top of page

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 . 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.


Using Icebergs for Solutions to Water Shortages in United Arab Emirates

by Courtney Johnston

         There have been many problems worldwide involving water shortages. Some of these problems have even occurred in the United States. However, there is one nation that is facing a water shortage problem and one solution that was presented was to use icebergs from Antarctica to create more water. An environmental company plans “to drag icebergs almost 10,000 km across the Indian Ocean and park them off the country’s coast”, to help the water shortage problem that is occurring in The United Arab Emirates (Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2014, 2017). This country is very dry and most of the land is desert, so there is very little rainfall (Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2014, 2017).

One of the solutions to their water shortage is to desalinate seawater so that is can be used by the people, however this is very costly and damaging the environment (Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2014, 2017). Director of the Abu Dhabi-based National Advisor Bureau claims that, “the icebergs could hold as much as 100 billion liters of the world’s freshest water – enough drinking water for one million people for five years” (Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2014, 2017).

Although this may seem like a solution to their problems it may not be because this could cause even more concern and arise more issues because it would cause major problems for the environment, and may even attribute to climate change. The icebergs are already becoming affected by climate change and they are melting at a much higher rate than in the past. Trying to use icebergs to solve water shortage problems will bring along with it other problems because other countries may try to use the icebergs for their own benefit. Once one iceberg is used up then another one will need to take its place. Water shortage in the United Arab Emirates is a huge problem and other solutions should be presented to help the nation.


Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2014 (May 4, 2017). Tip of the iceberg is answer for

thirsty gulf. The Nelson Mail (8). Retrieved from

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.

Of the 1.5 million hectares of arable land, 400,000 are now irrigated with 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

Saudi Arabia’s Water Crisis

by Courtney Johnston

Saudi Arabia is located in the Middle East, which has a naturally hot climate. The Middle East is currently in a water crisis that is caused mostly by climate change (DeNicola et al., 2015). “Saudi Arabia constitutes the majority of the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the largest arid countries without permanent rivers or lakes” making it “one of the poorest nations in terms of natural renewable water resources” (DeNicola et al., 2015). Without natural water sources, such as rivers or lakes, it is harder to provide the country with water.

Especially with the temperatures becoming hotter due to climate change, things will worsen. The water sources they do have will likely become drier making it difficult to collect water. In Saudi Arabia, “by 2010 water consumption increased by 75%” (DeNicola et al., 2015). Most of this water came from nonrenewable sources of water and not from renewable sources (DeNicola et al., 2015). This is a problem because that means that the water that is being used is not going to be replaced naturally and this will decrease the amount of water that is available to use.

Some studies show that due to climate change, rainfall will decrease an average of 100 mm per year in the northern areas of Saudi Arabia (DeNicola et al., 2015). This area already has drought conditions and this decrease will cause even more worries because of the limited amount of water. Most of the water that the country uses is for agricultural purposes, which also happens to use a great amount of nonrenewable water (DeNicola et al., 2015).

Some ways that Saudi Arabia is trying to help with their water crisis is by the process of desalination, recycling the water, and by harvesting rainwater (DeNicola et al., 2015). Officials need to try various methods to try and preserve water and to try and save the nonrenewable water sources. Creating better methods to save water and recycle water will help with the water crisis, even as the climate does continue to change.


DeNicola, E., Aburizaiza, O. S., Siddique, A., Khwaja, H., Carpenter, D. O. (August 14,2015). Climate change and water scarcity: The case of Saudi Arabia. PlumX Metrics, 81(2), 342-353. Doi:


Water Scarcity in Oman

by Courtney Johnston

               “The Middle East and North Africa is the most water-scarce region of the world” (Roudi-Fahimi, Creel, De Souza, 2002). This area of the world has a lot of desert so there is also very little rainfall. The climate of the area and these countries affects the amount of rainfall that they get and when they get it. Two of the main reasons for water scarcity in Oman are the population growth and dramatic climate change, which can cause floods and droughts (Sultanate of Oman).

A growing population calls for more demand on water resources. People need water to sustain life, as well as other living things. Water is used for drinking, food production, agriculture, and many more. People use water everyday and they are using more than they need and this is contributing to water scarcity. “Over the next twenty years, the demand for water domestic, industrial, commercial and municipal purposes is expected to increase by more than 50%” and this is due to “population growth, increase demand for food and domestic water, increased of urbanization, increased water demand with the economic diversification program” (Sultanate of Oman).

To help with this problem a plan was implemented called the National Water Resources Master Plan (Sultanate of Oman). This plan was created to develop and manage the country’s water resources (Sultanate of Oman).

The plan is trying to be implemented and achieved by the year 2020 (Sultanate of Oman). Using this plan the country officials hope that it will increase the amount of water that the country receives and decrease the amount that the public uses. Management of the plan is very crucial for the plan to meet goals and to improve on the overall water scarcity issue.


Roudi-Fahimi, F., Creel, L., De Souza, R. M. (2002, July). Finding the Balance:

Population and Water Scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from

Sultanate of Oman (n.d.). Internation Decade for Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015.

Sultanate of Oman Perspective. Retrieved from

bottom of page