International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Water Resources Management: The Case of the Middle East

A. H. Nazemi, A. H. Dalir, and S. A. Sadraddini

Department of Irrigation and Drainage, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Tabriz, Iran


World population is reaching the point where available water resources are insufficient for the basic needs of mankind. This is becoming particularly acute for countries located in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. The Middle East (ME) is one of those regions. ME is a regional grouping of countries comprising that expanse of territory in which Asia, Africa, and Europe converge. ME, with average population growth rate of 2%, is home to approximately 5% of the world's population and some 1.2% of the world's water resources. The freshwater availability per capita in most of ME countries is below 500 m³/yr. Water shortages in the region are also compounded by water quality degradation. Groundwater is the main source of water in most of ME countries. High water stresses are met with groundwater over-abstraction, which is likely to exacerbate with time. These factors create an important cause of concern for ME countries' officials. Like many developing countries, the countries of ME region are faced with inevitable socio-economic problems of the population growth and the limitation of available water resources. ME's location in the world, the special conditions of the region, the characteristics of its hydrological situation, its geomorphologic diversity and the effects of global climate changes, combined with the profound socio-economic changes and intense urbanization, are making the management of water resources an imperative. Analysis of the water situation indicates that solution of the insufficiency problem of water resources depends on the control of the population growth and the balance of demands and water resources.

The aim of this paper is to show how water, which is becoming increasingly scarce, is both an essential economic resource and the cause of recent natural disasters in several parts of the region. In respect of this, challenges and opportunities for integrated water resources management in ME are also discussed in this paper.