Water scarcity and drought in WANA countries

Jauad El Kharraz, Alaa El-Sadek, NorEddine Ghaffour, Eric Mino

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

105 Scopus citations


Water Security was a central theme of WANA Forum 2010, where regional experts warned that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. Climate change will only exacerbate problems in a region already stressed by lack of water, food and political and social unrest. Across the Arc of Crisis, from Somalia, Sudan and Egypt in Africa to Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in West Asia, water scarcity in the region has already lead to drought and famine, loss of livelihood, the spread of water-borne diseases, forced migrations and open conflict. Water scarcity is closely linked to food and health security, making better water management a key stepping stone for poverty reduction and economic growth. If nothing changes, most of the WANA countries will encounter, in less than a generation, serious problems in managing inland freshwater, the availability of which, in sufficient quantity and quality, may become, as it is already the case in several of these countries, a main challenge for economic and social development. Wastage and pollution will then be such that « water stress » will affect, in a way or another, most of the populations of WANA countries and the poorest first of all. The effects of global warming will increase current trends. On the other hand, water scarcity in the WANA region is an issue of growing concern. With heavy demand from agriculture, growing populations and virtually no remaining untapped water sources, the need to establish water-management strategies in the region is of vital importance. WANA countries can be divided into three major agro-ecologies, each facing slightly different challenges. Rain-fed areas are dependent on a low and extremely variable rainfall, resulting in minimal yields, a problem exacerbated by frequent drought. Rainfall occurs in the form of intense and unpredictable storms, and as a result, the crusting soils are unable to absorb the moisture, which rapidly becomes lost through evaporation or runoff. Irrigated areas utilize rivers and groundwater sources, which are becoming depleted from over-use. Water scarcity is a manmade phenomenon brought about by the increasing demands of the population for water. The imbalance in the population-water resources equation strains society and has an adverse impact on domestic hygiene, public health, and cost of domestic water, and could impart political problems as serious as bringing down governments. On the social side, water scarcity adversely impacts job opportunities, farm incomes, credibility and reliability of agricultural exports, and the ability of the vulnerable to meet the cost of domestic water. Economically, the adverse impact is displayed in the loss of production of goods, especially agricultural goods, the loss of working hours because of the hardships society faces as a result of water scarcity. Thus, there is a need for preventive policy in the context of water security, and a process of networking to exchange the views of experts and specialists in this area, because, there is considerable knowledge of water scarcity in the WANA region, but what is needed is to consider ways that contribute to addressing this scarcity.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProcedia Engineering
PublisherElsevier BV
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Mar 21 2012

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