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water management

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.

Las Vegas, Marrakech, Malta, Casablanca – managing dwindling resources in water scarce cities

Richard Abdulnour's picture
Las Vegas via Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

What do casinos in the Las Vegas desert, beachside cultural sites in Malta, and palm groves around centuries-old markets in Marrakech have in common? The answer lies beneath a veneer of seemingly disparate societies and geographies: this improbable urban trio shares the same story of dwindling water resources and associated crisis management. The good news is that these fast growing, tourist-invaded, and arid urban areas are constantly writing new chapters of their water stories. We believe that these chapters, featuring a world of possibilities for innovation and learning, are worth sharing with water scarce cities around the world.
 
The Water Scarce Cities Initiative (WSC) is a pioneering World Bank global program that connects diverse stakeholders to share their experiences in bolstering integrated approaches for water security and climate resilience. With its sights set on collective progress, WSC partnered with the 5 + 5 group for the Water Strategy in the Western Mediterranean (WSWM) to hold a Regional Water Scarce Cities Workshop in Casablanca, Morocco from May 22-23, 2017. From Cyprus to Barcelona (Spain), the workshop inspired and motivated over 40 diverse participants from the Western Mediterranean region and beyond to explore the connections between their water security and urban resilience experiences.

Pulling the chain: Business solutions for managing human fecal waste

Krishna Chaitanya Rao's picture
To understand why innovation in fecal sludge management matters, ask yourself this: In 15 years, when almost 5 billion people are using on-site sanitation, solutions like pit latrines and septic tanks, what will the world do with all the fecal waste? About half that many people use onsite sanitation today, and we already have a hard time keeping up.

Charting a path to valuing the world’s most precious resource

Willem Mak's picture
Most people agree that water is an extremely valuable resourcefor farmers who depend on it to grow crops, for factories that need it to cool machines and spin turbines and, of course for life itself. But unlike most other valuable resources, it’s hard to place a price on water. The very fact that water is so important to people, economies, and the environment means that it is tough to even agree on a common way of valuing it.

Kicking off 2017 with the new Water Cartoon Calendar

Yehude Simon's picture
The Water Cartoon Calendar is definitely one of the most unconventional World Bank products. You won’t find anything else like it. If this is the first time you are hearing about it, the Water Cartoon Calendar is an illustrated calendar produced since the year 2000 by the Water and Sanitation Program. It features colorful cartoons depicting water related topics, combined with a mild touch of humor.

Can you crowdsource water quality data?

Pratibha Mistry's picture
Photo: Adapted from Archana Jarajapu
on Flickr under
Creative Commons 2.0.
The recently released Contextual Framework for Crowdsourcing Water Quality Data lays out a strategy for citizen engagement in decentralized water quality monitoring, enabled by the “mobile revolution.”

According to the WHO, 1.8 billion people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide. Poor source water quality, non-existent or insufficient treatment, and defects in water distribution systems and storage mean these consumers use water that often doesn’t meet the WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality.

The crowdsourcing framework develops a strategy to engage citizens in measuring and learning about the quality of their own drinking water. Through their participation, citizens provide utilities and water supply agencies with cost-effective water quality data in near-real time. Following a typical crowdsourcing model: consumers use their mobile phones to report water quality information to a central service. That service receives the information, then repackages and shares it via mobile phone messages, websites, dashboards, and social media. Individual citizens can thus be educated about their water quality, and water management agencies and other stakeholders can use the data to improve water management; it’s a win-win.

Managing water challenges: Learning from our development partners

Aroha Bahuguna's picture

California is suffering from its fifth year of drought, the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in India are arguing over the sharing of Cauvery river water, and food security for 36 million people is threatened due to drought in large regions of Africa. On the flip side, Bangladesh, Maldives, and other island nations are confronted with the threat of rising seas, while extreme rainfall and flooding (as experienced by Haiti just a few weeks ago) are expected to become increasingly common. Even without these extremes, almost every country is facing its own challenges in managing water resources.

As Operations Analysts in the World Bank Water Global Practice, and as water management newbies, we were excited to go to the Netherlands and Israel, respectively, to understand how these two countries have overcome their unique obstacles to become prime examples in water engineering. Upon examining the findings alongside senior specialists in the Practice and practitioners from client countries, it is clear that despite each country’s distinct topography, they share a focus on collaboration among stakeholders and an emphasis on efficiency powered by innovative technology.

How can growing cities achieve water security for all in a world of scarcity?

Yogita Upadya Mumssen's picture
Join us Thursday, April 16th 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET

Just a few months ago, the World Economic Forum’s 10th Global Risk Report ranked water crises as the top global risk in terms of impact, more than the spread of infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction or interstate conflict. With such global implications, we face a considerable challenge to develop the appropriate response. But we have also long grappled with a simple truth: water management is a complex web of local situations and issues, dictated by hydro-climatic conditions, spatial and demographic patterns, complex political economy dynamics, and technical considerations.
 
One increasingly pressing issue is the widening gap between the supply of water resources and the demand for water services in rapidly growing urban areas. This is exacerbated by dwindling resources in the face of climate vulnerability, and a legacy of poor governance and wasteful uses. This gap is most extreme in arid areas, which have few contingency options, and are left with few, if any, fallback options in case of further strain on the system.
 

A Bigger and Better Harvest: Myanmar’s Rice Export Opportunities

Sergiy Zorya's picture
A rice farmer in Myanmar
A farmer in Myanmar plows a rice field.
Photo: Nyain Thit Nyi / World Bank
 

I met a young rice farmer during my recent trip to Myanmar. He has a tiny plot of land on the outskirts of the irrigation system and could harvest only one rice crop a year.  Even if he worked hard, and the weather was at its best, he produced only enough rice to feed his family for 10 months. During the last two months of the rice-growing season, he would walk around his village, a small plastic cup in his hands, and ask neighbors if he could borrow some rice. This would happen year after year.

Unfortunately, this story is not uncommon. A majority of Myanmar’s laborers work in agriculture. A third of them live below the poverty line and depend on rice for survival.

Measuring is Managing

Julia Bucknall's picture

Water management lies behind most of the great development challenges of the 21st Century.  It's obvious but we too often forget that we won't be able to achieve food security, energy security, healthy cities and productive ecosystems without greatly improving how we manage water.  In the global north, the challenges of basic access to water services are less pressing than they are in the south but -- as hurricane Sandy showed New York -- the challenges of making the right quantity and quality of water available where it is most needed still loom large.  


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