“Breaking the Cycle: Creating Solutions for Water Security in the Middle East”

In 2010, the U.S. World Threat Assessment listed water scarcity in MENA as a global threat. Source: U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

The Hollings Center for International Dialogue asked: How to create solutions for water security in the Middle East? Or “Breaking the Cycle”, if you will, which was supported by Saudi Arabia’s university funded Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and studies.  Aside from Saudi Arabia’s 30 million people’s need for water, note the needs beyond the other gulf countries (Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Yemen and Qatar) — like 33.42 million in Iraq, 85 million in Egypt, and 39.21 million in Algeria.  Given the North African countries’, or Maghreb’s, water stress and scarcity challenges, we must emphasize should NOT be left out of MENA discussions, even if overlooked by panel’s funding partner.

Panelists includes Moore, Research Associate from the Council on Foreign Relations and Raymond Karam, Program Associate from the East/West Center.  The moderator was David Dumke from the above mentioned partner, Prince M. Bin Fahd Program.

In addition to the arid climate challenges, governments, like Saudi Arabia have over-subsidized certain initiatives that have increased water resource challenges.  For this reason, it makes sense that Saudi is trying to take a step back and exploring what additional measures can be taken to address water shortages beyond the conservation efforts.

Aside from government efforts, Arab NGO ACWUA (aqua pun intended) stands for Arab Countries Water Utilities Association established itself in 2006.  This January, ACWUA is behind Arab Water Week.  To what extent are businesses and Middle East governments breaking the cycle in #WaterScarcity?


Water Scarcity Challenges

  • Consider water quality of available water: Contamination from production
  • System of government, like authoritarianism, used to justify management of scarce resources, like water and oil, to ensure access and promote food security.  BUT authoritarian governments tend to rely on subsidy route clashes with options to invest and conserve resources.

Possible Solutions

  • Economically speaking: apply Carbon Tax Model, which has been successfully been adopted by Australia 40 years ago.
  • Implement cap and trade “water rights”.  However this is more difficult to do in the Middle East.
  • Invest in water desalination plants.

Did You Know?

  • Yemen used to be the bread basket of the Roman Empire.
  • On 2% of arable land, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been the 4th largest exporter of wheat
  • Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest dairy provider

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Filed under Analysis, Interests, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics)

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