MENA Is Facing Water Scarcity

MENA Is Facing Water Scarcity

waterThe Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have become a hot topic for unsustainable water usage. With the growing gap between demand and supply for water it has become an urgent priority.

Water management has become a top priority, because of the volatility of the region including armed conflicts and massive migration of refugees it has add a tremendous stress on the land and water resources. In Jordan the water supply per person has been reduced to 140 cubic meter which is far below the global threshold of 500 cubic meters.

With the overpopulation growing rapidly, urbanization and agricultural expansion, the World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by higher or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of 35%.

Governments are now searching for solutions; one trend is the implementation of solar-powered irrigation. Morocco is expecting to install more than 100,000 solar pumps by 2020. Egypt is implementing a program of desert agriculture, planning to irrigate using solar technology 630,000 hectares. Other countries are looking to do the same by investing in solar technology due to its lower cost. With the high solar radiation those countries are facing we can understand why it is cheaper for them to invest in the solar technology instead of diesel pumps but also it is a cleaner energy. Reducing the carbon footprint in the region.

Utilizing solar technology can offer a way for farming communities to spring toward increasing their harvest. But with every upside there are some downside like poor regulation of groundwater. While exploiting underground water can come at the higher price, if this is not done consequently the risk for water tables to fall making it more expensive to pump from grater depths. It could also impact rural communities with poor access to water resources.

Monitoring water could be a solution to avoid such challenges. Jordan is currently using remote sensing technologies to help government to control the expansion of groundwater-base irrigation.

Another trend is focusing on wastewater, we are currently not recycling 82% in the region compared to 30% in high-income countries. This present a great opportunity to meet the demand. We currently have many technologies available to treat and reuse wastewater for productive purpose to forestry, agriculture, landscaping and aquifer. This trend as been slow to emerge due to the lack of policy between the agriculture, sanitation and other sectors.  The financial amount to invest is greater than the dividend that could come from it. The benefit to recycle wastewater could supersede the monetary returns by increasing the agricultural region.

With appropriate treatment, wastewaters have the potential to provide the much-needed water for irrigation for more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land. Jordan has been the trailblazer on innovation by working with the private sector utilizing technologies and financing to recycle wastewater. Jordan has been a self-reliant kingdom lead by a visionary king. If the region could take example of how Jordan is continuing to be on a forefront of innovation, the entire region has a chance to close the gap between the demand and supply in water. It would also turn the region to be self-sustainable with agricultural expansion for the population.