In the arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa, freshwater resources are among the most limited in the world. In the last 40 years, per capita freshwater resources have decreased by two thirds and are expected to fall even further by 2050. Yet population figures, and demand for food, are going in the opposite direction. Food production currently uses around 85 per cent of these dwindling freshwater supplies.
Groundwater has historically been an important water source in the region. In Bahrain, Jordan, Oman and Yemen, groundwater contributes more than 50 percent of total water withdrawal and can serve as a lifeline to those inhabiting such arid areas. Traditional communities in the Northern Africa and Middle East region have historically depended strongly on groundwater due to its widespread availability and its reliability, even during drought.
However, quenching the thirst of growing populations and agricultural land with groundwater comes at a price. As climate change advances, bringing hotter and more unpredictable weather, the need to ensure water and food security in the region is becoming critical. IAH’s Karen Villholth and her colleague at IWMI Alvar Closas explore the problems and solutions for managing this precious resource.