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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Water Shortage in the Middle East

Aerial shot of Lake Urmia

courtesy of Google Maps

Lake Urmia, in Iran, has decreased in size by 50 percent from 2,085 square miles in the 1990s to 965 now, and the Department of Environmental Protection of West Azerbaijan is concerned that it may disappear entirely. Scenarios like this are multiplying in the Middle East because the water table is becoming depleted. Persistent drought and high temperatures, in addition to poor water management and overuse, create a bleak outlook unless changes are made. A study by the Iranian Energy Ministry found the fate of the lake was more than 30 percent attributable to climate change.

Iran, Iraq and Jordan extract copious amounts of water from the ground for irrigation, and Charles Iceland, global director of water at the World Resources Institute, says, “They’re using more water than is available routinely through rain.” In Iran, a network of dams used by the agriculture sector uses about 90 percent of the nation’s supply. “Both declining rainfall and increasing demand in these countries are causing many rivers, lakes and wetlands to dry up,” Iceland says. As areas become uninhabitable in the future, political violence may emerge over how to share and manage rivers and lakes. Transboundary usage must be regulated and monitored if there is any hope to resolve the crisis.

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