Monday, May 23, 2005

Mideast Water Shortage Could Fuel Political Tensions

The Middle East is faced with the prospect of a serious water crisis that could lead to political tensions and hamper prosperity, experts told a session of a World Economic Forum this week-end. “We are not secure about water supplies. Supplies are simply not enough ... This is a scary issue,” Hazem Nasser, former Jordanian water and irrigation minister told the session. He said that with the current population growth rate in the Arab world, the picture looks even more gloomier. “In 1950, the Arab population was 75 million. In 2,000, it was 300 million, and is expected to grow to 600 million by 2025.” He said the deficit of water in the region was 30 billion cubic meters (approximately 7.95 trillion imperial gallons) last year and is expected to grow to 175 billion cubic meters (46 trillion gallons) in 2025. “Most of the countries in the region have exhausted their water resources,” he said, adding the only hope is costly desalination of sea water. With new technology advances, desalination costs have dropped to 53 cents per cubic meter from two dollars a few years ago, Naser said. But the cost has now increased again due to skyrocketing oil prices. He said a proposed project to link the Red Sea to the Dead Sea with a canal is “an excellent platform for stability” as it can secure sufficient water supplies to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Avishay Braverman, president of Ben-Gurion University in Israel, said current shortages in those three areas amount to 3.5 billion cubic meters (920 billion gallons) annually. “You have two options, either you import water or desalinate, and I say desalinate,” he said. He said water shortages should not be used as a pretext for war because “investment needed for desalination of sea water for 40 years equals spending on defense for one year.” The experts warned that Dead Sea level has dropped from 392 meters (1,286 feet) below sea level a few years ago to 416 meters (1,365 feet) now. They called for quick solutions.
The Great Lakes from space, A lot of fresh water here!