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Why Water?

The Middle East and North Africa is the most water-scarce region in the world.

Population growth in the MENA region, 1950-2050 (millions) Source: UN Population Division, 2007
Population growth in the MENA region, 1950-2050 (millions)

People need water and food. Rapid population growth in MENA – second only to that in sub-Saharan Africa – has resulted in a quadrupling of the region’s population since 1950. The population of the MENA is forecast to reach 700 million by 2050, surpassing the population of Europe in that year.

Projections on unmet water demand in the MENA region, 2009-2050 (BCM) Source: Future Water, 2011
Projections of unmet water demand in the MENA region, 2009-2050 (BCM) Source: Future Water, 2011

Population growth and climate change are the main drivers of a rapid increase in unmet water demand, especially in the agricultural sector.

Decrease in annual water availability in Jordan, 1962-2012 (m3/person/year) Source: FAO, AQUASTAT database, 2014
Decrease in annual water availability in Jordan, 1962-2012 (m3/person/year) Source: FAO, AQUASTAT database, 2014

The annual amount of water available per person in the region has dropped dramatically over the past 50 years, from 2,925 m3 in 1962 to 743 m3 in 2011. This compares to the global average of 7,240 m3.

Decrease in annual per capita water availability in MENA, 1962-2011 (m3/person/year) Source: UNDP, 2013
Decrease in annual per capita water availability in MENA, 1962-2011 (m3/person/year). Source: UNDP, 2013

Water resources are under pressure across the region. In Jordan, for example, the annual amount of water available per person has declined by 86% since 1962.

Net grain imports to MENA region, 1960-2020 (million tonnes) Source: UNDP, 2013
Net grain imports to MENA region, 1960-2020 (million tonnes) Source: UNDP, 2013

The lack of water security threatens the region’s food security, with governments increasingly unable to feed their populations. As a result, regional grain imports have more than doubled since 1990 and now account for nearly 60% of grain consumption in the region.

The Lower Jordan River, which forms the border between Israel and Palestine to the west and Jordan to the east, has shrunk dramatically over the last 50 years. On the right, the Jordanian bank, on the left the Israeli bank.
The Lower Jordan River, which forms the border between Israel and Palestine to the west and Jordan to the east, has shrunk dramatically over the last 50 years. On the right, the Jordanian bank, on the left the Israeli bank.

Impacts on the region’s environment have also been dramatic. The Lower Jordan River, for example, has been reduced to 2% of its historic flow and is heavily polluted with wastewater.