Treated wastewater from the Amman-Zarqa area flows through the Zarqa River to the Jordan Valley, where it is used for irrigation

Treated wastewater from the Amman-Zarqa area flows through the Zarqa River to the Jordan Valley, where it is used for irrigation. E. Rehfeld / Wikimedia Commons.

Water and arable land are more scarce in Middle East and North African (MENA) countries than in any other region. Growing demand, population growth, a shrinking resource base, and climate change are combining to rapidly increase pressure on these resources.

In this blogpost, SEI’s Holger Hoff and Tom Gill explain how a nexus approach to scarce resources, particularly water and energy, could help these countries build a more secure future for their 355 million people. They also describe a new collaboration between SEI, Texas A&M and Chatham House, The Nexus in the Arab Region, which will act as a hub for knowledge and technology exchange, and for innovating, adapting and benchmarking solutions.

Socio-economic development in the Arab countries depends on on the sustainable provision of these two resources. Together, water and energy are required for irrigation and separately, energy is vital to desalination, and water is critical for energy production. While water scarcity in the region increases, food price hikes and food access become grave concerns for many.

Current solutions to water and energy problems are often too narrowly focused and have unwanted or unexpected side effects. For example, seawater desalination – which is energy intensive and increasingly widespread in the region, especially in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is almost exclusively based on fossil fuels. This not only contributes to climate change but also impacts on countries’ fossil-fuel export revenues. Desalination also requires heavy capital investment and high operation and maintenance costs, and takes a heavy toll on the marine environment.

There is an urgent need for Arab countries to cooperate and invest in research and development into alternative desalination and treatment technologies. Acquiring and localising these technologies will help to reduce costs and increase its reliability as a water source, adding value to economies as well as reducing environmental impacts. …

Source: The Guardian Development Professionals, UK