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Middle East and North Africa

Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa

Claudia W. Sadoff's picture
Women collecting water in  Al-Minsalah district, Haddjah province, Yemen. Photo: ECHO/T. Deherman
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.
 
As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt, much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.
 
These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.
 
As governments search for solutions, two trends in particular could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

Israel: How meeting water challenges spurred a dynamic export industry

Scott Michael Moore's picture
The Sorek Desalination Plant is the world's
biggest seawater desalination plant.

We’re used to talking about how the failure to invest in water management can impede economic growth, but the positive case for water management investments can be just as compelling. With support from the Israeli government, my colleagues and I recently took a study tour to Israel, and what we saw on the ground showed that combining policy and technology can lead not only to better local water management, but also result in a multi-billion dollar, export-driven industry. 

 

Marrakech solved the water riddle — through wastewater

Stephane Dahan's picture
Marrakech, Morocco, 1950s: Situated 160 miles south of Casablanca, and 100 miles inland on the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Red City is being supplied as it has been for centuries with water through an intricate, self-sufficient network of “Khettaras” — man-made underground tunnels that captured runoff from the flanks of the Atlas.

Silicon Valley: Where Innovation Meets Development

Sanitation Hackathon Team's picture

Sanitation Hackathon LogoThe Sanitation Hackathon & App Challenge three grand prize winners, mSchool, Taarifa, and SunClean, flew over from their home countries, Senegal, Tanzania, England, and Indonesia to attend the awards ceremony in Washington, DC. With a 64inch touchscreen provided by Microsoft, the teams showcased their apps to sanitation sector specialists at the WB-IMF side event on Investing in Sanitation.

Les toilettes aussi ont leurs applis !

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

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Personne n’ignore que l’essor rapide de l’accès à la téléphonie mobile a généré un nouveau support pour la prestation des services et la transmission de l’information, en particulier pour tous ceux qui vivent « au bas de la pyramide », soit avec moins de 1,25 dollar par jour. Notre défi, en tant que professionnels du développement, consiste à trouver des moyens pour exploiter la téléphonie mobile au profit de l’action citoyenne ; il s’agit de faire des citoyens des agents du changement, capables d’intervenir, dans leur communauté, sur les processus de développement et d’en prendre les manettes.

Retretes: Hay una aplicación móvil para eso

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

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No es ningún secreto que el rápido aumento del acceso a los dispositivos móviles ha creado un nuevo vehículo para la obtención de información y servicios, en particular para las personas que están en la base de la pirámide, o quienes viven con menos de US$1,25 al día. El desafío que enfrentamos como profesionales del desarrollo es comprender cómo se pueden usar los teléfonos celulares para empoderar a los ciudadanos como agentes de cambio, de modo que puedan influir e impulsar los procesos de desarrollo en sus comunidades.

Toilets: There’s an App for That

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

It’s no secret that the rapid rise in access to mobile phones has created a new vehicle for the delivery of information and services, particularly for people at the base of the pyramid – or those who live on less than $1.25 a day. The challenge we, as development practitioners, face is understanding how to leverage mobile phones in ways that empower citizens as agents of change who can influence and drive development processes in their communities.

The U.S. Drought Monitor: A Sophisticated Tool, But Do Not Be Intimidated by It

Nate Engle's picture

Evaluating the existence and extent of droughts is not an easy task. Not only are droughts "slow-onset" events that creep into the physical, environmental, and social systems of a region, they also have effects that span numerous sectors of a society. The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), as recently described by Dr. Michael Hayes from the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) during a recent presentation at the World Bank, provides an example for other nations as they consider how to effectively manage this difficult endeavor of characterizing drought risks and impacts.

Innovation and Partnership Lie at the Heart of Cooperation in Water

Nansia Constantinou's picture

The world commemorated World Water Day on March 22 with events around the globe focusing on ways to make international cooperation happen in the water. Events held in celebration of the Day covered all aspects of water - from water supply and sanitation, to water and its nexuses with food and energy, water resources management and water and climate change. But in most, if not all of these events, one theme was clearly cross-cutting: the importance of strengthening partnerships to leverage knowledge and facilitate innovative solutions.

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