Strong collaboration brings excellent results as a large water project in Egypt winds down

EU Water STARS Young Water Ambassadors Forum #Cairowaterweek2019

Students drawing for the Young Water Ambassadors poster competition to help spread awareness of the importance of water conservation

The closing ceremony of the extensive 4-year EU Water STARS project brings to light a diverse array of achievements

March 24, 2022
  • SDG: #6
  • SECTORS: Development Consulting, Water
  • COUNTRIES: Egypt
  • CLIENT: European Commission
  • CONTRACT VALUE: 4,600,000 €
  • DURATION: 48 months

The impacts brought on by climate change are affecting water resources all over the world. Today, approximately 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe water and live with the resulting negative impacts. Many of the most severe consequences can be felt in Egypt. With an annual growth of 2 million people, combined with climate change effects and upstream water management measures, Egypt will become a country of absolute water scarcity very soon, where there will be less than 500 cubic metres of water per person available per year. Water scarcity poses severe challenges to water managers to maintain food and water security within the broader goal of sustainable development.

In an effort to address these issues within the context of water sector reform, the Government of Egypt and the EU launched the EU Water Sector Technical Assistance and Reforms Support (EU Water STARS) project in 2018. It was implemented by Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources & Irrigation (MWRI). The NIRAS-led consortium was contracted to provide technical assistance towards institutional, legislative and managerial reform in the water sector by improving the operational efficiencies of concerned stakeholders and beneficiaries. The project team's role was to enhance financial sustainability in the water sector, introduce new tools like water accounting, prepare technical studies, and develop communication and information plans for public awareness in resources conservation.

Large and complex with lots of moving parts

At the end of January, a closing ceremony brought together experts, stakeholders, and beneficiaries in Cairo to hear about project key deliverables. Team Leader and long-time NIRAS collaborator Philip Riddell laid out the overall scope of the project team's holistic approach: "Our approach has been inclusive because it has been targeted at the population as a whole […]. We've included as many members of the Ministry staff as possible. The approach has been consultative. Where we've needed to learn from our peers in the country, we have made every effort to consult with them. Our approach has been analytical […]. We've done financial, hydraulic, economic, and financing analyses. Our approach has also been creative. We've developed new tools for water accounting and assessing financing options […]. We've come up with some imaginative mapping for concepts and items that are not normally mapped, particularly economic externalities […]. And our approach has been comprehensive […]. We've gone considerably beyond the terms of reference at the request of either the Ministry or the contracting authority."

Spanning four years, the scale and complexity of the project relied heavily on healthy and robust collaborative relations between the myriad of involved parties. And despite hitting a few bumps, primarily due to the COVID situation, the project had a smooth run and generated an impressive number of deliverables. Local experts' participation and hard work were vital in reaching the goals and targets set out in the terms of reference. Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Juana Mera Cabello, Head of Economic Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Egypt, expressed how pleased both the EU Delegation and the MWRI are with the project: “Water STARS is a project that is very close to our hearts. In the last years we have witnessed how water has attracted more attention from local and international stakeholders. Cooperation in the water sector is one of the top priorities of the European Union, and STARS is considered a flagship project”.

Ms Cabello also highlighted the sustainability and longevity of the project, which has trained more than 5000 individuals who will go on to share their knowledge, and introduced innovative elements, such as a water accounting tool and the Nile forecast system. “All in all it has been a very successful project,” she concluded.  

“Through its different awareness-raising activities, the project increased public knowledge about the challenges posed by water scarcity and the need to preserve water. They also helped facilitate the change from flood to modern irrigation, which was done through the National Competition for Protecting Water with the slogan “Save it, you will find it”. In addition, many knowledge transfer sessions were held with farmers who used modern irrigation systems. The winning farmers shared their experience with peer farmers who want to adopt the modern irrigation system instead of the flooding irrigation method."

Dr. Rajab Abdel Azim, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, at the EU Water STARS Closing Ceremony
Photo 2 EU Water STARS
Training session in Gharbia Governorate on smart irrigation systems utilisation

Achievements and outcomes of EU Water STARS

Although there is insufficient space here to mention the outcomes and achievements in their entirety, it is worth highlighting some of the significant accomplishments of EU Water STARS:

  • The project's heart was an extensive update of Egypt's National Water Resources Plan (NWRP) 2017 – 2037. The team also assisted with achieving the goals written out in NWRP to promote sustainable water use.
  • Though just 4 were requested in the Terms of Reference, 15 technical studies were generated on a variety of topics, including the extensive 'Irrigation Modernisation in the Nile Delta and Valley' study, which was set up to help beneficiaries transition from flood irrigation to modern irrigation and drainage systems.
  • Tools were developed for water sector modernisation, comprising an investment appraisal model, an Egyptian water accounting system, and a water balance and allocation model.
  • The private sector and blended public and private finance were mobilised to modernise irrigation techniques.
  • Communication and public awareness on topics like water scarcity, sustainable water use, and the benefits of modern irrigation systems in agriculture were disseminated through social media platforms, direct knowledge transfer sessions and local media like newspapers and radio.
  • Awareness-raising competitions were organised; for example, the Fourth National 'Save it, you will find it' campaign was completed as part of the 2021 Cairo Water Week to celebrate farmers' best practices.

The closing ceremony and countless activities of EU Water STARS can be seen on the project page on Facebook.

“I will never forget that the modern irrigation program was born from this project after the project initiated the National Competition for Water Conservation. This competition encouraged us to start the irrigation modernization program. The project helped us in developing this program though several technical studies including the need for canal lining to increase the efficiency for the modern irrigation”.


Dr. Eman Sayed, Head of Planning Sector MWRI: Cohesion of strategies and plans in water sector modernization, at the EU Water STARS Closing Ceremony

deliverables contributing to an enabling institutional and financial environment.


deliverables contributing to the modernisation of the water management framework.


deliverables contributing to capacity building of the relevant institutions.


products developing communication and information plans for public awareness.


deliverables contributing to integrated resources management.

Get in touch

Eliza Domagalska

Eliza Domagalska

Senior Project Manager

Warszawa, Poland

+48 22 3957106