Can the Middle East solve its water problem?

Source(s): Cable News Network

By Katy Scott

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the world's most water-scarce region, with 17 countries below the water poverty line set by the United Nations.

Much like money spent from an overdrawn bank account, water in the region is being withdrawn faster than it can be replenished, meaning MENA countries are essentially "living beyond their means."


A popular way to supplement the insufficient water supply is to separate salt from seawater in a process called desalination. MENA accounts for nearly half the world's desalination capacity, according to World Bank calculations, making it the largest desalination market in the world.

Desalination is practiced in 150 countries worldwide and the International Desalination Association (IDA) estimates that more than 300 million people around the world depend on desalinated water for some or all of their daily needs.

But desalination in the Middle East has a large carbon footprint as the region is reliant on energy-intensive thermal desalination plants. This process uses fossil fuels to generate heat to evaporate and condense water to a purified form.


"Other technologies short of desalination, like wastewater treatment, groundwater recharge, the capture of rainwater and storm water to recharge aquifers, aren't necessarily particularly expensive," she says.

However, poorer territories like Yemen, Libya, the West Bank and Gaza still largely rely on groundwater resources, in lieu of producing their own water. It is these places that pay the highest price for inadequate water supply and sanitation.


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