Water matters in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

In 1955, three Arab countries suffered from water scarcity. Today, that number has risen to 11 with another seven anticipated to join the list by 2025. With a rising population placing increased demand on a finite resource, the MENA region is actively expanding its involvement in effective water management strategies.

Despite its diversity of landscapes and climates, most MENA countries cannot sustainably meet current water demand. By 2050 per capita water availability will fall by half with serious consequences for the region’s already stressed aquifers and natural hydrological systems.

Water sources vary from country to country. Some, like Egypt and Iraq rely mostly on surface water from large international rivers. Others, like Yemen, Djibouti and the Arab States of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries depend almost entirely on groundwater and desalination, while others use a mixture of surface and groundwater.

As the region’s economies and population structures change over the next few decades, demands for water supply and irrigation services will change accordingly, as will the need to address resulting industrial and urban pollution. Some 60% of the region’s water flows across international borders, further complicating the resource management challenge. The MENA region is also particularly vulnerable to climate change, due to the already low water-availability and high variability.

The distinguished hydraulic history of the Arab region is long and impressive and water professionals across the region recognize the need to focus more on integrated management of water resources and on regulation rather than provision of services. The Arab Water Academy was established in order to support MENA countries in adapting their current water management practices to meet these combined challenges, the social, economic, and budgetary concerns.