About Amir Dakkak

Amir Dakkak, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, is an Environmental Scientist at AECOM. His main passion is water scarcity and water sustainability in the MENA region. He runs the blog Water Source that addresses water problems and sustainability. Amir has worked with Emirates Environmental Group on various environmental issues including water scarcity.

Water Crisis in Refugee Camps

The refugee crisis has hit record heights in recent years. According to the UNHCR, as of the end of 2014 there were approximately 60 million refugees worldwide. This is a significant increase from a decade ago, when there were 37.5 million refugees worldwide. Syria’s ongoing civil war, with 7.6 million people displaced internally, and 3.88 million people displaced into the surrounding region and beyond as refugees, has alone made the Middle East the world’s largest producer and host of forced displacement. Adding to the high totals from Syria are displacements of at least 2.6 million people in Iraq and 309,000 in Libya. This significant increase in refuges has only escalated the need for specific water quality and quantity regulations for refugee camps.

Water Shortages in Refugee Camps

A human being can survive a week without food but cannot live more than three days without water. While the abundance of water in our daily lives means most of us take it for granted, the reality on the ground is that millions around the world suffer from lack of access to water – many of which are refugees. Refugee camps often do not have enough water to supply all refugees residing within them.

Majority of refugee camps in the world are unable to provide the recommended daily water minimum of 20 liters water per person per day. In addition, many countries holding refugees are water-scarce. Jordan, for example, is one of the top 10 water-scarce countries in the world and holds more than 1.4 million refugees (mainly from Syria). This has caused tremendous strain on the country’s very low water resources, making it extremely difficult to supply sufficient water for refugees. However the biggest reason behind lack of water at refugee camps across the globe is the lack of water infrastructure.

The lack of water infrastructure makes it very difficult to transport sufficient amounts of water, and provide proper sanitation to all residents of a refugee camp. In fact, a recent study by the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation showed that the country’s sewerage network are being overflowed and are subsequently leaking due to the increase in the number of refugees. Furthermore, studies have shown that water borne diseases are more persistently present when the minimum water requirement (20 liters per person) is not met simply because there is less water for sanitation and cleaning purposes. That is why it is absolutely vital that governments ensure that recommended daily water minimum is provided to all refugees.

Water Quality Issues

Poor quality of water in refugee camps has created a “crisis within a crisis” causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. This is due to misuse of the water quality regulations present and the lack of time available to implement these regulations on water quality in refugee camps.

In refugee camps, surface water is usually treated in three steps:

  • Sedimentation: The water is stored for a few hours so that the biggest particles can settle to the bottom.
  • Filtration: It is then necessary to get rid of the small, invisible particles by filtering the water through sand filters.
  • Chlorination: The last stage, chlorine solution is added to the water which kills all the microorganisms.

Groundwater, on the other hand, is generally subjected to chlorination. These techniques seem to be sufficient to provide an acceptable quality of drinking water. However, according to Syed Imran Ali, an environmental engineer affiliated with UC Berkley, who worked extensively in refugee camps across Africa and the Middle East, the amount of chlorine used to purify the water is not sufficient enough to completely eliminate all the bacteria in the water used in refugee camps. The reason being that the current emergency guidelines on free residual chlorine concentrations (0.2 – 0.5 mg/L in general, 0.8 – 1.0 mg/L during outbreaks) are based on conventions from municipal piped-water systems (i.e. used in cities) rather than refugee camps.

A study conducted by Ali in South Sudan, where there was an outbreak of hepatitis E and other waterborne diseases, showed that the decay of chlorine added to drinking water is much faster in refugee camps than it is under urban conditions, and within 10-12 hours of household storage and use the chlorine all but disappears. Within a refugee camp, water is distributed from one point within the camp, carried to homes via containers and then stored and used over 24 hours or more. Therefore, due to all these different factors the guidelines used may not be sufficient enough to maintain an acceptable quality of water in all refugee camp settings.

Refugee camps must have specific guidelines created to deal with the water quality provided within the camps to prevent outbreaks and improve livelihood within the refugee camps. In his study in South Sudan, Ali recommended that guidelines for chlorination control to be revised to 1.0 mg/l in the camps there rather than 0.2 – 0.5 mg/l. This would provide protection of at least 0.2 mg/l for up to 10 hours post-distribution, which is consistent with the recommended concentration for point-of-use water chlorination in emergency and nonemergency settings and is within the WHO limits generally considered to be acceptable to users (2.0 mg/L).

Time to Act

With the refugee situation worsening and no permanent solution to this crisis in sight, the minimum that can be done is to provide an adequate amount and quality of water for these refugees. The current purification techniques are not efficient enough to protect refugees from all harmful bacteria. There are a variety of ways that water can be provided.

Wastewater treatment, rain harvesting, humidity harvesting, among others are sustainable sources of water. However, providing water is not sufficient; water quality is just as important as water quantity. There must be water quality regulations specific to refugee camps that take into account the different aspects that might affect the quality of water (transport, storage, temperature). If things are to improve, it is absolutely vital for concerned governments, aid agencies, NGOs, volunteers etc. to band together and create water quality guidelines specific to refugee camps and that are capable to withstand different aspects within these camps. Without these guidelines, the condition of refugees will continue to worsen, and the refugees will continue to flee to Western countries in search of better living conditions.

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أثار التغير المناخي على مصادر المياه

النقص الحاصل في كمية المياه العذبة في الشرق الأوسط و شمال إفريقيا يمثل خطرا حقيقيا في النمو الإقتصادي , التلاصق الإجتماعي , السلام و الإستقرار السياسي . علاوة على ذلك , إستهلاك المياه العذبة في هذه الأيام لم يعد يقتصر على توافرها الحالي و المستقبلي و إنما تعتمد على إحتياجات الإستهلاكية التنافسية قطاعياً و جغرافياً .

و ما يزيد الأمر سوءا , أن هذا الوضع الرهيب بدأ بالتفاقم بسبب التغيرالمناخي السريع . التغير المناخي يؤثر على مصادر المياه من خلال تأثيره العميق على كل من كمية المياه , التوقيت  , التغير , الشكل و شدة الترسيب .

منطقة الشرق الأوسط و شمال أفريقيا تحديداً هي الأكثر عرضة لأثار التغير المناخي التخريبية و ذلك بسبب أن دول هذه المنطقة بلا شك هي من الدول التي تعاني  شدة في النقص للمياه عالمياً , حيث أن نصيب الفرد للمياه أقل من المعدل الطبيعي .

بالإضافة إلى أن دول الشرق الأوسط و شمال إفريقيا تعاني من وضع حرج بالنسبة لإنخفاض تساقط الأمطار و تفاوت شديد في هطولها مكانيا و زمانيا , غير أن لبنان هي الأفضل حالا من ناحية الهطول , و قطر هي الأسوء في تغير نسب هطولها .

كيف يؤثر التغير المناخي على مصادر المياه

درجات الحرارة المرتفعة تزيد من نسبة تبخر للمياه الموجودة في الجو , مما يؤدي إلى زيادة قدرة الجو على حمل المياه .هذا يسبب حدوث مواسم جريان مبكرة و قصيرة و زيادة في المواسم الجافة . كما أن زيادة التبخر يقلل من مستويات الرطوبة في التربة , والتي بدورها تزيد من نسبة تكرار الجفاف الحاصل في المنطقة , و زيادة أرجحية حدوث التصحر . بالإضافة إلى نقصان نسبة الرطوبة في التربة أيضا و حدوث إنخفاض في نسب الترشيح مما يؤدي إلى إنخفاض معدل التغذية في المياه الجوفية .

التغير المناخي أيضا يؤثر على مستويات البحر . إن إرتفاع مستويات سطح البحر قد يؤدي إلى إنخفاض في طبيعة و وفرة المياه في المناطق الساحلية . إرتفاع مستويات سطح البحر قد يؤثر سلبا على نوعية المياه الجوفية من خلال تسرب المياه المالحة إليها . بالإضافة إلى ذلك إرتفاع مستوى سطح البحر يؤثر على دورة المياه تحت سطح المناطق الساحلية  مما يؤدي إلى إنخفاض تدفق المياه العذبة و قلة نسبة المساحات المائية العذبة . و من ناحية أخرى فإن إرتفاع مستويات سطح البحر يزيد من مستوى المياه في خزانات المياه الجوفية , مما قد يزيد نسبة الجريان السطحي لكن على حساب تغذية الخزانات الجوفية . إنه من المتوقع أن يرتفع مستوى سطح البحر ما يقارب 19 إلى 58 سنتيمترا في نهاية القرن الواحد و العشرين . و الذي بدوره سيؤثر على 12 دولة من أصل 19 دولة من دول الشرق الأوسط و شمال أفريقيا . إرتفاع سطح البحر على هذا النحو من المحتمل أن يكلف جمهورية مصر , حيث أنها من الدول الرئيسية التي ستتأثر بهكذا إرتفاع , 10 % من سكان دلتا نهر النيل مشمولين مع الأراضي الزراعية و الأنتاج .

هذه الأنخفاضات في مصادر المياه ستؤدي إلى عواقب اجتماعية واقتصادية مكلفة . المياه المستعملة في تصنيع الأغذية , إنتاج الطاقة , الصناعات التحويلية , الملاحة , استخدام الأراضي , و إعادة التصنيع . و بناءا على ذلك فإنه من الصعب أبقاء توازن بين جميع إحتياجات الإنسان بإستمرار حصول نقص في مصادر المياه . على سبيل المثال , إنه لمن المتوقع في حال زيادة درجات الحرارة حدوث زيادة في إحتياج المحاصيل للمياه  بحدود من 5 إلى 8 % بحلول عام 2070 , و الذي يجب أن يعوض عن طريق إستخدام المياه المستعملة في تصنيع الطاقة , و بالتالي يهدد أمكانية إنتاج الطاقة . كما أن النقص في مصادر المياه يشارك في زيادة أسعار المياه , من خلال فواتير المياه الشهرية أو خدمات توصيل المياه مرة واحدة شهريا للمنازل و الشركات .

و أخيرا , إن النقص المتزايد في مصادر المياه سيؤدي إلى لجوء الحكومات لإتباع مشاريع إقتصادية شديدة مثل محطات تحلية المياه , الأنابيب ( مشروع نقل مياه البحر الأحمر – البحر الميت ) و السدود . هذه المشاريع ليست الوحيدة الشديدة إقتصاديا بل أيضا غير مستادمة بيئا و سوف تساهم بالنهاية إلى إحتباس حراري و تغير مناخي ( انبعاثات غاز ثاني أكسيد الكربون من محطات التحلية ) .

نقاط مفتاحية سريعة

الإحترار العالمي لا ينكر , و الزيادة في إنبعاثات الغازات الدفيئة سيكون له أثر عميق مناخيا , بيئيا , و إجتماعيا بشكل عالمي , خصوصا في مجال مصادر المياه . هذا من أكبر إهتمامات دول الشرق الأوسط و شمال إفريقيا , حيث أن هناك تزايد في تسجيلات الجفاف المتكررة , كما أن توافر المياه من المتوقع أن ينقص بنسبة 30-50% بحلول عام 2050 .

و من الواجب على دول المنطقة أن تقلل من إنبعاثات غازاتها الدفيئة و تحويل مصادر طاقتها إلى الطاقة النظيفة . و ينبغي على هذه المناطق عمل جهود عاجلة و طويلة الأمد للحفاظ على الماء عن طريق تقليل  المتطلبات و الإستهلاك , من خلال تحسين البنى التحتية للمياه بهدف التقليل من التسريب , تحسين تقنيات إدارة المياه ,  و إزالة دعم المياه .

كل فرد يعتمد على شيئ موثوق, دعم نظيف للمياه العذبة للحفاظ على حياته . المياه شيء أساسي لكل جزء في الحياة من الطاقة لإنتاج الغذاء و حتى الحفاظ على النظام البيئي . الإجراءات يجب أن لا تكون فقط لإيقاف النقص , لكن أيضا لتحسين الوضع , لأنه بدون ماء , ليس هناك حياة .  


علا محمود المشاقبة , حاصلة على درجة البكالوريوس تخصص " إدارة الأراضي و المياه " من الجامعة الهاشمية – الأردن بتقدير جيد جدا , عملت تطوعيا كعضو إداري مع مجموعة " مخضّرو الأردن  JO Greeners – الجيل الأخضر حاليا -"   منذ ثلاثة سنوات, و متطوعة أيضا مع منظمة  EcoMENA  . موهبة الكتابة شيء أساسي في حياتي و قمت بتوظيفها في  خدمة القضايا البيئية


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Egypt’s Water Crisis and Degeneration of Nile

pollution-nileEgypt is struggling to cope with water shortages and food production. It is expected that Egypt’s per capita annual water supply will drop from 600 cubic meters today to 500 cubic meters by 2025, which is the UN threshold for absolute water scarcity. Egypt has only 20 cubic meters per person of internal renewable freshwater resources, and as a result the country relies heavily on the Nile for its main source of water. Water scarcity has become so severe that it has been recorded that certain areas in the country could go days without water, with pressure sometimes returning only for a few hours a week. The country can no longer delay action and must act now.


Agriculture contributes roughly 15% of Egypt’s GDP, and employs 32% of Egypt’s workforce with rice being the biggest produce in the country. Rice is an important part of an Egyptian family’s diet. However, the cultivation of rice is very water intensive. On average about 3000 liters of water is used to produce 1 kilo of rice. This number can vary depending on climate, soil type and water management practices.

The government has restricted cultivation of rice to an area of 1 million acres (farmers were previously able to use most of the Nile Delta for cultivation) in specified areas of the Nile Delta. The government has even resorted to taking drastic measures as spreading incendiary compounds on rice fields cultivated outside the area allocated by the government. This has caused outrage and demonstrations by farmers who insist that the area allocated is not enough for them to be able to make ends meet. This type of tension caused by the lack of water was one of the catalysts of the Arab Spring in 2011/2012.

To alleviate population tension and unrest the government has been trying to increase water supply by exploring with reusing treated agricultural and municipal wastewater for agriculture. However implementation of such initiatives is not being applied fast enough to cope with the rising demand. Government must enforce new irrigation methods in the country (Egyptian farmers still rely heavily on flood and canal irrigation in the Nile Delta) as well as smart agricultural practices such as using less water intensive crops. Resorting less water intensive water crops could drastically cut water used in agriculture and help increase water supply.

Pollution of the Nile

The Nile has been a lifeline for Egypt at least since the time of the pharaohs. Yet, despite the world’s largest river’s importance to the country, its water is being polluted by various sources, and pollution levels increasing exponentially in recent years.

The degeneration of the Nile is an issue that is regularly underestimated in Egypt. With so many people relying on the Nile for drinking, agricultural, and municipal use, the quality of that water should be of most importance. The waters are mainly being polluted by municipal and industrial waste, with many recorded incidents of leakage of wastewater, the dumping of dead animal carcasses, and the release of chemical and hazardous industrial waste into the Nile River.

Industrial waste has led to the presence of metals (especially heavy metals) in the water which pose a significant risk not only on human health, but also on animal health and agricultural production. Fish die in large numbers from poisoning because of the high levels of ammonia and lead. Agricultural production quality and quantity has been affected by using untreated water for irrigation as the bacteria and the metals in the water affect the growth of the plant produce, especially in the Nile Delta where pollution is highest.

Industrial pollution is wrecking havoc in Nile

Industrial pollution is wrecking havoc in Nile

Of course the pollution of Nile is a complex problem that has been continuing for more than 30 years and the government is trying to implement stricter rules on the quality and type of waste/wastewater dumped into the river to reduce the pollution of the Nile. However, swift and decisive action must be taken towards cleaning the Nile, such as treating the wastewater prior to disposal, and placing stricter restrictions on industries to dispose of their waste safely and responsibly. This issue cannot be ignored any further as the continual increase in population will cause an increase in demand on Egypt’s dwindling water resources. Every drop of water counts.

The Blue Nile Dam

Another challenge at hand is tackling the issue of Ethiopia building a dam and hydroelectric plant upstream that may cut into Egypt’s share of the Nile. For some time a major concern for Egypt was Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the Blue Nile watershed, which is a main source of water for the Nile River. Construction of the Renaissance Dam started in December 2010, and has the capacity to store 74 to 79 billion cubic meters of water and generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity for Ethiopia a year. This creates major concern for Egypt, who is worried that this damn would decrease the amount of water it receives (55.5 billion cubic meters) from the Nile River. Egypt is concerned that during dry months, not enough water will be released from the GERD thus decreasing the water received downstream. This will greatly hinder Egypt’s attempts to alleviate the water shortages during those months.

Earlier this year, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan assigned two French companies to prepare a report on the impact of the dam on the three countries. This report will clarify the affects the Dam will have on downstream countries. The results of this report are yet to be released. 


In case of business-as-usual scenario, Egypt runs the risk of becoming an absolute water scarce country in less than a decade. Therefore Egypt has a battle on its hands to ensure adequate conditions for its population. Like many other water scarce countries around the world, it needs to mitigate water scarcity by implementing smart conservation techniques, adopting water saving technologies, and control water pollution. With climate conditions expected to get drier and heat waves expected to become more frequent in the MENA region, Egypt cannot afford to neglect its water conservation policies and must act immediately to meet the population’s water demand.


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Destruction of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet and one of the most unique environments around the world. It lies on the borders of Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. Known for its high-density waters and mineral rich soils, the Dead Sea is visited by a large number of tourists from all over the world. Its soils contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and salt.These minerals are used in cosmetics, chemical products such as industrial salts and are even used in table salts for home use.

State of the Affairs

The once mineral-rich Dead Sea has shrunk to the size of a small and pitiful pond. Water levels have been dropping at a rate of 1 meter per annum. Currently it lies 1,300 feet below sea level and if the rate of decline continues it will reach 1,800 feet below sea level before the end of the century. This sharp decline is due to the over-exploitation of its minerals, the use of its water for desalination, and the large increase in agriculture in both Jordan and Israel.

Many environmental casualties have been associated with the rapid retreat in the shoreline of the Dead Sea. An example is the emergence of sinkholes. Many residential areas and roads around the Dead Sea have been destroyed because of sinkholes. Sinkholes are natural depressions in the Earth’s surface caused by the chemical dissolution of nutrients in the soil.These sinkholes endanger the livesof locals and tourists alike.

In an attempt to save the Dead Sea, the governments of Jordan and Israel plan to implement a project called the “Red to Dead Water Conveyance Plan” which involves building of a pipeline that connects both the Red and the Dead Sea and pumping around two thousand million cubic meters (mcm) of water per year into the latter which is equivalent to the water produced by 60 desalination plants in a day. However, many scientists are skeptical of this project due to the many problems that would arise including:

  1. The different densities and minerals in the waters would cause algal blooms that would be detrimental to the environment while also causing the water to turn red/green.
  2. Large water withdrawal from the Red Sea would have a detrimental effect on the coral reefs, sea level, and nutrient levels.
  3. The pipeline carrying the water from the Red to the Dead Sea might leak salt water into groundwater reserves along its route thereby increasing salinity in both the groundwater and the surrounding soil.

On the basis of these apprehensions it seems that this project would do little to help rectify the problem and might even add to it. An alternative way to save the Dead Sea would be to rehabilitate the Jordan River. As it stands today, only 50 mcm of water from the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea as opposed to 1.3 billion cubic meters in 1950.

The Jordan River is a shadow of what it once was. The river acts as the main water source for Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. As a result, 90% of the fresh water that replenishes it is diverted to agriculture.  Another problem facing it is pollution from agricultural and wastewater run-offs. About 50% of the agricultural run-offs from the surrounding areas are dumped into the river which has caused its water levels to drop dramatically.

Action Plan

Unfortunately, with limited sources of water, it will be difficult to ask concerned governments to stop relying heavily on the Jordan River. Some of the actions that governments may initative include:

  1. Improve irrigation systems and abandon the traditional systems that waste more than 25% of the water that is used.
  2. Renovate pipe systems in cities to reduce the number of leaks from the pipelines and to supply clean drinking tap water for the public.
  3. Plant local plants, which do not require much water and refrain from planting water intensive plants (e.g. rice).
  4. Harvest rainwater by manufacturing storage Pillars or tanks.

The Dead Sea has a geological importance in the region, and has many important aspects that make it significant. It is the saltiest and most mineral rich water body in the world. It also has a biological importance as it is home to many unique biological bacteria that are not present anywhere else on Earth. Regenerating the Jordan River, less water desalination, and improving water management practices will help regenerate the Dead Sea and help maintain this unique and important environment.

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Water Woes in Jordan

Being one of the most arid countries in the Middle East, Jordan is facing severe water shortages. The current per capita water supply in the country is 200 cubic meters per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that Jordan’s population (currently at 6 million) will reach 9 million by 2025 causing a drastic decline in per capita water availability to measly 91 cubic meters.

State of the Affairs

Groundwater resources account for 54% of Jordan’s total water supply, and are being threatened by pollution due to over-pumping of aquifers, seepage from landfill sites, and improper disposal of dangerous chemicals. Agricultural sector is responsible for about two-third of Jordan’s total water consumption. Jordan is currently ranked among the top five countries most threatened by water shortages. More than 75 percent of the population lives in cities which are often located away from water bodies.

Management of water resources is therefore a big challenge for the Jordanian government which has been trying to reduce the rising demand for water through public awareness campaigns. A large fraction of freshwater supplies is contributed by aquifers which are threatened by overpumping and pollution. Managing the supply as well as the demand end of water resources has assumed tremendous importance in the country.

Future Strategy

The government may start water supply management initiative by enforcing regulation on water extraction from groundwater aquifers. The absence of strict laws is leading to illegal well drilling, reckless use of water and unsustainable extraction of water from aquifers. Aquifers in Jordan are being used at twice the recharge rate which is hampering natural replenishment process and may eventually lead to drying up.

The Jordanian government may also take initiative in renovating old and rusted water pipes that supply private homes with domestic water supplies. For example, in the United States alone, water leaks are responsible for wastage of 1 trillion gallons of water every year, which is equivalent to the annual water usage of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined. Furthermore, rusted pipes can cause a change in the color and taste of the water, triggering additional water loss through the disposal of dirty water. Therefore, repairing old water pipes, and replacing them after 2-3 decades is very important.

A key component of water supply management is utilizing alternative sources of water such as wastewater treatment plants, which allow reuse of wastewater. This not only creates an additional water supply source, but also reduces the reliance on the natural water supplies, such as ground water, giving aquifers more time to replenish and recharge. Importantly, wastewater treatment is a potential source of energy, through harnessing the methane produced by the sewage water.

Furthermore, wastewater treatment plants reduce environmental pollution by extracting wastewater that is usually disposed off into rivers and aquifers in the form of runoffs. The government has been planning to build wastewater treatment plants across Jordan, such as the Amman-Zarqa wastewater treatment plant. However, these plants have yet to be built, and Jordan has yet to use wastewater treatment to its full potential.


Water shortage has significantly increased stress on water resources in Jordan. Aquifers have reached historically low levels, water demand is rising exponentially, water pollution is rising and mismanagement of water resources continues unabated. Water scarcity is a big threat to Jordan’s industrial development, economic growth, food production and overall well-being of its population. Jordan has already been forced to tap into non-renewable water resources from fossilized deep-water aquifers. The government and citizens should work together to find a plausible solution to tackle the water scarcity plaguing the country.

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Irrigation Systems in the United Arab Emirates

Driving down the streets of Dubai, one cannot ignore the large puddles of water that cover the side of the streets and sidewalks. These puddles, which are the result of attempted irrigation of green patches and plants, are a big waste. As a result, a very important question comes to mind: Does the UAE have that much water to spare? 

Water in the UAE is in very short supply. The United Arab Emirates is one of the top 10 most water-scarce countries in the world, and has one of the highest per capita water usages globally. With 550 liters per person per day, a UAE resident consumes more than double the global national average of 250 liters per person per day.  

Why do people use this wasteful method? Simple: it's the cheapest and fastest way to irrigate the plants, or it may seem so. Although the upfront costs are cheaper, there's a large hidden cost of water that underlies the use of conventional irrigation methods. There are a number of problems concerning spray irrigation but the most important is its inefficiency.

When using spray irrigation (sprinkler systems) in a country as arid as the UAE, 60% of the water evaporates before it is absorbed by the plants. As a result, only 40% of the water intended for irrigation is used, which itself is not evenly distributed. This lack of uneven distribution coupled with the decrease in the amount of water used is detrimental to the plants' health.

However, as awareness about water scarcity increases, more efficient methods are being used. Drip irrigation is one of the methods being used as an alternative to spray irrigation. Drip irrigation consists of perforated tubes placed along the floor, or buried near the roots of plants, which deposit water directly to the plant roots. The result is not only a drastic decrease in the amount of water evaporated, but also uses 25% less water than spray irrigation systems. 

A second method being used in the UAE is an irrigation system consisting of gravel and pipes 60cm below the surface. Before anything is planted, the plot is excavated and lined with a water-proof tarp followed by layers of gravel and dirt placed around a half pipe. The pipe is drilled at strategic areas in order to let water flow through but sand and soil stay out. This method only requires 2.5 litres of water in order to maintain a plot which usually requires 10 to 12 litres.

Some are quite simple and you can take action immediately:

  1. Adjust sprinklers so only the grass and plants are watered and not the streets and side walks. 
  2. Water during cooler times of the day such as in the morning or evening to avoid large amounts of evaporation.
  3. Coordinate irrigation with seasonal rains.
  4. Grow more drought-tolerant plants.

Other solutions could be more complicated such as transitioning to more efficient methods of irrigation (see above). Of course the government has a role to play in incentivizing the adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors. The government of the UAE can:

  • Subsidize the installation of more complex irrigation systems (e.g. drip irrigation).
  • Provide preferential loan and credit conditions for farmers that abide by environmentally friendly laws or standards. 
  • Launch different campaigns across the the UAE that aim at educating farmers and residents about environmentally conscious water consumption.  

With water scarcity continuing to reach an all time low, there isn't enough water to be equally distributed between the people of the UAE, let alone water to waste. The time to act is now.

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Water Pollution Worries in Developing World

Water pollution has become a major concern worldwide, especially in developing countries where around 3.2 million children die each year as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. Access to adequate wastewater treatment facilities in the developing countries is very limited. For example, only 209 of India's 3,119 towns and cities—less than one in ten—have even partial sewage systems and treatment facilities. As a result water bodies in developing nations are often used as open sewers for human waste products and garbage, which is evident at the Ganges River in India which receives over 1.3 billion liters of domestic waste, along with 260 million liters of industrial waste, run off from 6 million tons of fertilizers and 9,000 tons of pesticides used in agriculture, and thousands of animal carcasses.

The reason behind the absence of adequate water treatment facilities and regulations in developing countries is the lack of finances available for funding infrastructure that can regulate water pollution. This in turn reduces the amount of clean water available for human consumption, sanitation, agriculture and industrial purposes, in addition to various other ecosystem services. A decrease in the amount water available for use holds devastating environmental, health, and economic consequences that disrupt a country’s social and economic growth.

Environmental and Human Health Costs

Unsafe water, lack of sanitation facilities and poor hygiene are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in developing countries because contaminated water carries various diseases such as cholera, intestinal worms, and diarrhea. It is estimated that up to half of all hospital beds in the world are occupied by victims of water contamination. Furthermore, Dirty water (standing in puddles or stored) provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that go on to spread diseases such as malaria and encephalitis.  The UN estimates that 60% of global cases of malaria and 80% of malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa (nearly 1 million per year) are related to inadequate water storage facilities.

Economic Implications

It is estimated that around $7.3million is spent on healthcare for waterborne diseases alone.  Furthermore, large amounts of money are lost due to the deteriorating health of a country’s population with many citizens unable to attend school or work due to health issues. Above all, water pollution and lack of sanitation holds a significant burden on women. Teenage women are unable to attend schools that lack adequate sanitation and are often entrusted in collecting water for their families due to the lack of a constant water supply. Women embark on 3-4 hour treks in order to collect contaminated water, which they carry back to their homes. This deprives them from the possibility of attending school or holding a permanent job thus further reducing a family’s income.

Water quality is also important for various industries (such as power generation, metals, mining, and petroleum) that require high-quality water to operate. Lower quality water could impact and limit the choices of technology available to developing countries. Reductions in water quality have the dual effect of not only increasing the water stress to industrial companies in these areas but also increase the pressure to improve the quality of the industrial wastewater. This in turn increases the costs spent on environmental rehabilitation and remediation.

Tackling the Challenge

Water quality is gradually becoming the leading problem throughout the developing world. Drinking water sources are under increasing threat from contamination, which holds widespread consequences for the health, and the economic and social development of various countries. Governments in the developing nations, as well as donor nations and organizations, should strengthen efforts to provide adequate water services for their citizens. Water policies must be redefined and be strictly implemented, and water programs should be better integrated into a country’s cultures and values than they have been in the past. Water programs are not required to be large scale and financially intensive, and can be simple and financially viable.

An example of such a program is water.org’s use of the “micro loans” system. This system entails providing micro loans to local families to allow them to build adequate piping systems and sanitation facilities within their homes. This will allow for an increase in the family’s income due to better health and less time spent on water collection. If the governments of developing countries adopt such a system, it will provide them with a simple yet efficient solution to thewater pollution dilemma that will also produce massive payback for the country.

Therefore it is evident that although water pollution can be lessened through the help of donor nations and organizations, the key to addressing these issues lies within the developing countries themselves. Governments must realize that action must be taken immediately because if water pollution continues to grow, the future will be very bleak.

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Red-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project – Implications and Remedies

The legendary Dead Sea has been shrinking for the last 40 years by as much as 1m a year mostly due to water diversion of the Jordan River, mainly by Israel and to a lesser extent Jordan. This decline in the Dead Sea levels causes a variety of environmental, social, and economic harm to the surrounding countries by affecting the tourism industry, and destroying one of the world’s most distinct habitats. The surrounding countries have come to realize the severity of its destruction and have acted accordingly to mitigate its depletion. Recently, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have signed a water pact that authorizes the construction of pipeline that will carry brine water from a desalination plant in the Red Sea to the Dead Sea in an effort to replenish it.

This scheme, which is expected to cost $250m-$400m (£152m-£244m), will pipe 200 million cubic meters of water from the Jordanian city of Aqaba across the gulf from the Israeli resort town of Eilat off the Red Sea through a desalination plant sending brine to the southern-most edge of the Dead Sea. Half will be desalinated at a new plant, projected to yield 80 million to 100 million cubic meters of water annually in Aqaba, at the northern tip of the Red Sea, and the rest will be piped to the Dead Sea to help replenish its waters. Moreover, Israel is to receive around 30-50 million cubic meters of this water, for the benefit of the port city of Eilat and communities in the arid Arava region. Finally, a water transfer deal will also see Israel sell water from the Sea of Galilee to Jordan and desalinated water to the Palestinian territories.


In theory,  the concerned project seems to be a sound plan that will not only help replenish the Dead Sea and restore the fragile ecosystem to its old healthy status, but also provide water to neighbouring countries. However, major environmental concerns have been raised about Red-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, with environmentalists indicating that it would provide only about a 10th of the volume of water required to stabilise the Dead Sea, while also threatening its unique characteristics. This project will cause the formation of algal blooms in the Dead Sea due to the different densities and minerals in the waters of the two seas. This project will also have detrimental effects on the Red Sea, with large water withdrawals severely affecting the coral reefs in Aqaba, water table, and nutrient levels of the sea. These detrimental effects would have knock on effects on the tourism industry that Jordan heavily relies on Aqaba (e.g. hiking, scuba diving), and the Dead Sea.

Furthermore, Jordan stands to lose more if this project is to be completed, because the pipeline connecting both seas will be constructed completely in Jordanian territory. A credible rupture in the high saline pipeline (running along known active earthquake fault) would cause irreparable damage for a main source of Jordan’s fresh groundwater in Wadi Araba, and increase soil salinity causing a decrease in agricultural production.

Alternate Solutions

Due to the high environmental risk that would be taken in order to implement such a project, it would be wise to consider alternative options. The first alternative would be to release water from the Sea of Galilee to lower the Jordan River and eventually into the Dead Sea. As it stands today, only 50 mcm of water from the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea as opposed to 1.3 billion cubic meters in 1950. Rehabilitating the Jordan therefore would be a more environmentally safe and more natural option.

Another interesting option would be to invest more into wastewater treatment. Wastewater treatment represents a valuable and a sustainable water resource that will never run out. Wastewater is constantly available and can add considerable amounts of water to the depleted national water supply. In 2011 wastewater treatment currently contributes about 115.432 MCM of water per year in Jordan, with the number projected to increase to 262 MCM in the year 2020. In addition wastewater treatment has 3 other benefits that can be exploited:

  • Produces methane that can be harvested and used to produce energy.
  • Reduces the amount of waste released into the environment.
  • Production of natural fertilizer for agriculture.

Therefore, wastewater treatment would not only supply water, but also produce energy and reduce waste production, which are other major problems Jordan is currently facing. Such options seem to offer a more sustainable and a more environmentally friendly option to the Red –Dead Sea conveyance project, which could have catastrophic environmental effects. However, such projects need large investments and commitment from all countries affected.


Of course, such alternative solutions cannot yet be realized due to the heavy political “baggage” that comes with them. In order to allow the release of water from the Sea of Galilee, which is mainly controlled by Israel, neighbouring countries must come to a treaty that allows them to do so. The situation is further complicated with the political tension and strife that is currently plaguing the region, and if matters stay the same, we must brace ourselves for a future without the Dead Sea.

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Egypt’s Water Crisis – Recipe for Disaster

nile-pollutionEgypt has been suffering from severe water scarcity in recent years. Uneven water distribution, misuse of water resources and inefficient irrigation techniques are some of the major factors playing havoc with water security in the country. Egypt has only 20 cubic meters per person of internal renewable freshwater resources, and as a result the country relies heavily on the Nile River for its main source of water. The River Nile is the backbone of Egypt’s industrial and agricultural sector and is the primary source of drinking water for the population.

Rising populations and rapid economic development in the countries of the Nile Basin, pollution and environmental degradation are decreasing water availability in the country. Egypt is facing an annual water deficit of around 7 billion cubic metres. Infact, United Nations is already warning that Egypt could run out of water by the year 2025.

Let us have a close look at major factors affecting Egypt’s water security:

Population Explosion

Egypt’s population is mushrooming at an alarming rate and has increased by 41 percent since the early 1990s. Recent reports by the government suggest that around 4,700 newborns are added to the population every week, and future projections say that the population will grow from its current total of 92 million to 110 million by the year 2025. The rapid population increase multiplies the stress on Egypt’s water supply due to more water requirements for domestic consumption and increased use of irrigation water to meet higher food demands.

Inefficient Irrigation

Egypt receives less than 80 mm of rainfall a year, and only 6 percent of the country is arable and agricultural land, with the rest being desert. This leads to excessive watering and the use of wasteful irrigation techniques such as flood irrigation [an outdated method of irrigation where gallons of water are pumped over the crops]. Nowadays, Egypt’s irrigation network draws almost entirely from the Aswan High Dam, which regulates more than 18,000 miles of canals and sub-canals that push out into the country’s farmlands adjacent to the river. This system is highly inefficient, losing as much as 3 billion cubic meters of Nile water per year through evaporation and could be detrimental by not only intensifying water and water stress but also creating unemployment. A further decrease in water supply would lead to a decline in arable land available for agriculture, and with agriculture being the biggest employer of youth in Egypt, water scarcity could lead to increased unemployment levels.


The pollution of river Nile is an issue that has been regularly underestimated. With so many people relying on the Nile for drinking, agricultural, and municipal use, the quality of that water should be of pivotal importance. The reality is that water of Nile is being polluted by municipal and industrial waste, with many recorded incidents of leakage of wastewater, the dumping of dead animal carcasses, and the release of chemical and hazardous industrial waste into the river.

River Nile is commonly used for dumping of household trash

River Nile is commonly used for dumping of household trash

Industrial waste has led to the presence of metals in the water which pose a significant risk not only on human health, but also on animal health and agricultural production. Fish die in large numbers from poisoning because of the high levels of ammonia and lead. Agricultural production quality and quantity has been affected by using untreated water for irrigation as the bacteria and the metals in the water affect the growth of the plant produce, especially in the Nile Delta where pollution is highest.

Sewage water from slums and many other areas in Cairo is discharged into the river untreated due to lack of water treatment plants. Agricultural runoffs frequently contain pollutants from pesticides and herbicides, which have negative effects on the river and the people using it. All of these factors combine together to make Nile a polluted river which may spell doom for the generations to come.

Regional Upheavals

Egypt controls majority of the water resource extracted from the Nile River due to colonial-era treaty, which guaranteed Egypt 90 percent share of the Nile, and prevented their neighbors from extracting even a single drop from the Nile without permission. However, in recent years countries along the Nile such as Ethiopia are taking advantage are gaining more control over the rights for the Nile.

A big challenge is tackling the issue of Ethiopia building a dam and hydroelectric plant upstream that may cut into Egypt’s share of the Nile. For some time a major concern for Egypt was Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the Blue Nile watershed, which is a main source of water for the Nile River. Construction of the Renaissance Dam started in December 2010, and has the capacity to store 74 to 79 billion cubic meters of water and generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity for Ethiopia a year. This creates major concern for Egypt, who is worried that this damn would decrease the amount of water it receives (55.5 billion cubic meters) from the Nile River. Egypt is concerned that during dry months, not enough water will be released from the GERD thus decreasing the water received downstream. This will greatly hinder Egypt’s attempts to alleviate the water shortages during those months.


Water availability issues in Egypt are rapidly assuming alarming proportions. By the year 2020, Egypt will be consuming 20 percent more water than it has. With its loosening grip on the Nile, water scarcity could endanger the country’s stability and regional dominance. It is imperative on the Egyptian government  and the entire population of to act swiftly and decisively to mitigate water scarcity, implement water conservation techniques and control water pollution develop plans that would install more efficient irrigation techniques, and control water pollution in order to avoid a disaster.

With climate conditions expected to get drier and heat waves expected to become more frequent in the MENA region, Egypt cannot afford to neglect the importance of water conservation anymore and must act immediately to augment its natural water reserves.

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أزمه المياه في مصر

تعاني مصر في السنوات الاخيرة من شح شديد في المياه و يعد توزيع المياه غير المتكافئ و اساءه استخدام موارد المياه وتقنيات الري غير الفعاله بعض العوامل الرئيسيه التي تلعب دورا مدمرا للأمن المائي فيالبلاد.

يعد نهر النيل شريان الحياة في مصر حيث  يغطي متطلبا ت الزراعة و الصناعه و هو المصدر الرئيسيلمياه الشرب للسكان. ان ارتفاع معدلات النمو السكاني و التنمية الاقتصادية السريعة  في دول حوض النيل  بالإضافة الى التلوث و التدهور  البيئي آخذُ باستنزاف الموارد المائية في مصر.

 و تواجه مصر   عجزا مائيا يقدر  بسبع بليون متر مكعب سنويا .وفي حقيقة الامر فإن الامم المتحدة قد حذرت من نفاذ المياه في مصر بحلول عام 2025.

دعونا نلقي نظره فاحصه على العوامل الرئيسيه التي تؤثر على الامن المائي في مصر.

الانفجار السكاني

ان العدد السكاني في مصر اّخذ بالتكاثر بمعدل ينذر بالخطر , ولقد زاد بنسبه 41 بالمئه منذ بداية التسعينيات. تشير التقارير الاخيرة من قبل الحكومة الى ان حوالي 4,700   حديثي الولادة تضاف الى عدد السكان كل أسبوع و تشير التوقعات المستقبليه  الى ان عدد السكان سيرتفع من 80 مليون الى 98.7 مليون بحلول عام 2025.

ان الزيادة السكانية السريعة من شأنها ان تضاعف الضغط على الامداد المائي من خلال زيادة الاحتياجات المائية  للاستهلاك المحلي و زيادة استخدام مياه الري  لتلبيه الطلب على الغذاء.

الري غير الفعال

تحصل مصر على نسبه اقل من 80 ملم من الهطول المطري سنويا,وتعد ما نسبته 6 بالمئه من اراضيها فقط صالحا للزراعة وما تبقى فهو صحراء.وهذا بدوره  يؤدي الى الافراط في الري واستخدام تقنيات الري المسرف كالري السطحي ( الري بالغمر) و هي طريقه قديمه للري حيث يتم اغراق القطعة الزراعيه بالمياه.

في الوقت الحالي,فان شبكة الري تستمد بالكامل من سد اسوان العالي و هذا بدوره ينظم اكثر من 18,000 ميل من القنوات الرئيسية و القنوات الفرعيه التي تروي الاراضي الزراعيه المجاوره للنهر. يعد هذا النظام غير فعال , حيث يقدر معدل الفاقد من مياه النيل بفعل التبخر 3 مليارات متر مكعب سنويا . ان من شأن  انخفاض الامداد المائي  ان يقود الى انخفاض الاراضي الصالحة للزراعة و حيث ان قطاع الزراعه يشكل اكبر رب عمل للشباب فان شح المياه يمكن ان يقود الى زيادة معدلات البطالة.


 اصبحت المخلفات الزراعية والنفايات الصناعية السائلة  و مياه الصرف الصحي ُتلقى بغير اهتمام في نهر النيل مما يجعلها تدريجيا غير صالحة للاستهلاك البشري. اضف الى ذلك فإن مياه الصرف الصحي القادمة من الاحياء الفقيرة ومناطق عديدة في القاهره اضحت تفرغ في نهر النيل وذلك لنقص  المحطات المعالجة لتلك المياه.

 تلك المخلفات الزراعية عاده ما تحتوي على ملوثات من مبيدات الحشرات و الاعشاب مما يؤثر سلبا على مياه النهر. كذلك النفايات الصناعية السائله غالبا ما تكون شديدة السميه وتحتوي على معادن ثقيلة و التي يمكن ان تتحد مع المواد الصلبه العالقة في مياه الصرف الصحي لتشكل الوحل. كل هذه العوامل مجتمعه معا من شأنها ان تلوث نهر النيل و تنذر بشؤم للأجيال القادمة.

الاضطرابات الاقليميه

تسيطر مصر على غالبيه الموارد المائية المستخرجه من نهر النيل بمقتضى معاهدة الحقبه الاستعمارية التي تضمن حصة  ما نسبته 90 بالمئه من نهر النيل و تمنع الدول المجاوره لها من الحصول ولو على قطره واحده من النيل من دون الحصول على إذنها .وعلى الرغم من ذلك فان هذا لا يمنع  البلدان الواقعه على نهر النيل  مثل بوروندي و اثيوبيا من استغلال الاضطرابات السياسيه التي تعصف بمصر وكسب المزيد من السيطرة على حقوق  النيل. ورغم ان نهر النيل يزود مصر بما نسبته 95 بالمئه من المياه العذبة   فإن فقدان بعض الامدادات المائية يمكن ان يشكل متاعب إضافيه لمصر.


إن قضيه المياه في مصر تتصاعد بنسبه مثيره للقلق. بحلول عام 2020 ,سوف تستهلك مصر بما يقدَر 20 بالمئه اكثر  من المياه مما كانت عليه. مع فقدان قبضتها على النيل  فان شح المياه في مصر  من شأنه ان يهدد استقرار البلاد و الهيمنة الاقليميه. و هذا يحتم على الحكومة المصريه و جميع السكان التحرك بسرعة وبشكل حاسم للتخفيف من شح المياه  وتطبيق اساليب و تقنيات اكثر فاعليه للمحافظة على المياه و منع تلوثها  ووضع وتطوير خطط من شأنها السيطرة على تلوث المياه وجعل تقنيات الري اكثر فاعليه و كفاءة و ذلك لتجنب وقوع كارثة.


سلام عبدالكريم عبابنه

مهندسه مدنية في شركة المسار المتحده للمقاولات – مهتمه في مجال البيئه و الطاقة المتجدده

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Water Woes in Palestine

Water crisis in the West Bank and Gaza is largely overshadowed by the overall political tension between Palestine and Israel. However, the ever-growing water conflict between the two sides is a major impediment to reaching a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, and an essential component for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Ever since the Nakbah (Day of Catastrophe) in 1948, Israel has sought to control the main sources of water, and after the 1967 conflict Israel has managed to control all of the major water sources it shares with Palestine and other neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. These sources include the Jordan River, Yarmouk River and the underground water reservoirs underneath the West Bank. Let us take a close look at water woes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

West Bank

The rampant discrimination in utilization of water resources is evident with Palestinian farms relying on inconsistent rainwater to irrigate their crops, and illegal Israeli settlement farms using state-of-the-art irrigation systems. Despite controlling 100% of the water flowing from the Jordan River, Israel is using 85% of the water from the aquifers within West Bank territory while  Palestinians are receiving a pitiful 15%.

Though theoretically Palestinians could drill more wells to help sustain their crops, they are forbidden to do so without acquiring permits from the Israeli occupation forces. These permits are difficult, if not impossible, to obtain forcing Palestinians to rely on Israeli authorities for access to their own water. This has lead to per capita water consumption in the West Bank to be approximately 73 liters, whereas Israel’s per capita water consumption is approximately 242 liters. In other words, per capita use in Israel is three and a half times higher than in the West Bank.

Responding to reports reflecting the injustice in water resource distribution, the Israeli government states that it has responded to the needs of the Palestinians and has increased the quantity of water provided to them far beyond that specified in the Interim Agreement. However, what it fails to mention is that 60% of the water it provides is sold to the Palestinians at inflated prices, which most civilians cannot afford.

Of the water available from West Bank aquifers, Israel uses 73%, West Bank Palestinians use 17%, and illegal Jewish settlers use 10%. Another shocking fact is that each Israeli consumes as much water as four Palestinians. Under international law it is illegal for Israel to expropriate the water of the Occupied Palestinian Territories for use by its own citizens, and doubly illegal to expropriate it for use by illegal Israeli settlers

Gaza Strip

Since the blockade imposed on Gaza in 2006, it has been dealing with constant raids, bombardment, and attacks from the Israeli occupation forces, hindering any kind of development that might be possible. One of the greatest sectors affected by continuous Israeli aggression is water supply and sanitation. Water supply and sewage infrastructure are often damaged leaving the area without proper sanitation and without a reliable water source. This has a large effect on Gaza’s only source of water – the coastal aquifer underneath the Mediterranean Sea coast shared by Gaza, Israel and Egypt. Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip has pushed the already ailing water and sewage system to a "crisis point".

Reports published by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that 95% of this water is unfit for consumption due to the lack of proper sanitation, and that Gaza could become unlivable as early as the year 2016. The good news is that World Bank and Islamic Development Bank have recently approved $6.4 million and $11.14 million respectively for the development of the Gaza’s water and sewage infrastructure to improve extensively damaged sanitation facilities and highly contaminated water supply.

Major Hurdles

Financial assistance from Arab world and international agencies can provide a big boost to improve living conditions in Palestinian areas but do not represent a sustainable solution to the problems at hand. The first problem requiring immediate attention is the unjust distribution in water resource use. To ensure peaceful resolution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, there must be an equal distribution of water allowing enough water for development and basic human needs of the Palestinians.

Another major hurdle is the Israeli policy of stifling development activities in Palestinian areas. The inhuman blockade of Gaza and construction of the “separation barrier” around the West Bank give Israel full control over the resources entering and exiting Palestinian territories. Much of the land cut off by the West Bank barrier is land with good access to a major aquifer. This greatly restricts any plans for the development and construction of proper sanitation and water storage/extraction facilities that may allow Palestinian cities and villages to communities to flourish.  

A recent report by Amnesty International says that on average Palestinian daily water consumption reaches 70 litres a day, compared with 300 litres for the Israelis. Many Palestinians barely get 20 litres a day – the minimum recommended even in humanitarian emergencies. To conclude, the problem at hand is not the lack of water in the region, but the uneven distribution of water resources between Palestine and Israel.


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Wastewater Treatment Process and its Benefits

With water shortages plaguing the world, water scarcity has become one of the largest threats facing society today, making it one of the UN’s main millennium development goals. Therefore governments have begun to develop new projects and technologies to mitigate its effects on the world. Such projects and technologies include rain harvesting, water location transfers, desalination, and wastewater treatment. Unlike the rest, wastewater treatment presents a sustainable short-term and long-term solution to water scarcity. Wastewater is the water used by residences and commercial/industrial establishments that has become too polluted for further use. The combination between these different types of wastewater causes the resulting wastewater mix to contain both suspended and dissolved organic and inorganic substances such as carbohydrates, fats, soaps, synthetic detergents, as well as various natural and synthetic organic chemicals.

Wastewater Treatment Process

The treatment process must be divided into different treatment stages to ensure good water and sanitation quality. The preliminary stage of the treatment process uses large filtering screens that remove large solid inorganic material such as paper, plastic, and metal. This is followed by the removal of the grit and silt which are abrasive to plant equipment. In the primary stage, wastewater is passed through a primary sedimentation tank where solid particles of organic material are removed by gravity settling at the bottom of the tank. The resultant primary sludge is then raked to the center of the tank where it is concentrated and pumped away for further treatment.

The wastewater then undergoes a biological process known as activated sludge process, which uses natural occurring micro-organisms to break down dissolved and suspended organic solids. The settled wastewater then enters aeration tanks where air is blown into the waterto provide oxygen promoting the growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms then consume the organic pollutants and nutrients in the wastewater. From the aeration tanks the mixture of wastewater and microorganisms is moved to a secondary sedimentation tank where the biomass settles to the bottom of the tank and is concentrated as sludge.

The clarified wastewater is then passed into a tank where the third stage of treatment, known as the Tertiary treatment stage, takes place. In this stage Chlorineis used to remove any biological pathogens present in the clarified wastewater that could be a risk to human health. In some instances this treatment is repeated more than once if the treated wastewater is reused for purposes such as irrigation of food crops or where close human contact may result. After all these treatment processes are complete, fresh water is produced.


The water treatment process does not only produce clean reusable water, but also has the potential to produce various other benefits. It has the potential to reduce a country’s waste production, to produce energy through methane harvesting, and the potential to produce natural fertilizer from the waste collected through the process. Below is a more detailed explanation of these benefits:

Waste Reduction

Through the treatment of wastewater, the amount of waste that is usually released into the environment is reduced thus improving environment’s health. By doing so, the government in turn reduces the health risks associated with environmental pollution, and reduces the water loss induced through water pollution. Wastewater treatment also reduces the amount of money spent by a country on environmental rehabilitation projects required to battle pollution.

Energy Production

The sludge collected during the treatment process is itself treated because it contains a large amount of biodegradable material. It is treated with anaerobic bacteria in special fully enclosed digesters heated to 35 degrees Celsius, an area where these anaerobic microorganisms thrive without any oxygen. The gas produced during this anaerobic process contains a large amount of methane, which is harvested and then burned to generate electricity.

This energy can be used to power the wastewater treatment plants making them self-sustainable, andif there happens to be an excess of energy produced, it could be transported into a country’s national grid. This helps lower the reliance on non-renewable energy sourcessuch as fossil fuels, reducing a country’s carbon footprint and a country’s expenditure on energy production. An example of this system being used within the Middle East can be found in al-Samra wastewater treatment plants in Jordan. According to government officials the plant produces 40% of the energy it requires through burning the methane produced by the treatment process.

Fertilizer Production

Any biodegradable material remaining is dried in “drying lagoons” and is then turned into natural fertilizer. The resulting natural fertilizer is then used in the agricultural sector, increasing crop yields. This decreases the use of chemical fertilizers that pollute the surrounding marine and surface ecosystems.


In summary, the combination of these benefits along with water production makes wastewater treatment a sustainable short and long-term solution to the world’s water crisis, which will only increase as the world population increases. It is estimated that the world’s population is set to increase to 9 billion people, and this would cause an increase in the amount of water that can be treated. This will cause the production of large amounts of fresh usable water, thus helping battle water scarcity.