Middle East will face severe water scarcity between 2015 and 2020

Posted Apr 17, 2013 by SarahJones
Jordan faces massive water shortages due to limited resources, population growth, open borders for refugees, constant interruptions to water projects and an ongoing water dispute with Israel
The Jordanian flag
The Jordanian flag
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Water, like any natural resource or energy source, is a matter of national security. The depletion or scarcity of water limits a nations industrial development, economic growth, food production and overall well being and health of its population. Jordan not only has one of the lowest levels of water available per capita in the world and it has already been forced to tap into its “non-renewable water resources from fossilized deep-water aquifers,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In 2010 Jordan’s water demands exceeded its water supply by roughly 200% and 10 out of the countries 12 groundwater aquifers were already being over-exploited,” according to last years Water and Security Protection report by Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation.
Water Scarcity is defined as the point when the demand for water resources by all sectors -including human, industrial, agricultural, and environmental- cannot be met and the supply or quality of water is affected according to the United Nations. In the Arab world where rainfall is sparse, severe water scarcity will mean, “annual per capita share is less than 500 cubic meters. This is below one-tenth of the world's average, currently estimated at over 6,000 cubic meters,” according to the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED). Experts are placing severe water scarcity in the Arab World between two to seven years away “unless effective steering mechanisms for sustainable water management and measures to reduce the agricultural consumption of water are applied,” according to the Euro-Arab Organization for Environment, Water and Desert Research.
Jordan is currently ranked among the top five countries most threatened by water shortages according to the US based energy management and water treatment - research and manufacturing company, Seametrics. But “Jordan suffers acutely from demographic, migration and political issues – all of which mean that solutions must reach far beyond working with local people and giving aid for water projects,” according to an initiative called FutureChallenges launched by the politically non partisan Bertelsmann Foundation. Water projects in Jordan suffer from constant interruptions to infrastructure construction and management; the most recent wave of disturbances being water theft according to local news reports. Typically the interruptions to management and delivery arise from disputes because a business contract is given to businessman of a certain tribe and regardless of whether its transport, construction or logistics, it creates a rival tribe to meddle with productivity.
Map of Jordan via World Of Maps
Map of Jordan via World Of Maps
Jordan’s geographical location doesn’t make the stress of its water demands any lighter when it comes to population control. Refugees flow with greater ease through Jordan’s borders than water. Historically the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has provided refuge to people from Palestine and Iraq. More recently its borders have been open to a steady inflow of people from Egypt, Libya and Syria. Demands for natural resources continue to increase as a large portion of permanent and transit refugees making up Jordan’s 6.5 million total population. Additionally the country’s natural growth rate stands at about 2.5 percent and its population is expected to double according to the Jordanian government.
Control of a water resource, again like any natural resource or source of energy, equals control over the economy and population dependent on that water resource. Jordan shares the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers, its major surface water sources, with both Syria and Israel. Both Israel and Syria have their own national water systems. In 1994 Israel and Jordan signed a Treaty establishing guidelines for distribution and availability of water from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers for both countries.
“The Jordan River, once a major source of water for the kingdom, was diverted after animosity grew between its stakeholders,” says FutureChallenges. And upstream regions or countries like Israel enjoy the benefit of using water flows firsthand while downstream areas like Jordan tend to receive smaller quantities of water across state borders. “The dams built by Syria, Israel and Jordan have caused the (Jordan) river to lose 95% of its original flow. This has also been the fate of Jordan’s other significant waterway, the Yarmouk River, which is now reduced to a mere muddy trickle” according to FutureChallenges.
Note: The Euro-Arab Organization for Environment, Water and Desert Research will be hosting a scientific conference in Jordan with researchers from around the world between April 8th and 12th in hopes of finding a solution to water scarcity in the Arab world.
World Connection? “There are 263 international basins that cross political boundaries of two or more countries. These basins which are home to almost 40% of the world’s population, nearly half the land area and account for an estimated 60% of the flow of freshwater in the world. There are a total of 145 nations include territories within international basins, and 121 countries are located entirely within international basins,” according to the Euro-Arab Organization for Environment, Water and Desert Research.