The Middle East is running out of water

An abandoned ship rusts in the mud on the south shore of Lake Urmia, where only 5 percent of the water remains, Iranian environmental officials say. Morteza Nikoubazl for The New York Times. Source.

A ranking Iranian political figure, Issa Kalantari, recently warned that past mistakes have left Iran with a water supply so insufficient that up to 70%, or 55 million of 78 million, Iranians, could be forced to abandon their native country for parts unknown.

Many facts buttress Kalantari’s apocalyptic prediction: Once lauded in poetry, Lake Urmia, the Middle East’s largest lake, has lost 95% of its water since 1996, dropping from 31 to just 1.5 billion cubic meters. What the Seine is to Paris, the Zayanderud was to Isfahan — except the latter went bone-dry in 2010. Over two-thirds of Iran’s cities and towns are “on the verge of a water crisis” that could result in drinking water shortages; already, thousands of villages depend on water tankers. Unprecedented dust storms disrupt economic activity and damage health.

And the Iranians are not alone…

…Yemen: Oil remittances permit Yemenis to indulge more heavily than ever before in chewing qat (an amphetamine-like stimulant), a leaf whose bushes absorb far more water than the food plants they replaced.

Drinking water “is down to less than one quart per person per day” in many mountainous areas, reports water specialist Gerhard Lichtenthaeler. Specialist Ilan Wulfsohn writes that Sanaa “may become the first capital city in the world to run out of water”…

People collect water at a private well in Sanaa, April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

People collect water at a private well in Sanaa, Yemen, April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi