In the face of climate change: Challenges of water scarcity and security in MENA– Atlantic Forum

In the face of climate change: Challenges of water scarcity and security in MENA– Atlantic Forum

15 Aug 2019

Renewable freshwater resource constraints constitute one of the most critical challenges to sustainable development and human security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Climate change is expected to exacerbate this challenge. Regional climate models have indicated that the MENA region is exposed to significant adverse climate change impacts due to rising temperatures and associated changes in rainfall patterns and freshwater runoff in a region that is already considerably warm and largely arid most of the year. What is increasingly at stake is no longer just the available quantity of renewable freshwater, but also the security of its supply.

Most of North Africa is subject to the harshest desert climate on the planet—that of the African Sahara. In West Asia, the desert environment also predominates and dictates weather patterns in most of the Arabian Peninsula. Hydrologically, the region is altogether endowed with as little as 1 percent of global renewable freshwater resources.

Population growth has put increasing pressures on the natural renewable freshwater resource base while supplies have remained more or less constant. When the average per capita share of freshwater falls below 1000 m3 a country is deemed to be freshwater-scarce and experiences recurrent shortages.  The average per capita share of renewable freshwater resources in the region is around 600 m3.Unregulated developments have led to the overexploitation of freshwater resources, including the depletion of non-renewable ones. They have also resulted in the degradation of renewable and non-renewable freshwater resources. Climate change’s impacts on freshwater security in the Middle East and North Africa are expected across the region. Freshwater scarcity and security have to be properly managed in the MENA region. Non-climate stressors that are responsible for increasing freshwater stress and insecurity have to be mitigated. Resource reliability is crucial for formulating and implementing long-term, efficient, and effective sustainable development policies.