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The Water Challenges We Face in the MENA Region

Water Scarcity


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Unit Video

Unit Summary

To ensure a better future, we need to start by understanding the challenges we face.
Let’s take a look at the biggest challenges in our region.
  1. Salinisation
Salinisation occurs when salt collects in the soil. This process can turn fertile land (where we can grow food to eat) into a desert. The situations in which Salinisation takes place are:
  • when sea levels rise in certain areas and reach the soil
  • when there isn’t enough rain to wash salts out of the soil
  • when seawater gets into the irrigation systems we use to bring water for plants.
  1. Water Pollution
Pollution affects drinking water, rivers, lakes, and oceans across the world. This often happens when toxic chemicals that are poisonous get into the water. Primary sources of toxic chemicals are:
  • petrol and oil
  • fertilisers (that farmers use to help grow their crops)
  • pesticides (chemicals farmers use to kill insects)
  1. Wastewater Collection and Treatment
Wastewater from households can be cleaned and used again to water crops. This helps to reduce pollution and to manage the demands for water in agriculture. However, in many MENA countries, the treatment of wastewater isn’t very good.

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  1. Climate Change
Climate change can only make the problem worse. Studies show that the amount of rain is likely to decrease and temperatures increase, making the MENA region more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
  1. Urbanization
This is when the population move from rural areas – villages into urban areas - cities. The MENA region has one of the world’s fastest growing populations. By 2030, these are the expected percentages of urbanization:
  • Bahrain (95.8%)
  • Kuwait (98.4%)
  • Oman (95.2 %)
  • Qatar (95.9 %)
  • the UAE (93.3 %)
Such figures threaten the amount of water available.
  1. Agriculture Farming
87% of the water used in the region goes to agriculture. But did you know that the area of land used for growing food in any of the MENA countries doesn’t exceed 35%? We need different agricultural practices to decrease the amount of water used in agriculture.
  1. Desalination Plants (to remove salt from water so you can use the water)
The MENA region, especially in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain, has the largest number of desalination plants in the world. Although this technique means you can use the seawater, it:
  • causes health and environmental problems
  • puts high levels of salt back into the sea that is dangerous for marine life (the animals and plants that live in the sea)
  • uses a lot of energy
In 2015, the United Nations (UN) summit set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform the world by 2030. One of these goals concerns the availability of water, its sustainable management, and sanitation for everyone.
So, the way ahead is not easy, but your ideas have the power to make an impact on a global scale.