Middle East States Facing Water Crisis

Middle East States Facing Water CrisisMiddle East States Facing Water Crisis

Nearly half of 33 countries expected to face extremely high water stress by 2040 are in the Middle East, where surface water is limited and demand is high, said experts who ranked 167 nations.

Thirteen Middle Eastern countries and Occupied Palestinian Territories are projected to face extremely high water stress in 25 years' time, and seven fell in the global Top 10: Bahrain, Kuwait, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, TradeArabia reported.

Researchers from the World Resources Institute—who compiled the first index measuring competition for and depletion of surface water, such as lakes and rivers, each decade from 2010 to 2040—said the Middle East is already probably the least water-secure region in the world.

It draws heavily on groundwater and desalinated seawater, and faces "exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future", they wrote in their findings.

Betsy Otto, director of WRI's Global Water Program, said it was important for governments to understand the potential risks they face in terms of the water needed to run their economies, including rising demand as populations grow and the still uncertain impacts of climate change.

"The good news is countries can take actions to reduce that stress and the risk associated with how they manage water resources," Otto told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, citing Singapore as an example of a state that uses innovative methods.

One measure likely to become more common in the Middle East and elsewhere is water reuse systems that recycle wastewater.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to treat water to a potable standard, allow it to be used by households and then essentially throw it away," Otto said.

"Some Middle Eastern countries already rely on desalination, a technique to remove salt from sea and ground water. These and other highly water-stressed nations may also need to move away from producing their own food because agriculture gobbles water."

Saudi Arabia, for example, has said its people will depend entirely on grain imports by 2016, the WRI researchers said.