The Middle East has always been a dry, arid, and hot region of the world. However, the water crisis seems to be increasing as water resources are diminishing. The region has never been a rainfall surplus region. It has been more of a rainfall deficit region. Now, as states in the Middle East draw more water from the ground, these ground resources are not being replenished at the same rate. A water crisis is looming ahead.
Iran’s Lake Urmia was the biggest lake in the Middle East about two decades ago. It was a tourist attraction and people used to come to swim in the lake or shuttle to its various little islets in ferries. The local economy thrived due to the lake and its environs. Now, the lake has shrunk in size. It has also become extremely salty and recent data even hints at a possibility that the lake could disappear altogether; as the water level shrinks.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection of West Azerbaijan, one of the provinces in Iran which borders the lake, Lake Urmia has shrunk from its size of 5,400 square kilometers or approximately 2,085 square miles in the nineteen nineties to its current size of 2,500 square kilometers or approximately 965 square miles. It has lost more than half its size in less than two decades.
The Middle East is beset with problems including severe drought and high temperatures. There could be a dire situation of lack of water in the region within the next few years. Factors including climate change, water mismanagement and the excessive use of water for agriculture have made ground water scarce. More water is being pumped out and insufficient rain ensures that the ground water in not replenished.
Countries such as Iran, Iraq and Jordan are using reserve ground water sources to improve self-sufficiency in food. However, this will make them water deficient. Some of the middle eastern countries use desalination plants to get fresh water from seawater but it has its own drawbacks.
As a result, climate change winters are expected to become drier, and summer will become wetter. However, the additional rainfall may not be useful or stored as the extreme heat could evaporate the water faster and there could also be flash floods rather than normal rains which can create more havoc.
Climate change is affecting the entire world and recent reports from the United Nations have reiterated the need for all countries to do their best to tackle the rise in temperatures and make other environmental changes so that planet earth can remain habitable for a longer period of time.