Seven of the ten most water-poor countries are in the Middle East and North Africa. The timelapse videos below show that some of the lakes are almost gone.
The United Nations designates March 22 as World Water Daywith the aim of measuring global progress in providing clean, accessible and affordable water for everyone.
According to UN water2.3 billion people, or one in four of the world’s population, live in water-scarce countries.
Water stress refers to the share of freshwater use compared to renewable freshwater resources. When water withdrawal exceeds available resources, a country is depleting its aquifers faster than they can be replenished, or has significantly high desalination water production.
Water stress in the Middle East
Seven of the ten most water-poor countries are in the Middle East and North Africa. In those countries, the average water stress level is 820 percent, which means that annual water abstraction is eight times higher than water supply from renewable sources.
The Middle East has a mostly dry and arid climate with low rainfall and high temperatures. To provide their residents with adequate water, several countries in the region, particularly in the Gulf, rely on desalination, a process that removes salt from seawater.
As of 2017, the countries with the highest levels of water stress were Egypt (6,420 percent), Bahrain (3,878 percent), and the United Arab Emirates (1,708 percent).
Water stress has doubled in the past 30 years
From 1987 to 2017, water stress in the Middle East and North Africa more than doubled, from 8,411 percent in 1987 to 16,422 percent in 2017.
In Egypt, water stress has increased from 4,897 percent in 1977 to 6,420 percent in 2017.
The country with a population of more than 100 million people is heavily dependent on the waters of the River Nile, which originates outside its borders. According to a 2021 UNICEF reportEgypt faces an annual water shortage of about 7 billion cubic meters (247 billion cubic feet) and the country could run out of water by 2025.
Rising temperatures, increased demand for water and dam construction have caused several lakes in the Middle East to shrink. Two notable disappearing lakes are Lake Urmia in Iran and Lake Sawa in neighboring Iraq.
Lake Urmia, Iran
Lake Urmia was once the largest lake in the Middle East and the sixth largest saltwater lake on Earth. It is located in the northwest of Iran and has now almost dried up to a salt flat.
The timelapse video below shows how much the lake has evaporated since the 1980s.
Lake Sawa, Iraq
Lake Sawa has now completely dried up after consecutive years of severe drought. Rising temperatures and a drastic fall in the water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have led to extreme droughts in the county of 43 million people.
The timelapse video below shows how much the lake has evaporated since 2011.