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5 March 2018

Shared tradition - providing irrigation in Egypt

A major irrigation canal in the Nile Delta is set to be enhanced by the addition of a new pumping station as Egypt strives to do everything it can to use the waters of The Nile as efficiently as possible in the face of growing competition.

Channeling water

ANDRITZ has specialized in the construction of large irrigation and drainage pumps since its early days.


A defiant ribbon of green

The Nile is straining under pressure to continue being the backbone of the most populous country of the Arab World. With minimal rainfall and sandy deserts covering the vast majority of the country, Egyptian society has always clung close to its banks, stretching only as far as artificial channels could extend the life-bringing reach of the Nile’s waters. Now a rapidly growing population combined with a surge of hydropower projects upstream in Sudan and Ethiopia are forcing Egypt to use the Nile as efficiently as possible.

The key to increasing the effectiveness of the Nile is to turn as much desert into arable cropland as possible through the strategic usage of irrigation canals to distribute its waters. This technique has been employed since antiquity, but the cycles of drought and flood have only really been put in check after the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, a monumental structure that allowed water levels in the complex system of irrigation canals downstream to be controlled precisely all year-round. Nowadays the Nile is regulated by a complex web of canals, barrages and pumping stations that are concentrated in its delta, all working together to make sure no drop goes to waste.

Pumping water to fight the desert

Nubaria Canal is one of the major irrigation channels that snake their way through the Nile Delta past Cairo. Hugging the western edge of the delta, it makes its way through over 100 km of land and releases its waters into Alexandria’s Lake Mariout. Equipped with three barrages and four locks that regulate its flow, the canal was originally built to irrigate over 3200 km2 of croplands, but is set to be expanded and extended by the addition of a new pumping station.

Located south of Alexandria, the pumping station will be outfitted with 17 vertical line shaft pumps that will supply water to the Nubaria canal. With its long tradition of manufacturing pumps for irrigation projects, ANDRTIZ was contracted to provide the machinery to boost the canal’s yield. The order includes sets of spare parts to ensure maintenance costs and downtime are minimized in the future, as well as a pump acceptance test in ADNRITZ’ test stand in Graz, Austria. With a combined flux of 11.7 m3/s, these pumps would be able to fill the historic Pantheon in Rome in 16 days. They were developed according to the specific needs of the Nubaria context, achieving a head of 28 m and a shaft power of 222 kW.


Planning ahead

The pumps designed by ANDRITZ differ according to the kind of liquid they need to propel, with the functioning and stability of the pumps depending highly on the choice of materials and the machining process. Different contexts require a delicate choice of pump materials, including gray cast clay, cast steel, unalloyed and low-alloy steel, stainless CrNi steel, duplex and super duplex steel, and others. Since these projects often need to function well over long periods of time and with minimal maintenance costs, aiming for a perfect alloy in the initial planning stages is essential.


A history of excellence

ANDRITZ has been a specialist in the development of large irrigation and drainage pump projects in this region since the first half of the last century. The 1960s and 1970s saw the company start up various pumping stations in the Middle East and Africa – with a landmark 420,000 ha (the equivalent of 933,000 football fields) being irrigated by ANDRITZ pumps in Sudan alone at that time.

More recently the company received a contract for the renovation and improvement of Egypt’s oldest dam on the Nile – the Assiut Barrage. The order included the supply and installation of four Bulb turbines for the historic dam that was first commissioned in 1903, with the completed project slated to greatly improve irrigation and navigation in the surrounding region.

Challenges ahead

As rising sea levels threaten to submerge large portions of the Nile Delta under the Mediterranean, and Egypt faces the reality of upstream nations building dams along the many tributaries feeding its great river, the country is ramping up the efforts at modernizing its irrigation infrastructure, in order to not be swallowed by the encroaching sand dunes. The Nubaria canal pumps will be delivered in the next couple of months and when installed, will present a significant step towards securing the region’s croplands in the face of looming freshwater challenges.


In 2017, the ANDRITZ GROUP had over 25,000 employees at 250 locations in over 40 countries. The international technology group is a world market leader for the supply of plants, equipment, and services for hydropower stations, the pulp and paper industry, the metalworking and steel industries, for solid/liquid separation in the municipal and industrial sectors, and for animal feed and biomass pelleting. In addition to turnkey hydropower plants, ANDRITZ develops and manufactures high-quality large and standard pumps for many different industries and applications worldwide. These include pumps for large infrastructure projects for irrigation, desalination, and drinking water supply, for drainage of mines, as well as for the pulp and paper and the food industry.