Water conservation in the Arab region: a must for survival

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Abdo, Gamal
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The Arab region covers an area over 13 million square kilometers in size, with almost 90% of its area classified as arid or extremely arid with very little precipitation, extremely high evaporation and almost no vegetation cover. The region is classified in many international reports as the poorest region in the world in the context of renewable water resources and critical water scarcity which hinders the socio-economic development of many countries in this region. The rapidly increasing population has reduced the per capita share of renewable water to less than the poverty line of 1,000 m3/(capita·a) and, in some Arab countries, to less than the extreme poverty line of 500 m3/(capita·a). This has led to over-exploitation of non-renewable groundwater and desalination of salty water in many countries with considerable costs and contamination of many renewable sources. Atmospheric processes responsible for aridity in the Arab region are projected to intensify due to climate change, resulting in an alarming decrease in precipitation and increase in evaporation rates. Many concerned entities in the region consider water security as a key element for food security and ultimately political stability. Hence, various efforts have been exerted to identify key problems and suggested solutions. The Arab Water Ministers Council of the Arab League, as well as Reports of the Arab Forum for the Environment and Development (AFED) and the recommendations of the 13th Regional Meeting of the Arab National Committees of the International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO (IHP), have all made similar recommendations on the need to address the issues of water scarcity in the Arab region which will be further discussed in this paper. However, none of these reports focused on "Water Conservation" as an equally important action for coping with water scarcity in the region. There are many definitions for "Water Conservation" in the scientific literature, including huge water savings from irrigation, industrial use, and domestic use as well as methods and approaches for augmenting water supply through non-conventional practices such as water harvesting and waste water reuse. In this paper, a review is provided for definitions, methods and impacts of water conservation and its role in alleviating water scarcity in the Arab region.
Water conservation in the Arab region: a must for survival, arid zone; water scarcity; water security; irrigation efficiency; climate change; water harvesting; water reuse