Despite its diversity of landscapes and climates—from the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains to the empty quarter of the Arabian peninsula—most of the region’s countries cannot meet current water demand. Indeed, many face serious challenges.
The situation is likely to get worse. Per capita water availability will fall by half by 2050, with serious consequences for the region’s already-stressed aquifers and natural hydrological systems. As the region’s economies and population structures change over the next few decades, demands for water supply and irrigation services will change accordingly, as will the need to address industrial and urban pollution. Some 60 percent of the region’s water flows across international borders, further complicating the resource management challenge. This will be compounded if rainfall patterns, as predicted, shift as a result of climate change.
Can countries in MENA adapt to meet these combined challenges?
This report argues that they can, because they will have to if they do not, the social, economic, and budgetary consequences will be enormous. Drinking water services will become more erratic than they are alread, cities will come to rely more and more on expensive desalination and will have to rely more frequently on emergency supplies brought by tanker or barge. Service outages will put stress on expensive network and distribution infrastructure. In irrigated agriculture, unreliable water services will depress farmers’ incomes. The economic and physical dislocation associated with the depletion of aquifers or unreliability of supplies will increase. All of this will have short and long-term effects on economic growth and poverty, will exacerbate tensions within and between communities, and will put increasing pressure on public budgets.
This report suggests ways in which, within their current political and economic realities, countries can make changes to lessen these problems. The report sounds an optimistic message that water management reform is possible and can be effective in meeting the challenges of water scarcity.
Making the Most of Scarcity : Accountability for Better Water Management Results in the Middle East and North Africa