Friday, November 29, 2013

Arab World's Water Stress

The United Nations Development Programme paints a bleak picture of water security in the Arab World:
The region accounts for five percent of the world’s more than seven billion people, and 10 percent of its area, but accounts for less than one percent of global water resources.
Its share of annual renewable water resources is also less than one percent, and it receives only 2.1 percent of average annual global precipitation.
Over 87 percent of the region’s terrain is desert and 14 of the world’s 20 most water-stressed countries are in this region, the study notes...
The greatest culprits, she pointed out, are unsustainable agricultural practices that guzzle the last of the area’s groundwater.
I did not realize the amount of water desalinization already happening in the Middle East.  Arab countries, particularly the Persian Gulf states, have over half the world's desalinization capacity, and as a result the salinity of the Persian Gulf may soon reach the point that further desalinization is no longer a cost-effective way to obtain potable water.  That is staggering, given that thanks to the Tigris and Euphrates the Gulf has historically been classified as a "brackish sea" rather than true saltwater.  I wonder if the point about salinity is limited to the coastal areas, as those have historically been the most saline, with the shores featuring salt flats known in Arabic as sabkha.



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