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Middle East Water Shortage

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Middle East Water Shortage

Due to geography and population growth, the Middle East nations are faced with a growing demand for a shrinking water supply. Throughout most of the Middle East region rainfall is irregular and the rainy season is very short. The World Bank reports that this area (including North Africa) has 5% of the world's population, but only 1% of the world's water. Droughts have been occurring more frequently and lasting longer, warning of a bleaker future.

Man himself has not helped the situation. The rivers in the Middle East are being diverted, dammed, aquifers are being drained and polluted by pesticides and sea salt, and even marshes are drying up due to over-pumping. The countries that do have access to the precious few water sources do not conserve it, preserve it, nor can they agree on how to manage and share the water fairly.

The need for water is not only for human consumption, but it is also vital in order to sustain agriculture. A nation that is unable to produce enough water and thus, food, for their own people is reliant on other nations to provide for them. This dependence can give rise to suspicion and conflict, which unsurprisingly has plagued this area of the world for centuries.

The population in the Middle East has been growing rapidly, both from an increased birth-rate and immigration. For example, the Jordan River basin population has quintupled since 1940, to 15 million people, creating detrimental damage to both the amount and quality of water. More and more water is needed to keep up with the population growth, and the current consumption in the Middle East already exceeds the annual rainfall needed to replenish the basins. The additional human population is stressing environment and is affecting temperature in the region, changing the climate for the worse.

The methods of carrying the water from source to user are inefficient, and much water is wasted. Most systems are outdated and leaking, some losing up to 60% back into the ground. Others have been tampered with by those wishing to pilfer some of the valuable life-giving liquid. The West Bank loses 50% of their water to illegal drilling. Of the water that does make it to the population, pollution from wastewater, sewage or pesticides has made much of the water unusable in much of the Middle East.

The Middle Eastern nations most affected by the water crisis are Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. The Nile basin has been quite stable since Egypt entered into an agreement in 1929 with ten adjacent countries that is still in effect today. Development in Africa worries them, however, as Egypt's relies on the Nile for 98% of its irrigation water, and to support its 70 million people.

In the Jordan River basin, the lack of alternatives for fresh water has increased the dependency of both Israel and Jordan on the river. After 40 years of war, the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994 which included specific rights to the Jordan River. Not only does this treaty state specific periods of time each country can pump water, it also includes provisions for monitoring water quality and prohibiting pollution.

Turkey, Syria and Iraq all share the important Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which once sheltered the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. The two rivers originate in Turkey, offering them the most control over the rivers, and power over their southern neighbors.

Riparian countries like Turkey have the upper hand in the Middle East, as they have additional rainfall that the more arid southern countries do not. They control the tops of the rivers, and by diverting the water they get additional resources, while at the same time they lessen the volume of the rivers to the countries downstream.

These countries are often less interested in negotiating with the countries in dire need of water, since their needs are already being satisfied. Turkey is currently involved in the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) program and intends to construct 22 dams, and 19 hydraulic power plants and will irrigate 1.7 million hectares of land (one hectare

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