This region will suffer from acute water scarcity, as projected by dreary future scenarios for 2020, 2030 and 2040 – at least according to an August 2015 report by environmental think tank World Resources Institute (WRI).
The WRI report covers the globe, but the emphasis on the Middle East comes from the fact that it harbors 14 of the 33 likely most water stressed countries in 2040. The statistics include nine countries that are considered “extremely highly stressed”: Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon.
The region already lacks security, water-wise, above all else. The report cites examples such as heavy migration of farmers and herders in Syria, from the countryside to urban areas, as a result of dwindling water supplies. In Saudi Arabia, and in fear of water depletion, the kingdom will depend on grain imports, instead of growing them by 2016.
Only this month, Nature Middle East reported that more than 20 million Yemenis – 80 per cent of the country’s population – have limited access to clean water due to raging conflict. The water shortages have created cases of blood diarrhoea among children under five and an increase in other diseases such as malaria. As well, they have created a crisis among farmers. Experts have warned that in many areas it is too late and the groundwater is running out or has disappeared. Eventually, this will lead to a shrinking rural economy.
“Whatever the drivers, extremely high water stress creates an environment in which companies, farms and residents, are highly dependent on limited amounts of water and vulnerable to the slightest change in supplies,” says WRI. “Such situations severely threaten national water security and economic growth.”
The report drew projections under business-as-usual, optimistic, and pessimistic scenarios. The water stress scores for each scenario and year were weighted by overall water withdrawals, but the report also provides scores for individual sectors, like agricultural, domestic, and industrial ones.
Of the Arab countries that scored the highest on water stress, a 5.0 out of 5.0 risk score, are: Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Palestine, followed by Saudi Arabia with a score of 4.99. For a breakdown of these projections, read the full report here.