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NASA Study Reveals Alarming Loss of Water in Middle East

Tigris River
Tigris River

A recent NASA study revealed that Middle East lost quantity of freshwater which is almost the size of Dead Sea because of poor management, increasing demand of groundwater as well as the after-effects of 2007 drought.

The NASA study researched on the data over a time period of seven years since 2003 with the help of gravity-measuring satellites, which are a part of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment or GRACE. Researchers discovered that freshwater reserves in areas in countries like Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran along Euphrates and Tigris river basins lost 117 million acre feet or 144 cubic kilometers of total stored freshwater, which is said to be the second-fastest loss.

Salient features-

  • 60 percent of loss was a result of pumping of underground reservoirs for ground water. 1000 wells in Iraq were pumped for groundwater.
  • One-fifth loss occurred because of impacts of drought which included decreasing snow packs as well as drying up of soil.
  • Another one-fifth loss happened because of loss of surface water from reservoirs and lakes.
  • The rate at which water loss occurred is the largest liquid freshwater loss on the continents.

The demand for water in Middle East is increasing because of increasing population, war as well as climatic changes. It also depicts that certain countries would face acute shortage of water in near future.

When the report was released during U.N. climate talks in Qatar, World Bank had concluded that water shortage was one among the critical problems in North Africa and Middle East. This region particularly had lowest quantity of freshwater in the entire world.

Climatic changes would result in more droughts in these regions with extreme situations. Water runoff would decrease 10 percent by 2050 and the demand for water would increase 60 percent by 2045. Fulfilling the increasing demand of water is the biggest challenge for improving the water conservation in Tigris and Euphrates river basins.

Tigris and Euphrates headwaters are controlled by Turkey. Also the reservoirs and the infrastructure of Turkey’s Greater Anatolia Project which dictates the quantity of downstream of water flow into Iraq and Syria are controlled by Turkey.

There is a need for coordinated water management, which at present does not exist among Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Also, the tensions intensified since the drought of 2007 because Turkey diverts water to irrigate farmland. As a result, decline in the stream flow puts pressure on northern Iraq. UN as well as anecdotal reports from area residents made it clear in the report that because of a decline in the stream flow, the northern Iraq had to turn up to groundwater.

Read more at NASA Website

Read more on Water Scarcity and India

Image credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, hosted at Wikipedia

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