From: Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet
Published March 15, 2013 06:27 AM

World Water Day in the Middle East

With the region getting drier 'at an alarming rate', what is there to celebrate this World Water Day?

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In the lead up to World Water Day which will take place next Friday, I have gathered some interesting water-based facts on the issue. The Middle East and North Africa region is famously one of the driest regions in the world and things don't look like they are getting better. So what is there to actually celebrate? Read on for the bad news and also some rather great news.

Firstly, the bad news. According to the latest statistics gathered by IRIN, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is getting drier at an alarming rate. And whilst trading and importing food brings in 'virtual water', it also makes the region extremely vulnerable to trade disruptions caused by dwindling supplies, higher prices or lack of money to pay for the imports. As a report on the issue of climate change and the Arab Spring points out, a winter drought in China contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices in Egypt, which is the world's largest wheat importer.

The report also points out that as the region's population continues to climb, "the water availability per capita is projected to plummet.  Rapid urban expansion across the Arab world increasingly risks overburdening existing infrastructure and outpacing local capacities to expand services." Whats more, the reliance of Gulf countries on oil sold at high prices to buy food and also remain resilience in the face of water scarcity can't last forever.

As a the report at IRIN states, this trade has simply hidden the gravity of the water scarcity situation and made it easier to neglect the development of more sustainable solutions (that doesn’t include desalination). So is the region headed towards a perfect storm of water scarcity?

Palm trees in Jordan desert via Shutterstock.

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