Water Health Educator - Promoting advocacy for access to clean water
Issues Middle East: Southern
ISIS and Water Crisis
By Jason Zheng

President of the Arab Water Council, Mahmoud Abu Zeid stated that “water represents life, seizing such resources in Arab countries would be very serious and would constitute an inhumane means of pressure.”  Islamic States militants and the Iraqi government come to a unanimous agreement that Turkey has been using more than its fair share in water.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations stated that based on the historical treaty between Turkey and Syria in 1987, Turkey keeps about a third of the Euphrates flow. Turkey has no treaty with Iraq. No international agreement for the Tigris exist at all, however Turkey aims to regulate the Tigris similarly to the Euphrates.

The area of Iraq takes up 407,880km­­of the Euphrate-Tigris River Basin versus Turkey’s 192,190km. It can be said that Iraq should have a larger share of the resource and also have the rights to regulate the water, not Turkey. Turkey uses about 41 percent of the water resources while Middle Eastern countries consume most of theirs. The falling water levels are the results of poor downstream management, the failure to make repairs and conflict.

The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that “leaks alone cost Syria 60 percent of its water.”
Revolutionary groups such as ISIS have decided on taking control of the waters. In the summer of 2014, ISIS diverted water supply toward Iraq by taking over dams, which resulted in electric and water shortages for those areas which relied on hydroelectric power.
Waters in the Middle East are not properly regulated. Syria for an example continue to plan water-thirsty crops like wheat and cotton, while knowing that water is a scarce resource and it should be conserved.

However, in today’s crisis it is much more severe.
ISIS have been taking control of the dams and diverting water elsewhere. Water is no longer seen as a resource, but as a weapon for war. Water scarcity takes accelerates the process of revolutionary group takeovers, it is only a matter of more citizens would join the army and rebel against the poorly defined government.

The problem is not whether Turkey, Syria, and/or Iraq should take the blame or have more control over the waters, it is the opposite. These three key players need to come to an agreement onto manage water across their political boundaries. Until then, water as a resource, will be continuously abused and exists for the fundamental goals of revolutionary groups.
Water in Yemen
by Saima Hedrick
Yemen is a small nation in the Middle East, located on the southern-most tip of the Arabian Peninsula, with a population of approximately 23 million. It is known as the poorest nation in the Middle East, with limited arable land and access to water. The total amount of water used annually is 3.5 billion m, 2.5 billion of which is renewable. This may sound good but the vast majority of the nation’s water is used in agriculture (93%), only 6% is used for household purposes, and 1% for industries. This means that the average Yemeni only gets 6.5 m of water for household use annually; only 18 liters per day. According to the FAO, the recommended amount of water per person is 50 liters.
 
Experts believe that Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, will run out of water by 2017. This water crisis is exacerbated by a few key problems. Khat, a plant that acts as a stimulant when consumed, has been part of Yemeni culture for almost a thousand years. At least three-quarter of the male population chews Khat daily. Due to the conservative Islamic culture, the percentage of the female population that chews Khat is unknown. The cultivation of this amphetamine-like plant is very water-costly but makes an enormous profit because it is highly addictive. Khat growers can set any price they like and none of the crop ever goes to waste. As a result, farmers do not want to grow any other crop that may reduce the agricultural water consumption of the nation. With a limited supply of water, the Khat farmers often resort to digging wells to tap into ground water.
 
The population of Yemen is also growing at an alarming rate. At 3.5%, it has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. A 2006 UN report listed Yemen as having the tenth highest natural population growth rate in the world. This increase in population is causing an ever increasing demand for water. Private wells are increasing in number and causing aquifer depletion all over the country.
 
The government infrastructure is not strong enough to deal with the depletion of the nation’s water. The Yemeni government admits that a staggering 99% of water extraction is unlicensed.
 
In order to remedy these problems, and stop Yemen from running out of water, the World Bank and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) have several ongoing projects to help Yemen with its economy, government infrastructure, water management, and public education. With the funding from these bilateral agencies and NGO’s there is hope for this small Middle Eastern nation.
 
For more information, contact Saima at shedrick@gmu.edu.



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