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A "white paper" style report on the water problems that all countries in the Middle East face, or will soon face, written for a Brussels-based news publication.

Middle East Water: Drop by Drop (excerpt)

Growing populations and economic development have made fresh water a cause for concern worldwide. This is even more true in the Middle East, where the arid climate has always made water precious. ABR examines the water situation in several countries of the region, looking first at problems that might arise in the future, then at the most pressing concerns of the moment.


Over 70% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, yet millions of people do not have enough. In the rural areas of Chine, for example, "Over 82 million people find it difficult to procure water," according to China's Water Resources Minister Niu Maosheng. The problem is worse in cities. More that 300 urban areas are short of water, and of these some 100 are very short, according to Mr. Niu.

Africa currently has eleven countries that are water-scarce; by 2010 that number will climb to 17, and more than one-third (37%) of the continent's population will live in counties lacking adequate water.

Desertification in the Sahara, deforestation in South America, water table pollution on almost every continent. Under the pressure of a growing population and growing demands, the world's supply of fresh water is being pushed to the limit.


In the 1980s there was a grand idea to supply over 2 million cubic meters of fresh water annually to Gulf states from Turkey's Seyhan and Ceyhan rivers. The Peace Pipeline was never built because of high costs and political disputes. While the idea was being debated, the Ataturk dam was constructed on the Euphrates.

Turkey, Iraq, and Syria are not like Ethiopia. All three are developed enough to have need of the waters that flow form the Euphrates and Tigris, both of which originate in Turkey. There is not statue in international law that compels an upstream nation to make its water available to a downstream nation.
In 1991 the late Turkish President Turgot Ozal called for discussions with neighboring Arab states on water, but nothing developed because the whole region was involved in the Kuwait crisis.

Massive use of the Euphrates' water by Turkey is still in the future. The huge irrigation system for Ataturk was build will not come on stream until 2005. But the wring is on the wall, and both Syria and Iraq area concerned…