seasonal water requirements and cropping pattern, therefore the number of pump-sets became 5906 pump-sets (twice envisaged at SAR).

    3- Irrigation Advisory Services

    It was established as one of the IIP components to provide technical assistance & training for the WUAs at mesqa and branch canal level in the field of operation and maintenance of improved mesqas. The main objective of the IAS is to facilitate the WUA's participation at the different levels of work (before, during and after construction) in addition to solving conflicts among farmers. IAS with the WUAs succeeded to operate more than 3500 improved meskas. IAS formulates about 65 Bc WUAs covering all the improved branch canals.


    The irrigation and drainage law number 12/1984 was amended to include the establishment of meskas improvement and maintenance monetary fund to be responsible for cost recovery program. This program is considered as a vital issue for the IIP sustainability since part of the cost required for extending the irrigation improvement works in the Delta and the Valley will be provided through the cost recovery of the already improved meskas by the WUAs contribution. A Ministerial decree has determined the basis of estimating and repaying work costs of improved meskas, besides the method of presenting it to beneficiaries, the opposing procedures and respective administrations that will collect the money and deposit it in the meskas improvement and maintenance account fund, in both old and new lands. It was estimated that the construction costs of improved irrigation network will be paid either in cash or on annual installments not exceeding twenty years according to farmers' repaying abilities, whereas the repayment costs of pump-set supply and installation will be over the first three years.

    After implementing the developed irrigation works in the area, the respective irrigation department will determine the total costs of establishing a developed irrigation network, the costs for each WUA, the cost per feddan, and the cost for each beneficiary. A list of cost shares per beneficiary will be displayed for at least two weeks (after being announced in Elwakae Elmasrya newspaper) at the agricultural co-operatives, mayor offices, local police stations, mosques, and WUAs headquarters. Concerned beneficiaries will have the right to oppose the estimated costs within 30 days following the display.

    Beneficiaries' oppositions will be summated to the Public Irrigation Administration where a judgment will be made by a committee chaired by the general director/his deputy, representatives of the agricultural administration, survey department, agricultural Co-operative, irrigation engineer, and WUAs as member, consequently, the committee decision is final. The Irrigation Improvement Administration will deliver a statement to all respective entities to collect land tax, including areas and basins covered by irrigation networks, implemented by the Ministry, and the amount per feddan to be paid within the dates determined to collect land tax, and deposited in the account of irrigation canals development and maintenance fund.

    The Cost recovery program has started by the end of the year 2003 with very low rates of collecting money due to the lack of communication between the land tax departments and the Irrigation Improvement department. But at the beginning of 2005, the Minister of finance and the Minister of Water Resources approved offering the people of Land Tax Departments an incentive of 2.5% from the total amount of money collected. This made a significant change and increased the figures of the collected money. It is expected to have a great increase in the rates of collecting money during the coming period due to the approval of the Minster of Water Resources and Irrigation in last February to increase the incentive of the land tax to 3% of the collected money.

    The following table presents the estimated amount of money to be collected and the actual amount collected in the IIP project area in Middle and West Delta until the end of April 2007. It shows that we are still far from the targeted amounts but according to the attached chart, it is clear that the trend is going up and the rate of collection is increasing which means that the program will have better performance in the following years.


    Estimated amount to be collected till April 2007

    Actual amount collected till April 2007

    Percentage (%)

    West Delta




    Middle Delta





    4- Design changes

    As the cost of improvement works increased and reached L.E 6,000 per feddan, a new design criteria was taken into consideration. A command area at the tail-end reach of Meet Yazid canal (W10-area) was selected as pilot to test the effect of several recommended technical and managerial changes on the application of the continuous flow, irrigation cost & time, agricultural productivity, and farmer's income with a main objective of decreasing the cost of irrigation improvement per feddan. These changes include using automated sluice gates regulators instead of DS control regulators, smaller pipe diameters & pump capacity, more pump operation time per day, marwas improvement and using electric pumps instead of diesel pumps. It is intended to adopt those mentioned changes related to delivery, mesqa and marwa, design, control and operation in IIP2 and the IIIMP project .


    7- Lessons learnt & actions taken towards them

    1-With regard to the continuous flow and innovations

    It is essential to study carefully the alternatives of the downstream control gates (Avio-Avis) as a control mean of water distribution system in branch canals. Those alternatives are applied in W10 area in Kafr Elshiekh governorate as a pilot area. The first one is the automation system where the discharges are measured automatically by ultrasonic equipment installed at the vertical gates. The second one is to control the water levels downstream the main gates automatically and controlling the discharges by weirs or distributors.

    Main and branch canal physical and operational arrangements for implementing the continuous flow regimes are preferable to be established in parallel with or in advance of meska improvement programs as applied now in w10 area in Sefsafa branch canal using the new design criteria.

    2- For achieving cost effectiveness and controlling costs escalation

    Training was given in the different fields (design, implementation, irrigation advisory services,...etc...) to get effective design intervention, technology transfer, great attention was paid to benefit from the private consulting offices, institutes of the national water research centre and foreign experts specialized in the improvement works to apply the modern technology .

    Negotiations with local suppliers for provision of desired materials and equipment for the design process and improvement works took place in the preparation stage of the preliminary contracts and regular visits are made to factories that produce the materials and equipment required by the project (pumps, gates, valves and pipes) to ensure both technical suitability and cost effectiveness.

    Participation of the WUAs in the planning preliminary design process is very important prior to finalizing intervention designs to develop technical options, more benefits and less cost.

    All the design works were done during the period 1997 till 2000. Yet according to the world bank request, many modifications were made to the original design to have the new design criteria applied in w10 area. This consumed a long period.

    3- Concerning improvement of the contractor performance and reducing the implementation delays

    A prequalification list of contractors was prepared and updated regularly. Companies names associated with poor performance were excluded according to certain evaluation principles and regulations agreed upon by the funding agencies. Contract packages are made small enough for the private sector contractors to manage comfortably

    4-With regard to developing sustainable O&M and organizational arrangements

    Training programs were prepared by the IAS and the MALR to train the farmers and the WUAs on the operation and maintenance works and the on-farm component. Irrigation schedule between marwas is currently prepared by the MALR.

    5-Concerning the coordination, priorities for implementation, O&M, extension and production

    Procurement processes are standardized, time-effective and transparent, according to the World Bank rules.