Photo Essay: USAID’s 40-Year Legacy in Water and Wastewater Meets the Needs of Egypt’s Growing Population
Egypt today is a country in transition. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world — estimates suggest that the population will increase from 93 to 120 million people by 2030 — Egypt’s infrastructure needs to keep pace. In both urban and rural areas, population growth has led to an expansion of settlements that strain current water and wastewater systems. Often, settlements are built over the heavily polluted, unsanitary waterways, posing a public health threat by carrying the risk of waterborne disease.
Since 1978, USAID invested more than $3.5 billion to help bring potable water and sanitation services to more than 25 million Egyptians, directly improving their health and environmental conditions. The Egypt Utilities Management (EUM) program has been a key contributor to this legacy; this $440 million investment by the American people over ten years has led to an increased quality of life for 10.5 million Egyptians.
Building on more than two decades of success in the water sector — including modernizing the Cairo and Alexandria sewer systems — USAID worked with the Government of Egypt (GOE) from 1997–2007 to construct 30 water and wastewater facilities in Fayoum, Beni Suef, and Minya governorates to benefit more than 3 million people. However, those systems did not anticipate the rapid population growth — nearly 11 million people currently live in those three governorates.
Through the EUM agreement, USAID also supported the GOE’s water sector reforms, including the establishment in 2004 of the quasi-governmental Holding Company for Water and Wastewater (HCWW) to improve operations, maintenance, planning, and expansion of the infrastructure.
Many of USAID’s current water efforts are possible due to the decentralization of the potable water and sanitation sector in Egypt. USAID worked with the HCWW to develop 25 local, public utilities — and to transfer utility management from the central HCWW to these autonomous water and sanitation companies. USAID helped automate operational and billing systems and provide institutional strengthening support and capacity building for these local companies — including the ability to plan and budget for necessary expansions due to population growth.
USAID works with these local water companies through a follow-on EUM agreement to increase access to water and sanitation in underserved communities of rural Upper Egypt, including Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, and Aswan, by constructing wastewater facilities for basic sanitation and installing and improving pipelines and household connections for potable water and sanitation services.
Better water and wastewater services and facilities contribute to health and livelihoods improvements and also create thousands of construction jobs for day laborers.
“We used to have to take our children to the doctor. We washed our clothes in the canal or in the sewage water and our kids got sick from this bad water,” says Om Taha, a resident of Awlad Suweilem Village in Minya governorate. “The clean water is 100 times better than the water that came from the ground.”
Interested in seeing how USAID’s water and sanitation support has improved the quality of life throughout Egypt? Click on the video below.
To subscribe to Global Waters magazine, click here, and follow us on Twitter @USAIDWater. This article appears in Global Waters, Vol. 8, Issue 4; for past issues of the magazine, visit Global Waters’ homepage on the USAID website. For more information about USAID/Egypt’s water and sanitation efforts, click here.