In light of water security issues and Egypt’s efforts to ensure the conservation of Nile water and groundwaters, Law No. 147 of 2021 (the “Law”) aims to establish effective water administration, distribution, irrigation, and drainage systems.
Entry into Force:
The Law was issued on 16 October 2021 and entered into force the following day, repealing Law No. 12 of 1984. However, several relevant decrees and regulations remain effective until the issuance of the Law’s Executive Regulations (the “Executive Regulations”), which are expected to be issued within six months from the Law’s promulgation date.
- The Law addresses the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation (the “Minister”), the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (the “Ministry”), General Administrations relevant to water resources and irrigation (the “Competent Authority”).
- The Law introduces the concept of “association of water users”, defined as “all water users and beneficiaries of irrigation and drainage networks and systems whether private or public as well as groundwater, dams, and tanks” (the “Association of Users”). These Associations are not-for-profit with an independent legal personality, licensed by a Ministerial decree. Their objectives shall strengthen and enhance collaboration between users and the Ministry in managing, developing and enhancing irrigation and drainage systems. The Association of Users shall have a general assembly, board of directors, and chairman and be elected for four years.
- The Executive Regulations shall include additional details related to member subscriptions, contributions, and allocated resources from the Ministry’s budget.
New concepts are introduced under the Law, such as delineation boundaries, including contour lines and Nile River sanctuary lines as well as “Prohibited Territories and Restricted Areas”, which are defined as “areas in which undertaking any establishment, construction or activity is prohibited unless licensed by the Ministry”.
The Law regulates public and private facilities located inside public property concerning water resources and irrigation as described below.
- With regards to public properties related to water resources and irrigation, the requirements are as follows:
- The Ministry is the competent entity and shall have all ownership authorities according to Law No. 182 of 2018 and Law No. 67 of 2010 after seeking the opinion of the Ministries of Defense and Military Production.
- The Ministry shall determine the limits and restrictions on such properties for public purposes related to water resources.
- In case of force majeure, change in water level or irrigation and draining management, the State shall not be responsible for any damage to lands or establishments within such property provided that the Ministry has taken the required precautionary measures.
- Cultivation or any other activity on such properties shall not be permitted without obtaining a license from the Competent Authority.
- With regards to private facilities related to water resources and irrigation located inside the abovementioned public properties, the requirements are as follows:
- Interventions and activities within the boundaries of such properties require a license from the Competent Authority. The Executive Regulations shall determine the conditions and requirements for such license.
- The license period shall not exceed ten years subject to renewal after payment of fees, which shall not exceed EGP 500,000, noting that 50% of the amount is due at the time of renewal.
- If the relevant license expires, the Ministry may consider the property or installations as public property without the need for any compensation.
- The licensed person shall comply with certain obligations such as maintaining the licensed facilities for the public interest, allowing the Ministry to conduct inspections at any time and refraining from undertaking any changes without the Ministry’s permission.
- The Minister may revoke the license if the licensed person does not comply with the above-listed obligations.
The Law covers the following issues:
- The obligations and requirements applicable to owners, lessees, and holders of irrigation and drainage resources, such as land cleaning and bridge maintenance.
- The administration and regulation of water distribution, which remain at the discretion of the Ministry, noting that the Ministry has the authority to determine the locations and surface areas of high consumption of water, such as for rice cultivation.
- The regulation of pumps and other water-lifting equipment:
The Law provides that the establishment or operation of such stationary or movable equipment require a license. This license is issued for five years, subject to renewal. The fees for such license shall not exceed EGP 250 per year. The Executive Regulations shall include further fee classifications.
- The irrigation and drainage of new lands:
The Law includes obligations for licensed persons, and the Executive Regulations shall determine the license’s conditions and requirements.
- The measures for the protection of the Nile River and its bridges:
The Law stipulates that a Prime Minister Decree shall create two committees:
- A coordinating committee: competent for granting licenses for operations and activities in Lake Nasser;
- A high committee competent to examine requests for licenses to conduct works and construction by the riverbed, its branches and on the bridges behind the High-Dam.
The Law includes the license conditions and requirements for well digging. A Prime Minister decree shall establish a high committee to examine requests for licenses. The term of a well license is five years subject to renewal, and the fees shall not exceed EGP 100,000 per year. The license shall be revoked if the well is not dug within a year from obtaining it or not used within two years from its establishment. Additionally, the Law highlights obligations on entities involved in natural resources exploration and archeologic activity to report groundwater’s presence immediately.
- The protection of water installations, facilities, and shores:
This protection can take the form of the following:
- Avoiding the dangers of high sea levels,
- Administering and protecting seacoast,
- The protection from dangers emanating from rainfalls and floods.
Penalties and Transitional Provisions
Penalties, such as imprisonment and fines, are stipulated in detail for each violation of the above-mentioned provisions and articles. In addition, reconciliation measures are provided for irregularities and violations that occurred before the issuance of the Law concerning unlicensed establishments and construction within the boundaries of Restricted Areas, lands privately owned by the State, by any other public or private entity or individual.
Reconciliation requires the approval of the Competent Authority. Seeking such approval, the concerned person shall file a reconciliation request within a year from the issuance of the Law and pay the required fees.