Water in the MENA region is integrated into the wider economic policies of the countries of the region and therefore water issues have to be addressed to multi-sectorial audience to bring about a broad reform within the current political and economic climate. Indeed, MENA is using more water than it receives each year and most of the countries in the MENA region cannot meet current water demands. The situation is likely to be worse and per capita water will fall by half already before 2050, with serious impacts for the region’s already stressed aquifers and natural hydrological systems.
In coming decades, economies and population structures will force enhanced demands for water supply and irrigation, in addition to new needs to address industrial and urban pollution. Future management of water resources will be further complicated as the major part of the region’s water flows across international borders and climate change will introduce complex shifts in rainfall patterns. If the MENA region will not be able to meet these combined challenges the socio-economic consequences could be enormous, e.g. erratic drinking water services, more expensive desalination for cities and there would be needs for emergency supplies during droughts. Unreliable water resources, depletion of aquifers, service outages will cause stress on expensive infrastructure, depress farmers’ incomes, intensify local/regional conflicts with short- and long-term effects on economic growth and poverty, social tensions within and between communities, and increasing pressure on public budgets.
Post 1960s water policies of securing supply and services require switch toward better water management with consideration to entire water cycle and not the separate components, also use of economic instruments for water efficiency and flexibility to manage variations supply and demand. Changes in planning should include integrating water quality and quantity and consider the entire water system, promotion of demand management, tariff reform for water supply, strengthening of government agencies and stronger enforcement of environmental regulations. Also, shift from low-value uses to higher-value needs. Equal involvement of all stakeholders in water management policies including stakeholders outside irrigation, water resource management, and water supply and sanitation, e.g. within agriculture, trade, energy, real estate, land, finance, and social protection.
Reforms for sustainable socio-economic water management should involve: political and technical policies; effective interactions with non-water decision makers; accountability of government agencies and water service to the public as well as transparency for good and bad performance.