The Middle East and North African (MENA) region is plagued with water scarcity challenges, but fortunately technology is helping to overcome the challenges.
The MENA is the most water-scarce region in the world, with 5% of the world’s population, but only 1% of the world’s renewable water sources.
World Resources Institute (WRI) analysis has indicated that the Middle East in particular is likely to be under severe water-stress by 2040, with 14 of the 33 most water stressed countries in the world being in the region, including the 9 regions that will score 5/5 in the highly-stressed scorecard; Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon.
Climate change, rising populations, the scarcity of fresh water resources, historically inconsistent resource management approaches and urbanisation are all compounding to place insurmountable pressure on a dwindling supply.
Local populations are innovative though and have become extremely ingenious in accessing and utilising the scarce resources over the years, and have developed sophisticated groundwater access methods such as tunnels, dams and wells. They have also become adept in channelling natural springs, enabling maximum benefit to be gained from the available fresh water.
The worry is that the demand for water in this region is predicted to surge over the next couple of decades, especially because the populations keep on growing astronomically; the population of the MENA has more than doubled, from 173 million to 380 million people, since 1970 and is likely to double again by 2050.
Fortunately, an impressive water management and engineering response has arisen, both locally and internationally in an environment that is thirsty for bold technical solutions, which must be supported by both national governments and the private sector.
The good news is that the MENA region is leading the way across the globe with installing desalination technologies, thereby tapping into the one virtually limitless renewable water resource.