Home | Dossiers | Water stories from the Arab Region

Water Stories from the Arab Region



The topic “Water in the Arab Region” conjures images of an oil-rich, water-stressed part of the world mired in conflict. As an internet search query, it throws up millions of results-- mostly reports, news items and analyses presenting water in the region as a precious substance that is the ‘new oil,’ the probable cause of the next big conflict, a near-insurmountable challenge.  

Of course, there is much merit to this topic and the macro-level discussions it triggers. The Arab region (see map) is the most water-stressed in the world, with per-capita availability being an eleventh of the global average. The region accounts for 5% of the global population but has less than 1% of its water resources. The richer Arab countries have been investing heavily in seawater desalination despite the technology’s high costs. This is indicative of how acute the problem of scarcity is, as does the prominence of water as a contentious issue in cases of conflict between nations and ethnic groups.

At the same time, there is much value to unpacking this vast region down to thmape various countries, regions, tribes, organizations and individuals—and listening to their individual water stories. It reveals a wide variety of problems, achievements, conflicts and partnerships, many of which vanish as the narrative is aggregated up to the regional level. For example, water scarcity has created the need to economize and triggered several innovations, such as salt-resistant crop varieties (UAE), or artificial wetlands to treat wastewater (Egypt). Palestinian communities in the West Bank continue to walled out of aquifers, jobs, markets and families by the Israeli separation wall. However, in a rare win for environmentalism and non-violent resistance, a Palestinian village and the Israel Nature and Parks authority came together to campaign for UNESCO World Heritage status for an ancient irrigation system. Even as drip irrigation systems are championed the world over as a tool to economize water use, experiences from orange orchards in Egypt have demonstrated their downside, such as how they can lead to over-extraction from aquifers or lead to salinization of the soil. In these tough times for Yemen, even as commentators proclaim that “….no one is in charge,” hope can be drawn from numerous examples of Yemeni communities coming together to manage drying aquifers and managing to rejuvenate them.

These stories—and many more—are pinned on the map above. Click on the pins to pull out the stories and read/watch them (or click the square button in the top-left corner). This is by no means a definitive list—over the coming months, we will drop more pins and add more stories—please stay tuned to our Facebook page, our Twitter handle and our newsletter. Most importantly, we invite you to share your own stories. Please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Watch all Arab related videos here >>>

Battir: A Heritage of Water and International Cooperation

 An Eye on Water Scarcity in Yemen

Providing - and conserving - water for Syrian refugees in Jordan

ريبورتاج:أزمة المياه في اليمن - Reportage: Water crisis in Yemen

Libya - Great Man Made River Project

Dona Geagea's Water Story from Lebanon

In Yemen, people have been in charge

January, 2015: “In Yemen, no one is in charge,” screams a headline, reporting the national government’s resignation amid a long-festering political impasse between political outfits and Houthi militias. (read full story)

 Arabic Radio Show: Flood Streams

The show talks about different water-related topics aiming to spread awareness, and consists of multiple dialogues discussing the topic of the broadcasted episode, including interviewing youth (to measure their water knowledge), experts and people from the field; introducing the issue in an acting performance; interposing explanations and definitions between the show’s sections; sharing farmers’ experiences; and finally opening for a discussion inside the studio while hosting different stakeholders... (read full story)

Too salty to handle

As oil-rich as the Arab region is, as poor is its fresh water supply. Luckily, the solution is right there along its coastline: desalination. The sea offers an inexhaustible resource to tap into. After the necessary treatment the seawater can contribute to the region’s freshwater supply and take some pressure off conventional water resources. But will desalination be an everlasting solution? It is predicted that desalination will pursue its current trend of increase and will continue to make the sea saltier. How feasible will desalination be if the amount of salt that needs to be removed doubles? (read full story)


 Atif Kubursi's water stories 

Atif Kubursi was born in Lebanon and has worked in various Arab countries for many years. Therefore he has countless water stories from the region to share. Nowadays, Kubursi is an economics professor at the MacMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (read full story)

A win for environmentalism, non-violent resistance

Battir is a village in Palestine known for its natural beauty and ancient irrigation system. Dating back to the Roman era (2,000 years ago), the system combines terracing of fields with using underground springs as the source of water... (read full story)

Yemen: The vulnerability of an irrigation system based on Diesel subsidies

 In the 1960s, the government in Yemen introduced diesel-powered groundwater pumps, and diesel subsidies to go along. The idea was to boost irrigation, productivity and farmers’ incomes. As a result, between 1970 and 2010 area under groundwater-irrigation increased by 11%; area under cash crops increased from 3% to 14%; production of high-value fruits and vegetables increased 20 times. However, this also led to widespread, indiscriminate pumping of groundwater... (read full story)

 How the war in Syria is drowning the Middle East

The war in Syria and the recent rise of Islamic State (IS) has forced many Syrians to leave their country. Many of them have found a safe haven in the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. However, in these refugee camps, as in these countries as a whole, water does not flow richly. Since more and more refugees are crossing the border, this will have serious consequences for the availability of water in the region.  (read full story)


The Hidden Costs of Desalination

Desalination is often presented as a panacea that would help the water-scarce Persian Gulf states tap into an inexhaustible resource- seawater. Advocates, however, fail to point out the grave danger posed to marine ecology by hot, hypersaline brine—inevitable end products of known desalination processes that are invariably expelled into the sea. (read full story)

Mainstreaming gender equality in the water sector: Issues, Evidence and Developments in the Arab Region

In the Arab region, many women represent the largest group of beneficiaries of improved water services and direct users of water, says Atef Hamdey, Emeritus Professor, Water Resource Management (2009). They also safeguard their water resources, and thus do much of the water management. However, the role of women to have a voice in water management draws little attention. (read full story)

 No water, No Caliphate

The last couple of months the news has been overflowing with horrible and schocking images of Islamic State (IS) warriors driving the local people out of their houses, beheading Western journalists and breaking-down ancient artifacts of the region. Less is spoen about the influence of IS on water in the area they have occupied. How catastrophic is this self-proclaimed caliphate for the availability of this life sustaining resource in the Middle East? (read full story)



the arab water channel  arab water council   wec  nuffic    






Add comment

Security code