Water security and climate change: is the MENA region in the eye of the cyclone?
Groundwater Governance in the Arab world
Water Security and Climate Change will be the focus of an important international Conference (WSCC 2017) be held in Cologne, Germany, on 18 – 21 September 2017. Achieving water security is one of the major challenges faced by society. Recent global agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction relate substantially to questions of water security.
Alarming facts about water shortage in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Fresh water resources in the region are among the lowest in the world, and according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), they have decreased by two thirds during last 40 years and are expected to fall over 50% by 2050. Water scarcity is expected to intensify as a result of climate change: for each 1 degree of global warming, 7% of the global population will see a decrease of 20% or more in renewable water resources. Within the region, an estimated 90% of land lies within arid and dry areas, while agriculture uses approximately 85% of the total available freshwater. The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international action network, considers the region in the eye of the cyclone due to the dangerous nexus between water, employment and migration, and associated socio-political, economic and environmental risks.
The critical issue of groundwater in the region. An assessment of groundwater governance in the Arab world, implemented by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), has found that the current water regulation and management tools in the MENA region suffer from several problems. A key issue is the fact that users are numerous and scattered, with countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon each possessing between 100,000 and 200,000 wells. Farmers are known to tamper with groundwater meters, or hide illegal wells altogether. Many of the wells remain unregistered, and farmers may dodge the required abstraction authorization. Another important element is associated with the interests of large-scale agriculture, which have mostly worked against the passing of constraining laws and enforcement of regulations. This is the case for example in Jordan, where the Azraq wetland lost 90% of its naturally flooded area between the 1970s and the mid-1990s due to agriculture expansion; and in Morocco, where overall annual groundwater overdraft exceeds 1 billion m3.
Read more: Water Security and Climate Change Conference | World Bank 2017. Beyond Scarcity: Water Security in the Middle East and North Africa | FAO Pamphlet on Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity for the Near East and North Africa | Global Water Partnership-(GWP) Med | The Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) | Second Annual Symposium on “Water in the Middle East and Israel" | Managing groundwater in times of climate uncertainty