June 21, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10675

Egyptian Journalist: Arabs Need Joint Strategy To Address Water Shortage Threatening Their Countries

June 21, 2023
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 10675

In his April 3, 2023 column on the Al-Arabiya website, Emile Amen, an Egyptian journalist and expert on international affairs, discussed the water crisis in the Arab region and in the world at large, which is expected to grow worse in the coming decades in light of the rapid population growth, global warming and the ecological crisis. Amen reviewed data published by international sources that indicate the gravity of the situation, and called on the Arabs to address the matter by formulating a joint strategy to confront the fresh water crisis in their region. The main points of this strategy, he argued, should be developing new water sources, managing the existing ones in an optimal manner, raising awareness through the education system and media, promoting research into groundwater detection and launching desalination projects. 

Emile Amen (Image:

The following are translated excerpts from Amen's column:[1]

"Is the Arab world on the brink of a very grave crisis in terms of sources of fresh water, which is vital to human survival? What is certain is that the crisis transcends [the boundaries of] the Arab region, and threatens the entire world, because, according to the abundant data of the UN development bodies, of all the water that exists in the world – 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of it – only 1% is drinkable water.   

"The freshwater problem may grow worse in the next two decades, since the population of the world is expected to reach some 10 billion by 2050. Therefore, the global demand for water is expected to rise from 4,600 billion square kilometers a year to 6,000 billion square kilometers. 

"The relationship between population size and water sources seems to conform to the theory of Malthus.[2] Namely, global resources grow in a linear fashion, while the population grows exponentially. It is no secret that the global intelligence apparatuses, chief of them the American ones, are mapping the globe in search of new freshwater sources, and that [interest in this problem] outstrips even the interest in prospecting for oil and gas.

"This reminds me of a report published by the U.S. Pentagon in 2008 on the global water situation. [It] contained very worrying information about the suffering expected in the future, when three billion people experience a severe shortage of natural resources, opening the door wide to various conflicts and wars… Among the data provided by the U.S. space agency NASA… about the lands and deserts in the Arab world is an amazing [piece of information]: the aquifers that supply the need of about 60 million Arabs are drying up.

"Why bring up this worrying matter again at this particular moment? Rula Dashti, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said in the course of activity she conducted in collaboration with the Arab League in March [2023], on the margins of the UN water conference in New York, that, out of 390 million people in the Arab region, 50 million [sic., should be 350 million] suffer from a basic shortage of drinking water. In other words, some 90% of the people of the region suffer from a shortage of drinking water… According to the ESCWA data, the Arab region suffers from water shortage more than any other: 19 of its 22 countries are located in water-poor areas, and 21 of them rely mainly on water sources outside their borders…

"Are the water crises in the world and in the Arab region expected to grow worse in the coming decades, especially in light of the negative ecological developments, the deterioration of the global climate and the failure of the leaders of the industrialized powers – which are primarily responsible for the greenhouse effect – to adhere to the plans and decisions to save the planet? In March [2023], experts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that global warming due to human activity may reach 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030-2035… The data available to this panel highlights the fact that, in order to keep [the rate of warming from exceeding] this level, greenhouse gas emissions…. must be cut by 45 percent by 2030.

"Do we have a chance of achieving this goal? The war between Russia and Ukraine has proved that there is no real intention to save our modern world from the disaster of the greenhouse effect, especially after the crisis of conventional fuels – oil and gas – [caused] a return to coal. This means more greenhouse effect, more desertification and more drought, which will deepen the catastrophe of the shortage of drinkable fresh water in the world and in the Arab region.

"It behooves us to wonder what solutions have been proposed to keep the Arabs from thirsting for water. First, there is an obvious need to formulate a joint strategy for dealing with this crisis. The task is almost impossible. The first steps are to preserve the conventional freshwater sources [we already have] in the Arab world, and at the same time to search for new sources. This is a kind of war that is not fought with offensive weapons, but with creative cooperation aimed at drawing a joint water map as a basis for planning the available freshwater sources and rationally managing their consumption.  

"One of the most important aspects that must be considered in confronting the water crisis in our modern world is that of instilling awareness, especially through the education system and the media, because every drop of water is more precious than gold and any waste is tantamount to ecological suicide. At the same time, it appears that the scientific institutions urgently need more support, in order to increase research to detect new aquifers, which are hidden treasures that will soon become more important than sources of fossil fuels. There is also pressing need for more megaprojects of desalination, especially in light of the experience of some neighboring countries in the region, which have had great success in this domain and [now] have vast sources of [desalinated] seawater that enable them to overcome [the problem of] their water-poor natural environment. 

"We also need to recycle more wastewater for use in agriculture, and to use groundwater, brackish water and rainwater in the safest manner.

"In sum, the Arab campaign for freshwater sources is a fateful one, so see what you think."


[1], April 3, 2023.

[2]  English economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) observed that an increase in a nation's food-production improved the well-being of the population, but the improvement was temporary because it led to population growth, which in turn reduced the production level. In other words, resources cannot keep up with population growth.

Share this Report: