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The Biggest Mideast Crisis You Probably Don’t Know Enough About

The recent row between Cairo and Ethiopia over Nile water is just one example of looming conflicts over water in the Middle East. Credit: Khaled Moussa al-Omrani/IPS

WASHINGTON, May 20 2014 (IPS) - The Middle East’s seemingly endless conflicts are diverting attention and resources from a graver long-term threat that looms over the whole region: the growing scarcity of water. And the situation will get worse before it gets better — if it ever does get better.

Years of war, careless water supply management, unchecked population growth, ill-advised agricultural policies, and subsidies that encourage consumption have turned a basically arid part of the world into a voracious consumer of water. The trajectory is not sustainable.

Those were the gloomy if unsurprising conclusions of a three-day conference on the subject in Istanbul last week. From Libya to Iraq to Yemen, too many people and too many animals have stretched water resources beyond their limits. Some countries where the urgency is greatest, including Syria and Yemen, are the least equipped to stave off serious water crises.

Jordan, always short of water, has been overwhelmed by a flood of refugees from Syria. Iraq, which once had ample water, has lost critical supplies to war and to dams built by Turkey upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates.

Egypt has twice as many people as it did 50 years ago, with no additional water resources. The isolated Gaza strip has been grappling with a water crisis for years. And Yemen’s scarce water supply is being gobbled up by the unchecked production of qat, a high-water crop with no nutritional value. Chewing the mildly narcotic qat leaf is Yemen’s national pastime.

“If you give them more water, they’ll just grow more qat,” one gloomy conference participant said.

But not all the news is bad. Stable countries with lots of money, led by Saudi Arabia, are making notable progress in supply, management and consumer education.

Elsewhere, however, the prognosis is grim. No one predicted an outbreak of “water wars,” or armed conflict over water supply, a spectre that has often been evoked but has never materialised.

But at some point in the not too distant future, water shortages could provoke mass migrations, human hardship, crop failures and some form of “triage” among populations as governments are forced to allocate supplies, said conferees, who cannot be named due to conference rules.

It’s not as if all this has gone unnoticed. The Middle East’s water issue has been the subject of news articles, analyses by groups such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, and studies by think tanks and humanitarian groups for years.

The Istanbul conference of scientists, policy analysts and academics from eight countries — conducted on an island in the Sea of Marmara under the title “High and Dry: Addressing the Middle East Water Challenge” by the Hollings Center and the Prince Muhammad Bin Fahd Strategic Studies Program at the University of Central Florida — is the latest of many such gatherings.

But little has come of them because the region has never been stable enough for sufficient time to make any comprehensive, multilateral solution possible.
According to analyses by the World Bank, the U.S. State Department and others, a majority of the countries defined as “water-poor” — those with access to less than 1,000 cubic metres per person per year — are in the Middle East and North Africa.

The State Department also predicts that climate change will add to the problem by bringing “consistently lower levels of rainfall.”

No government or international agency can increase rainfall or snow runoff. But the Istanbul conferees heard that the example of Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest country without a river — shows that a great deal can be done in countries with deep pockets and enough time to focus on the issue.

Saudi Arabia reorganised its government in the 1990s to centralise water planning and management. Most of the country’s water for personal and household use is supplied by massive desalination plants. The decision to build them, starting in the 1970s, was an obvious one for the kingdom.

But the plants are expensive to construct and operate, leaving them beyond the financial reach of a country like Yemen.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile leads the region in the recapture and reuse of wastewater. Under a new regulation from last year, for example, its giant dairy farms are required to operate on recycled water purchased from the National Water Company rather than on groundwater as in the past.

Once the world’s fifth- or sixth-largest exporter of wheat — the production of which requires massive amounts of water — Saudi Arabia has banned the cultivation of wheat as of 2016 and is refocusing its agriculture on greenhouse production of vegetables and fruit.

Growing animal fodder crops such as alfalfa has been banned; owners of livestock are required to purchase imported fodder, conference participants said. Plagued by leaks in distribution pipes that drained off as much as 25 percent of the water it had, Saudi Arabia privatised its distribution network and encouraged foreign engineering and management companies to participate.

Saudi Arabia has raised the price of water for businesses and institutions, but it has not yet ended the subsidies for households that make water so cheap; there is little incentive to limit consumption.

Doing so would be politically risky in a country where subsidies for water, gasoline, and electricity are expected by a population that has no vote or other influence over the government.

Egypt, by far the most populous country in the region, has a different consumer attitude problem. Egyptians have taken the availability of water for granted since completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970. As a result, they use waster casually in the home and pump more irrigation water than is necessary onto their fields.

But Egypt’s biggest concern now is Ethiopia’s plan to construct a giant hydroelectric dam on the headwaters of the Nile, reducing the flow and the amount of water stored in Lake Nasser, behind the Aswan Dam.

Asked recently if negotiations over Nile water allocations were taking place between Egypt and the upstream countries, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy replied, “No. I wish they were.”

Participants in Istanbul agreed that there is no single remedy for the water crisis. The available fixes range from the simple and obvious, such as consumer education and the installation of low-flow bathroom fixtures, to the aspirational, such as the development of desalination plants powered by solar energy, which are thus affordable.

As usual with such events, the organisers will prepare a paper outlining recommendations. The fact is, however, that solutions, even if available, will be hard to implement until the shooting stops, refugees are resettled, and governments are sufficiently stable to address them. That won’t be soon.

Thomas W. Lippman is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and author of Saudi Arabia on the Edge.

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  • Leslie MacKenzie

    I’d like to know if the governments of the Middle East countries that produce oil have understood that the continued selling and burning of these fossil fuels is the root cause of this decrease in water availability.

  • PaulFelixSchott

    Father is that day of wrath near for them that destroy the Earth? KJV Rev 11:18

    Father look another fish near the top of the water Young Eagle soon there will be many as the water goes down.
    Father and when the water is gone what will we eat Young Eagle that is foretold in Revelation 19:17-18
    Have no fear young Eagle, those who are faithful to our Father in Heaven to the end will be saved.

    Father and the wicked and lost Young Eagle Most of them will die in the desert because they did not believe
    and were not faithful as did more then 3,000 years ago.

    Satan’s Sin City “Las Vegas” very soon to die like a fish out of water.

    World Leaders Pay Close “ATTENTION”.

    This Planet Earth Cannot And Will Not Support Life As We Know It Without Its FOREST.
    Soon all will take note to the sounds and rumbling of Volcanoes and Earthquakes Around Earth that are Waking Up at a Alarming Rate.
    Just as they did in 1883 from Krakatoa.


    Read well and study on your own after you have read this.

    This is not a game or joke our Sun gives off a Solar Wind all day year round. If you live in the State of Alaska you see it in the
    sky above what a sight it is going through our Earth’s Magnet Polls of the North and the South, North Poll. It’s called the
    Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. The day will come when you will be able to see it all over Earth as in the year 1859 Solar Flare,
    It was the largest in 500 years. Two Astronomer’s Hodgson and Carrington told the World that the Solar Flare made a Geomagnetic
    Storm reach Earth in hours not days. Back then it gave new meaning to “Reach For The Skies” from Telegraph Operators.
    For hours sparks flew from the key board. Even after the Batteries were disconnected. Nov 3 and 4, 2003 had a X40+ Class Solar Flare,
    Thank GOD it was not coming at Earth this time.

    Our Sun’s UV Rays will get stronger as each passing day goes by, read and i will tell you why. The Great big FOREST have be stripped
    from most of the Earth for Greed of Money by the Wicked. The trees our are Main Source of Oxygen on this Plant. The Forest Trees scrubs
    the Pollution out of the air and makes Oxygen from the rain and dirt that it grows in. The Forest Trees do more than just make Oxygen
    they stop Soil Erosion, just Look at the 1930 Dust Bowl. Greed by our wicked Government leaders to bleed from us as much money as they
    could out of us thru taxes led farmers to clear cut all their Forest, and farm all the land they were being Tax on.
    They had to farm it to pay for the Taxes. Why leave the Trees when food crop makes Money.

    This Did not Help the Depression that effected most all Worldwide. More than 100 million in the coming years will suffer from Malnutrition
    and Dehydration. Going without Food and Safe Drinking Water to drink many will die!

    One country can see clearly and knows already the World’s food and safe drinking water supply is running out at a record pace. With one of
    the world’s largest Population it has taking steps to no longer let anyone in its country, export any of its farmland grown food or grain
    from INDIA to any other country Nov 2013.

    China is trying to buy up all the world’s grain it can and the future harvest of framers. Future Commodities of Food Stocks soon will climb
    like a rocket because of this. China is also right now working on passing laws on its farmers. China Rural Reforms On Farming Jan 2014.

    It to soon will become a country that will not export any of its food or grain to any other country. In the United States of America alone
    more than 46+ Million Americans Received Food Stamps and that number is going up every day every year since 2009.
    The number of Homeless is growing worldwide in America 20,000 in the once known to the world as
    “Motor City” Detroit Michigan.

    The bread and food lines are growing Worldwide. 100 to 300 in Sioux Falls S.D. Every Friday stand in the cold waiting to get food at the
    Military Armory. The same once a month in Hawaii in front of a Stone that dwarfs any man that reads…….

    it list the names of many


    Through the years many of us have help cook and feed the poor and needy in Hawaii and around the World, most of us USA Military or work or
    did work or Volunteered for Uncle Sam.

    And GOD willing may we be able to do so till our LORD returns.

    The Pollution and CO2 Carbon Dioxide go into the Tree Bark as a shield from most bugs so they do not eat the tree. Less Forest less Oxygen this
    is why the Moon. That has no Oxygen is very cold on the side without Sun Light, And hot as ever on the side with Sun Light. Way too cold and too
    hot to live there. You would need at least 10 times the Energy we use on Earth to even live there and life on the Moon would be very short.

    With no blank of Oxygen to lessen or reduce the Sun’s UV Rays and Solar Wind they are deadly there on our Moon. Every Mt. Climber and
    Aircraft Pilot knows the higher you go the thinner the Oxygen and colder it gets.
    Just spend a night on a Mt. top above 13,000 feet with no Sun Light and you will see or should i say feel the cold stinging any of your
    exposed skin. If you are new to Mt. Climbing stay below 10,000Ft. The Astronauts and the Cosmonauts and Fighter Pilots that i have been
    with for years know this very well, and the Radiation Hazards to humans at High Altitudes.

    Soon the Sun’s Solar Wind and UV rays will be way to strong for most to go out in the Sun Light for even a short time.

    The Geomagnetic Storm to come and the Bad Weather Storms well you have not seen nothing yet and the Sea Level is Rising the Oceans.
    Many Millions have been affected by Floods in China and Pakistan and around the planet.
    Every year there is more storms and they are stronger of greater magnitude and bigger.

    In 2005 Over a Thousand dead in New Orleans Flood, and the list is going on.
    Homes without Electric power are in the hundreds to 1,000 all over earth every year now from storms.
    Pray you are ready to be without power for a week or two in the cold winter or hot summer.

    GREENLAND Ice sheet took more than 3,000 years to get its mass size and weight.
    Greenland’Ice sheet is one of the largest ice sheets on this Planet Earth it is the second in mass. People on Earth are putting an end to it in
    less than 50 years.

    There is a very simple point to this. Dams all over the planet have had
    a Earthquake when filled too fast or let out a lot of water in a short time.

    GREENLAND Ice sheet Weight is a unbelievable amount as it gets lighter,
    GREENLAND ICE sheet WILL give a Earthquake no one will forget.
    Coastal cities LOOK OUT a Mt. Wall Of Water will come, from one of these Earthquakes. KJV Rev 6:12
    If you live by the coastline now is a good and smart time to move you might not get another chance to do so in time. History has recorded times of coastal
    towns, cities and coastline being inundated by sea water 5 to 10 miles inland.

    In the past 50 years Earth has had more FLOODING then in the last 1,000 years. 1014AD VERY LARGE TIDAL WAVES THE LARGEST EVER RECORDED FROM IMPACTS,

    And there shall be Famines, and Pestilences, and Earthquakes, in divers places such as was not from the beginning of the Creation.

    Scientist Dr. Katharine Giles had done many experiments investigating “Sea Ice Thickness”, and showed it to governments around the Earth how the
    Sun rays and winds affected the newly exposed Arctic Ocean. Some of Scientist Dr. Giles research focused on using satellites to better understand
    the physics of the ice covered Polar Oceans.

    Scientist Dr. Giles to all Warning Water will warm faster than ICE covered water or water with ice in it.

    The last 30 years On Earth we have broke all High Temp Records and the temp it is still going up.

    All the Worlds Ice Glacier are melting at an Accelerating Rate. The Glaciers and Polar Ice Caps store more water than all the Fresh Water Lakes on Earth.
    Look to the (US Gov web site “USGS U.S. Geological Survey” Repeat Photography of Alaskan Glaciers USGS)

    The Bad Weather Storms now are Babies compared to what is to come.

    They will get even bigger and worse less Oxygen the more UV Rays to the Earth and more Water molecules will evaporate and go up into the Earth’s
    Atmosphere. Less Oxygen the Colder without sun light and Hotter with it.
    Record cold and record hot temps, highs and lows will now be broke every year.

    The Sky full of more water vapor molecules, more snow in the winter and more Flash Floods in the Summer. All earth will see way more fires and the
    Deserts are growing larger and have been for the last 75+ years.
    The water Springs in the desert that once made the place a oasis to support life are long gone.

    Satan’s Sin City “Las Vegas” very soon to die like a fish out of water.

    The Governor of California Jerry Brown has declared a State Of Emergency due to the driest DROUGHT in California’s history. Friday January 17, 2014

    Lake Mead at record low and soon will not be able to make electric power.
    UK most rain in 300 years Flooding February 2014.
    Middle East dryest in 1,000 years 2009 – 2014
    (” If every living person on Earth were to Plant A Tree Today we might have a chance.”)

    IN PAKISTAN MORE THEN A MILLION TREES IN A DAY, and they did this for days.


    Maybe the UN and leaders on this planet are just a little more than show in the head.
    OUR Planets Atmosphere needs Oxygen with the decline of it the world’s health will decline, as like some of the not so smart gov payed Scientist.
    Some that will do or say anything for $$$$$.

    Once the days start getting shorter the cooler it will get and longer days warmer, most all fifth graders and every framer on Earth knows this.
    IF they had know better and had a brain like a Scientist to go with the tidal of one they carry they would have known, that the Sea Ice is going
    to grow at a Record Pace with Shorter Days. Just as with longer days the summers are going to brake all records each and every year that OUR
    Planets Atmosphere Oxygen declines.

    Mid Summer Days hot as Hell, Winter Nights POLAR BEAR WEATHER. Stronger winds wind chills -0 and below the new normal for winter.

    (“EXPEDITIONS on ships into ice seas many have been done most all know it is safer and wiser to do it as the days are getting longer not as a
    fool when the days are getting shorter. You risk yours and the life’s of others that will come to rescue you.

    World Leaders and your Scientist be Smart open your eyes most all on Earth can see and want to hear the TRUTH from its leaders.
    Stop running your vessel Afoul. If you follow a true course the spirit that gives your heart its life will give you great wisdom and strength
    and power to resist the wicked.”)

    Scientist are you afraid of losing that fat pay check, or think that the wicked will end your work like NOBLE BRAVEHEARTED Scientist Dr. Katharine Giles.
    Everyone that the wicked think they have stopped its work 100 will replace that NOBLE BRAVEHEARTED one.

    By your work shall ye be judged do good help others and always seek and tell the TRUTH.
    Every soul will be filled with great fear that don’t help others and don’t seek the truth and our LORD, JUDGEMENT DAY.

    The Earth’s Atmosphere Blanket surrounding it protects life on Earth as Our Lord and GOD will all that seek Him.

    Then it is written WHEN THE TREE IS FULL IT IS HARVEST TIME. All the Earth will someday burn away.
    This is all Foretold in the Bible Read it
    and may our Lord Bless all that do so.
    Daniel 12 : 1 – 3

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    2 Peter 3:10
    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with
    intense heat, and the Earth and its works will be burned up.

    GOD Bless You and Your Love ones
    Give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ every day.
    Luke 21:20-22
    Matthew 24: 30-33

    Solar Energy the way to go.
    Many States and Countries Are and are Banning Fracking.


    Hydraulic Fracturing a Danger to us All.

    Archimedes and Albert Einstein
    These two are at the top of the list of the World’s Greatest Scientists,
    Viewed by Scientist around the World.

    Sad that for the last 25 years or so of every teacher asked no matter what
    Grade k through 16. At least 80% of them did not know Archimedes. Even sadder 90% of them could not tell you what one of the most
    Brilliant Scientist to ever live on Earth. Won the Nobel Prize for.

    It was for the work Albert Einstein did to show the World it could get
    Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. (THE PHOTOVOLTAIC EFFECT).
    We still do not Teach this to are young Why?

    Churches all over earth are Going Solar why not are schools?

    In many cities and more added every day there are more (EV’s) Electric Vehicles Charging Stations than gasoline, the UK was one of the first.
    Wicked Leaders and many that are in the Dark and Lost wake up it will very soon be too late.

    Please go to (Electric Vehicle Charging Station map) Oil CEO’s soon to lose more than their shirt.

    FREE SOLAR ENERGY FROM THE SUN. Why KEEP sending your $$$$$ to oil.

    Why is not every GOV BUILDING IN THE WORLD covered with (PV) SOLAR ENERGY?

    WHY ARE WE STILL SENDING $$$,$$$,$$$,$$$ oil ?
    When there is SOLAR and WIND ENERGY.

    Tesla car owners drive coast to coast FREE from the SUNLIGHT, 2014.

    This is not the Roman Empire (Taxes Kill Growth) Lower all taxes and all will grow and FLOURISH without SATAN DICTATORSHIP AND CONTROL on US.

    There is enough Energy coming from our SUN to power all are needs on Earth and then some.
    Albert Einstein 1907

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