Protecting the Nile

Protecting the Nile

Protecting the Nile 

Palms and the river Nile by night

Palms and the river Nile by night

EU Competition-The Eternal River-  Photo by Mohamed Abdel Rahman

Charm of Aswan

Charm of Aswan

EU Competition-Charm of Aswan-           Photo by Mohamed Abdel…

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Preparing the Water Resources Plans of Pilot Governorates


 Preparing the Water Resources Plans Of pilot governorates



Water resources units in the pilot governorates (Beheira -  Fayoum -  Qena) have already finalized water resources plans for the three governorates including available water 

resources for each of the them, as well as uses and distribution of such resources to the different sectors (agriculture - drinking water - industry -  etc), in addition to the current water balance and water balance of 2017. These plans also tackle the measures as well as operational actions of each governorate and proposed scenarios and alternatives to deal with challenges and the expected water shortage due to increasing development rates.


The said plans are approved and adopted by the governors of the three governorates and the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.


It should be noted that those plans have been prepared in coordination and cooperation with the central departments of water resources and irrigation in the pilot governorates in addition to directorates of housing, water supply and sanitation, agriculture and health as well as departments of environment, information centers, water users associations and civil society organizations.

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The National Water Resources Plan




The National Water Resources Plan (NWRP) of Egypt

Given the importance of water for the socio-economic development of the country, the Government of Egypt is committed to take all necessary means and measures to manage and

 develop the water resources of the country in a comprehensive and equitable manner. The growing population and economic activities have increased the pressure on the water system, both with respect to quantity as quality of the water. Investments are needed to safeguard these resources and priorities have to be set. Infrastructural projects and improvements of the operation and maintenance of the system are required. At the same time institutional changes will be needed to decentralise and integrate the various activities. Developments in the legal and regulatory environment have to support these changes.

All people in Egypt have in some way a stake in how the water is managed. Farmers require water for irrigation, factory workers need water for their production processes and all of us need water for drinking and sanitary purposes. We are all stakeholders and this requires that the development and management of the water resources should follow a participatory approach.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) has, according to its constitutional mandate, the first responsibility for the development and management of the water resources in Egypt. This management and development is done to support the socio-economic activities of the country. The main stakeholders representing these socio-economic activities are the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Health and Population. Other important stakeholders at Ministerial level are the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and New Communities, the Ministry of Local Development, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Electricity. Through their policies these Ministries influence the national water resources. Cooperation between the Ministries is needed in order to develop the full potential of the water resources.

In addition to these ministries, water resource management should take into account the views and policies of the regional and local stakeholders. The on-going decentralisation and in water management in Egypt will increase the role of these regional and local stakeholders. This includes the Governorates, farmers, industries, Water User Associations, NGO’s, etc.

Last, but certainly not least the views and interest of the general public should be taken into account. A process of public participation that consider their interest should be well reflected.

Water Resources Management to Achieve National Development Goals of Egypt

The objective of water resources development is derived from the national development goals and policies. In general terms the national development goals related to water are:

·         to increase the economic growth of the country and to increase employment;

·         to increase the inhabited space of Egypt outside the Nile Valley and the Delta, among others by:

o   developing new cities

o   developing the Eastern Delta and Sinai (i.e. the El Salam Canal)

o   developing New Valley areas in Southern Egypt (i.e.Toshka project; East Owenat)

·         to protect public health by means of provision of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities

·         to protect the Nile and other fresh water resources from pollution.


These national goals are made more specific in the policies from the various ministries. The overall objective of water resources development in Egypt integrates these sector policies and is given below.


Objectives of Water Resources Development in Egypt.pdf


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Water Challenges of Egypt IWRM



Water Resources and Water Demand in Egypt

Water Supply

The Nile is by far the most important water resource for Egypt. Other water resources include deep groundwater in the oing to do? in the next chapter.coming years. ing the Challenge Resources Plan and this new Water Resources Policy desert, small amounts of rainfall in the northern part of the country, flash floods in the wadis, and desalinated sea water.

The Nile water system

Water is released from Lake Nasser on the basis of downstream demands. Downstream of High Aswan Dam (HAD), water is diverted by pumping stations along the river and by canals at the river barrages. Nile water that is used in the Nile Valley and Delta for various purposes, partly recharges the groundwater, from where it is drained by the drainage system or pumped for municipal and industrial (M&I) use and irrigation. In the Nile Delta and Fayoum much drainage water is pumped and reused for irrigation. In addition, some of the M&I effluent flows are reused, after treatment or mixing with Nile water.

With regard to the water balance, the Nile system can be considered as almost closed, with negligible in- or outflow from or to the deeper aquifers and surrounding desert areas. Therefore, all water in the system (groundwater in the Valley and Delta, drainage water from agriculture, and M&I effluents) originates from water released at Aswan.

Water available from Lake Nasser

According to the Agreement with Sudan signed in 1959, Egypt’s share of the Nile water is fixed at 55.5 BCM/year whereas Sudan’s share is 18.5 BCM/year. These allocations are based on an average natural annual inflow into Lake Nasser of 84 BCM (period 1900 - 1959) and an estimated 10 BCM of annual reservoir losses. If the water level in the lake exceeds a certain level, the excess water is discharged into the desert through the Toshka Spillway.

To increase the inflow into Lake Nasser, a number of water conservation projects were proposed in the past (e.g. Jonglei 1 and 2 and Machar Marshes projects and others). The construction of the Jonglei 1 Canal, which by-passes a large portion of the Sudd marches, was started in the mid 1970s but halted in 1983 due to political instability in Sudan. The Government of Egypt is continuously putting efforts in discussions with the riparian states to increase and optimize the equitable utilization of the Nile water resources.

Groundwater in Nile Valley and Delta

The Nile aquifer system can not be considered a separate water resource; it is mainly recharged by seepage losses from the surface water system and excess irrigation water. So all shallow groundwater is part of the release from Lake Nasser.

Conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water is already being applied locally. In periods of peak irrigation demands, groundwater is abstracted as a supplementary source by farmers in certain areas. The aquifer functions here as a seasonal storage reservoir.

The Nile aquifer system has an estimated total storage capacity of about 500 BCM (200 BCM in the Valley and 300 BCM in the Delta). Only a small fraction of this storage can actually be used due to constraints in pumping heights, permissible draw-down levels and groundwater quality. The estimated potential of groundwater abstraction is 8.4 BCM/year.

Drainage water

A large portion of the water diverted for irrigation eventually flows to the drainage system. Agricultural drainage water upstream from Cairo returns to the Nile where it mixes with the river water and will be available for downstream use. In Fayoum and Nile Delta, large quantities of water are pumped from the drainage system for reuse in irrigation. This water is either directly used (unofficial reuse by farmers) or pumped to the irrigation canals through larger pumping stations. The total official reuse in the Fayoum and Delta is estimated at 3.5 BCM/yr in 1997.  There still is potential for a further increase in water reuse. It is estimated that by the year 2017, drainage water reuse could reach 7.4 BCM. However, increasing the reuse of drainage water in the Delta will decrease the drainage outflow to the Coastal Lakes. Because of the environmental values of these lakes and their economic value for fisheries, the impacts of reduced drainage water inflow on the salinity of the lakes should be carefully considered. The expected outflow from the Delta in the year 2017 is estimated to be about 9.7 BCM per year (9.3 BCM as drainage water and 0.4 BCM from fish ponds).

Treated wastewater

Reuse of treated wastewater (municipal and to some extent also industrial wastewater) is considered an effective water saving measure in areas where this water would otherwise be lost from the Nile system. Thus, primary use of treated wastewater is for irrigation of green areas (landscape development) and irrigation of non-food agriculture.

The planned horizontal development that is based on treated wastewater is some 250,000 feddan. Most of the planned area is located in the Western and Eastern Delta, with Greater Cairo and Alexandria as the main suppliers of treated wastewater. Also the reuse of treated wastewater from the New Industrial Cities in the desert, and the Canal Cities will be considered in the future.

Groundwater in the desert areas

Although in terms of quantity the contribution of deep (fossil) groundwater to the total water supply in Egypt is very moderate, groundwater is the sole source of water for people living in the desert areas. There is an increasing interest to further develop these groundwater resources. Present abstractions are about 0.9 BCM/year. The potential is about 4 BCM/year.

Rainfall and flash floods in wadis

Rainfall harvesting and runoff harvesting are practised in the Sinai, the Northwest Coast and the Eastern Desert where population density is low, groundwater potential limited and where there is no access to Nile water. In these areas rainfall has for centuries been the principal water resource and consequently there is a good tradition of small-scale water conservation practices. The total effective rainfall used for drinking water and agriculture is about 1.3 BCM/year.

Desalination of sea water or brackish water

Seawater obviously is available in unlimited quantities in coastal areas. It is expected that desalination plants for drinking water and industrial use in areas where no other cheaper resources are available, will be developed as the demands grow. However, if brackish (ground) water is nearby available in sufficient quantities, this may be the preferred source for desalination, depending on the distance to this source. The total amount of desalinated water in Egypt is about 50 MCM per year.

Water Demands

Egypt's water demands rapidly increase due to the increase in population and the improvement of living standards as well as to achieve the government policies to reclaim new lands and to encourage industrial development. The major water consumers are agriculture and the domestic and industrial sectors. Water is also extremely important for electricity production, navigation, tourism and recreation, fisheries and the preservation of valuable nature areas. These sectors are important users but no consumers of water, however.


The agricultural sector is the largest user, and consumer, of water in Egypt, with its share exceeding 80% of the total gross demand for water. In case the actual consumption of water is considered (water supply minus the water that is returned to the system), the share of agricultural demands is even higher at more than 95%. The area of cultivated land increased from 5.8 Mfeddan in 1980 to about 8 Mfeddan in 1997. Related to the expansion of agricultural land the consumptive use of water in agriculture has been steadily increasing from an estimated 29.4 BCM/yr in 1980 to 38.5 BCM/yr during the same period (1980-1997). This increase has been made possible by an increase in drainage water reuse, the abstraction of groundwater and a decrease in the fresh water outflow to the sea. The total amount of diverted water for irrigation in 1997 was 57.8 BCM/yr.

The future increase in overall irrigation supply will depend on changes in the (priorities) demands for the municipal and industrial sectors, the development of new groundwater resources, and measures to reduce the outflow (terminal drainage) from the Nile system. Any water becoming additionally available will primarily be used to irrigate new development areas and not to increase the supply to existing lands. Based on water inflow of 55.5 BCM/year, it is expected that by the year 2017 agricultural lands will cover about 11 Mfeddan, and 63.6 BCM of water will be allocated for agriculture. The total agricultural water consumption in 2017 is estimated at 38.7 BCM.

Domestic water

In the year 2000, public water supply systems covered almost 100% of the population in urban areas and 38% of the population in rural areas. Drinking water production in 2000 was 5.31 BCM of which an estimated volume of 0.62 BCM was used for industrial purposes. About half of the total drinking water production was for Cairo and Alexandria. The largest source for raw drinking water is surface water. Only 17% is abstracted from groundwater. Although the contribution of desalinated brackish- or seawater is a minor part in the national drinking water supply, it is the main source of drinking water production in many tourist areas along Red Sea coast and Sinai Peninsula.

The capacity of drinking water plants more than tripled in the last decades. Nevertheless, there are still many people, especially in rural areas, that lack a proper water supply. Low consumption rates in many areas are also related to the lack of a sewer system. The high water use in the urban areas seems related to wastage induced by the lack of a (properly functioning) metering system, low water charges, insufficient public awareness on water scarcity and leakage from the water supply network.

Future drinking water demands will increase due to a) increase in population, b) increase in per capita demand, related to higher incomes, and c) construction of sewer systems in areas that are now covered by public water supply but not yet connected to a sewer system. By the year 2017, it is expected that municipal water demand will reach 6.6 BCM.

Industrial Water

There was a large growth in industrial water demand during the last decades. Excluding cooling water for power plants (which will be about 14.9 BCM in 2017), the total industrial water use in the year 2000 was estimated at 2.2 bcm of which approximately 53% is abstracted from the Nile and irrigation canals, 28% from the public network and 19% from groundwater. Water consumptive use in industry is about 0.75 BCM. Almost 60% of all industrial water use is in the large urban conglomerates of Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. The total industrial water demand in 2017, excluding cooling water, is expected to increase by about 90% from 2.2 bcm in 2000 to 4.2 bcm in 2017.


The river Nile and part of the irrigation network are used for navigation. The present policy is that there is no exclusive release for navigation. There is, however, a guaranteed minimum release from the HAD, which is also required for some drinking water intakes along the Nile.


The total existing hydropower capacity is 2.81 GW, producing about 24% of the national electricity demand. This capacity is gradually growing. Water has not been released from the High Aswan Dam exclusively for the generation of hydropower since 1990. Hydropower generation therefore depends fully on releases for irrigation, M&I supply and the small release for navigation. This means that the generated hydropower varies strongly during the seasons.

Ecology and fisheries

Living organisms in waterways and lakes require water of a certain quality as habitats. The preservation of water levels, water velocities, depth profiles, and natural bank conditions is essential to keep the ecology in balance and thus to preserve bio-diversity and fisheries production. With respect to water quality, it can be stated that ‘natural’ conditions should be preserved or restored as much as possible in the Nile River, the irrigation canals, and the Coastal Lakes.

Recreation and health

Part of the population is using surface water for hygiene purposes (e.g. washing and bathing) and recreation (e.g. swimming and boating) as well as for drinking water. The direct contact with open water bodies near settlements also influences the health of the population. These uses therefore also require good water quality.

Water Resources Management in Egypt

Egypt is faced with three major challenges in the management of its water resources.  The first and most important challenge is that posed by Egypt’s population growth. The NWRP was based on the assumption that population would rise from 59.3 million in 1997 to 83.1 million in 2017, with a high estimate of 86.9 million. The results of the 2006 census show that the population then was 72.5 million, which suggest that by 2017 the population will be 92.7 million, significantly above the high estimate (Consultant’s estimates). Put another way, it implies that the population for which the NWRP was designed will be reached in 2012, almost 5 years ahead of schedule. This growth of population creates a related water demand for public water supply and industrial activities, and also for irrigation water for increased agricultural production.


The second challenge is environmental. The increase in population and industrial and agricultural activities has not been accompanied by an adequate growth in fully operating municipal or industrial sewage treatment systems, and this has resulted in a rapid deterioration of the quality of the water resources, in particular, in the Nile Delta. This low water quality threatens public health, reduces its value for economic activities and damages the natural ecology of the water systems.


The third challenge is institutional: it has become clear that the first two challenges can only be solved if the institutional setting of water management is improved. This includes aspects of co-operation, decentralisation and privatisation. Major elements in this respect are a participatory approach in planning, development and management and the application of the principles of cost-recovery and polluter pays.


The growing population and related socio-economic activities require an increasing amount of water. The Nile River is an abundant and constant source of water which cannot be easily augmented in the face of a similar growth in populations and economic activity in the upper riparian countries. Over many years, potential demand has exceeded the available supply, and the deficit has been borne by the agricultural sector, which has been unable to produce enough food not only for the increasing population, but also the increasing per capita demands that are now over 3,300 kilocalories per person per day. This deficit has been made up though the import of food and the country now imports some 45% of its calorie requirements. The growth of the economy has more than matched this growth, and the cost of food imports is a declining proportion of the Gross National Product (GDP). Nevertheless, the spike in food prices in 2008, when wheat prices (the bulk of Egypt’s food imports) doubled from $200 per tonne to $400 per tonne before returning to the original figure, showed that excessive dependency on imports can make the country vulnerable to such events.


Principels of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

The many stakeholders involved in water resources management require an integrated approach. The supply-oriented, engineering based approach of the past is being replaced by a demand-oriented, multi-sectoral approach, taking into account the sustainability of the natural system. This approach is often labelled as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). Egypt has adopted this approach, among other by committing itself to the Millennium Goals as stated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. IWRM is defined as follows:

“IWRM is a process which promotes the co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems”

The elements of this definition are reflected in the objective of water resources development in Egypt as given on previous page. The implementation of IWRM in Egypt will be based on the following principles.

Water is a finite resource

Water is life. Freshwater is the essential resource for the creation and existence of virtually all life forms on earth. Water is a holistic resource. To get the maximum benefit for society, all sources and consumers of water should be taken into account when planning and - so far as possible - in operating the systems. The complexity and interdependency of different parts of the hydrological system should be considered.

The interdependency of the hydrological system requires also that as much as possible a basin wide approach should be followed. The riparian states should coordinate their activities in the Nile basin, avoiding negative effects downstream and where possible contribute to positive development of the whole basin. For this reason Egypt strongly supports the activities of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

Participatory approach

Stakeholders are all people with an interest or involvement in a project or issue, and/or who are affected by its results. The participatory approach will include regular inter-sectoral consultations, stakeholder representation on certain water management bodies and coordination mechanisms.

Water is a common resource

Water, wherever it occurs in the water cycle, cannot be owned. People can make use of it, subject to some form of governmental control. This applies also to groundwater, independent of the ownership of the land under which it resides. This principle makes it possible for the government to control the quantity and quality of the groundwater by permitting its use under certain conditions and to take action to protect the groundwater from pollution.

Financial self-sufficiency

Shortages of funds because of poor cost recovery plagues all kind and all elements of water systems, at every scale. This is commonly caused by public resistance to fully charge for water, inefficiency in collecting what is due, and the continous growth in the demand for services. Institutions involved will need to be financially self-sufficient to enable them to provide adequate services.

Polluter-pays principle

Simply expressed, the polluter-pays principle says that whoever is responsible for pollution should pay the costs of cleaning it up or preventing it. The principle is the basis for a range of economic instruments, mainly levies, tariffs and penalties, designed to internalize the costs of pollution and to act as a disincentive to pollute.

Precautionary principle

Preventive measures are to be taken when there are reasonable concerns that an activity may increase the risk of presenting hazards to human health, harm living resources and aquatic ecosystems, deplete or pollute aquifers or impede/harm aquifer recharge areas, damage amenities or interfere with other legitimate uses of the natural environment, even when there is no conclusive evidence of a causal relationship between the activity and the effects. In other words greater caution is required to protect the environment when information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate.

Priorities in Water Use

The objective of water resources management is to support the socio-economic activities of the country, taking into account the sustainability of the natural system. This includes the provision of water for drinking water supply, municipal and industrial water, irrigation water for agriculture, water for hydropower production, water (depth) for navigation and water for aquaculture and fisheries.

In case of limitation of supply or (temporary) shortages of water, priority will be given to the basic domestic needs of the people, in particular the drinking water supply. The demand for these basic needs is small and from a quantitative point of view this demand can always be met.

The priority for water is for commercial and semi-commercial use of water. This includes water for industry, irrigation, fisheries, hydropower, navigation, etc. None of these uses have priority above each other. The priority will depend on the social and economic value the water has for a particular use at a particular location. The priority will also depend on alternatives that may exist in providing the services involved (e.g. re-use in industry and agriculture, dredging in navigation). It might be expected that given the high economic value and importance of employment in industry, the water supply to industry will in general get a high priority, providing that it is used wisely (efficient and with low pollution).


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Water strategy (challenges):



National Water Resources Plan

Coordination Project (NWRP-CP)



  1. Understand the National Water Resources Plan

It is a key prerequisite that governorates’ units and committees become familiar and getting acquainted with NWRP implementation measures, programmes, and coordination platforms. In a two-day workshop per governorate, both GWRU and General Executive Council members become familiar with the plan through presentations, group assignments etc. This activity has been completed in all three pilot governorates.

  1. GWRP structure (outline) is agreed

The NWRP-CP prepares a template for the GWRP, based on the NWRP, which is circulated to the governorates. In a workshop in Ismailia in May 2010, selected members of all Governorates are familiarized with and discussed the template. This is now complete; and the GWRP layout, contents, and details are generally agreed. The GWRP template is finalized; the final version of the GWRP will have to be prepared in accordance with the feedback from the governorate partners by July 2010. An important dimension will incorporated to allow more openness in data acquisition. However, minor modifications will be made whenever deemed necessary during the evolutionary process.


  1. Describing a water sector profile for the Governorate

Inventory of existing, emanating and planned water infrastructure, hydrologic data and water availability, water using activities, present and future water demands, population data and other human impacts and pressures, socio-economic and demographic data, and the institutional and legal framework will be initiated June 2010. This mapping exercise is crucial for any future planning activity. Depending upon data availability and accessibility and the scope of work, significant part of this effort could be carried out by the GWRU staff supported by NWRU together with national and international consultants to be completed by November 2010. Based upon this inventory the GWRP can be drafted; consequently this inventory has to be updated regularly. A proper mechanism should be established so that concerned agencies periodically supply GWRUs with real time data automatically for updating archives and building scenarios.

  1. Data synthesis

The data necessary to develop the GWRP will be collected initially from previous projects' and studies' reports and publications. Missing or incomplete data will be collected from the concerned agency; as illustrated in Annex (A). The time designated for this data interpretation, consolidation, and verification is September 2010 through January 2011. Considerable training and coaching activities are planned; on top of that the capacity to plan and to generate relevant data together with data assessment with respect to integrity, accuracy, and validity (compared against real measurements or other sources for cross checking) will be promoted. Maps are prepared in digital format in order to perform spatial water resources planning, using simple GIS technique. Data collection and synthesis will be carried out conjunctively, so the analysis will be completed by the end of 2010 and consolidated by March 2011. It is iterative process that goes parallel to activities 5 and 6.

  1. Stakeholder identification and analysis

A very important stage is the scan of stakeholders and the identification of the respective interests and roles and responsibilities that every agency, water users' group or water users' representative should play in the establishment of the GWRP. Part of this work has been done in previous projects. It is done in close co-operation with the GWRC with support from NWRU and the consultants, during August and September 2010.

  1. Identification of NWRP (2017) measures, programmes and projects to be implemented or applied in each Governorate

GWRU members make an inventory of activities and measures running in or relevant for the particular Governorate; in full consultation with the agencies dealing with water management. Each GWRU may confer with the administrations of the agencies or the available Governorate databases of the Information and Decision Support Centers. Budget lines have to be articulated, in terms of national budgets compared with additional local funds. Consequently, gaps can be identified. Possible options to close the gaps will be searched at a later stage based on the different fund generation opportunities possible. Both NWRU and the consultants support the GWRU and other governorate agencies in this assignment. The foreseen date for this activity is October and November 2010.

  1. Establish GWRP Coordination Framework

Based upon the programmes and measures previously identified, NWRU staff could facilitate a workshop for GWRU and GWRC to formulate co-ordination set-up that responds to the needs associated with the measures, programmes, and projects in the inventory; with the objective to convey these needs through the GWRC to the Executive Council. GWRC transfers co-ordination requirements to the plenary Executive Council for incorporation in annual plans and the necessary regular monitoring and follow-up. The expected date for this is December 2010.

  1. Define Governorate Development Priorities

Important is to determine planning priorities for each Governorate, link them up with the national priorities and writing a chapter in the annual plan for the Governorate by GWRU and GWRC on the governorate shortlisted priorities with relative weight assigned to rank them up. This could be carried out during December 2010 through February 2011.

  1. Coordinated analysis of scenarios and planning alternatives

The water demands estimated (based on codes and water duties) will have to balance the water supply (based on available water resources and potential). A gap is most probably anticipated which calls for drawing up plans to minimize losses, improve efficiency, and increase recycling within each governorate. If proven inadequate, strategic and management decisions will have to be formulated, debated based on the advantages and disadvantages of each option, specificity of the governorate, pre-defined priorities, and national policies. Certain tradeoffs and compromises may be addressed and hence allowing wider range of interventions and initiatives to be introduced. Decisions on the various scenarios are made by the GWRC. The deadline for this activity is tentatively marked for May 2011.

  1. Compile GWRP into standard report

Composing a Draft Governorate Water Resources Plan and present the plan to the Secretary General of the Governorate Executive Council and the MWRI central for comments and feedback is due during July 2011. This draft should include the projects and measures together with their associated costs. Establishment of the revised version of the plan will be through a series of consultation and further consolidation workshops during August and September 2011. One or two workshops per governorate are envisaged in addition to one collective workshop for the three governorates. The final version of the GWRPs could be justifiably ready for approval by December 2011.




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