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Middle East and North Africa face extreme water risk

A new study by UK risk consultants Maplecroft has rated the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as having the least secure water supplies in the world.

The Water Security Risk Index and map developed by risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft rates 18 countries at ‘extreme risk’ with 15 located in the troubled MENA region.

But Maplecroft said desalination projects may alleviate some of these risks.

The annual volume of desalinated water in Saudi Arabia is planned to double from 1.05bn.m³ to 2.07bn.m³ between 2010 and 2015 under a five year infrastructure spending plan.

As part of these plans the world’s largest solar power desalination plant is planned to provide 10M.m³ per year. Desalination accounts for about 50% of the country’s drinking water, with 40% coming from ground water, 9% from surface water and 1% from waste water.

The countries at extreme risk include:

  1. Mauritania
  2. Kuwait
  3. Jordan
  4. Egypt
  5. Israel
  6. Niger
  7. Iraq
  8. Oman
  9. United Arab Emirates
  10. Syria
  11. Saudi Arabia
  12. Libya
  13. Djibouti
  14. Tunisia
  15. Algeria

Of particular importance to the global and local economy is the use of large quantities of water in the production of oil, Maplecroft said.

“Lift water,” which some companies source from aquifers, is used to force oil out of the well that would not rise under its own pressure from the geology.

This process is undertaken to prolong the economic lifespan of the well, and allow a greater volume of oil to be extracted. If sufficient water is not available productivity will decrease and operations will be interrupted, which could significantly affect global oil supply and prices.

“Water security has the potential to compound the already fragile state of societal affairs in some countries,” said Maplecroft chief executive officer Alyson Warhurst.

Maplecroft calculates water security by measuring countries’ water stress; population rates; reliance on external water supplies; sustainability of water use; intensity of water use in the economy; government effectiveness; and virtual water use, which is a unique assessment of the water intensity of imported goods, such as food and oil.

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