In Middle East, It Could Soon Be A Battle For Water

Via Down To Earth, an interesting article on how, along with scarcity induced by population pressure, use of water as a weapon of war is also draining resources in the Middle East:

Raining rockets and bombs or threat of Islamic State (IS) jihadists are not the only emergencies in the countries of West Asia. The region is also grappling with one of its worst ever water crisis. Sources are becoming increasingly scarce and access to clean water is getting worse with each day.

According to international non-profit The Water Project, the countries facing acute crisis include Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, and they require global, immediate attention. The agency also says that much of the land that is available for producing food is destroyed by increasing desertification in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran. Unsustainable agricultural practices, including overuse of water, are affecting already shrinking water resources. These areas are prone to frequent droughts.


Jordan’s average freshwater withdrawal is less than ten per cent of Portugal’s average, despite being the same size. But the cost of water in Jordan increased 30 per cent in ten years because of a quick shortage of groundwater.

A report published recently by Reuters talks about the drying Lake Orumieh in northwestern Iran—once the largest in the region. It says that water shortages have long been a problem for countries across West Asia, where a high birth rate, rising consumption and poor management has strained already scarce resources. But Iran, the country of 76 million that has survived an eight-year war with Iraq, US sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme and violence on its borders, fared among the worst.

Lebanon which is already reeling under a drought is facing a crisis triggered by an increased pressure on the existing water supply due to the presence of more than one million Syrian refugees fleeing the war.

This weapon can lead to humanitarian crisis
Use of water as a weapon of war is also draining the resources in the region. Recent reports that Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have seized back Mosul dam, Iraq’s largest dam, after ousting IS militants who had captured the dam must have come as a relief to the country facing threat from the militant group.

Before this, when ISIS attacked Iraq in June this year, Iraq’s two largest dams– Haditha dam and Mosul dam–were its priority targets. Also, when the Americans invaded in 2003, securing the Haditha Dam, located on the Euphrates river, was one of their top priorities. The dam is the second largest in Iraq, and contributes around a third of the country’s electricity supply. Moreover, energy experts agree that releasing water from the dam could potentially flood wide regions of the country, destroying all in its path.

“ISIS already uses water as a weapon. It has previously stopped the water flow and dried the river course from Fallujah and downstream,” says an expert on Iraqi energy to IBTimes UK.

“In Syria, the militants have exploited water resources to exert pressure on communities. Syria’s Euphrates dam, controlled by the Islamic State, is the home of the country’s largest hydroelectric plant. Overuse has drained the nearby Lake Assad to record low levels. The lake, which supplies drinking water to around 5 million people, is dangerously close to drying up,” says the IBTimes report.

Since air strikes by Israeli warplanes began in early July, hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza have been living without access to clean water. The region’s water system had already been deteriorating for years. These bombings have only made the situation worse. Head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) Shaddad Attili recently called the water situation “disastrous”. According to a PWA statement, the Gaza Strip is in an urgent need of large tankers to distribute drinking water to urgently fulfil the needs of its residents.



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