Watergy Nexus To Exacerbate MENA Region’s Water Scarcity

Via The Saudi Gazette, an interesting article on the impact of the watergy nexus in the Middle East region:

The MENA is the world’s most water-scarce region. By 2030, lack of water availability will become a severe constraint to health and socio-economic development in all 17 MENA countries, Frost & Sullivan said in its new analysis titled “Mega Trends in the MENA,” released Wednesday.

It said by 2050, two-thirds of these countries could have less than 200 m3 of renewable water resources per capita per year.

The “water-energy nexus” (power for water and water for power) further exacerbates the region’s water scarcity, it noted.

Groundwater and desalination are the only two sources of water for the region, both of which require huge amounts of power.

About 30-50 percent of the desalinated water cost is the energy cost.

Desalination already plays a significant role in the region’s water supply portfolio, providing slightly more than 3 percent of total regional water demand. The increasing demand on energy to meet water shortages in MENA is likely to have serious consequences on energy security in general and the economies of oil-exporting countries in particular, F&S said.

Moreover,  Europe will import 20 percent of its electricity demand from the MENA through the transcontinental energy and power linking across EU-MENA, a significant portion of which will be from renewable sources.

It said the “Desertec Initiative” aims to provide 15 percent of European electricity demand and a significant proportion of domestic demand in North Africa. Transcontinental power grids will not only help in meeting intercontinental power demands, but also in significantly reducing carbon emissions, meet fluctuations in electricity demand, reduce operating costs, and lower the overall level of environmental pollution in the EU-MENA region.

Over the past 20 years, total investment in various Arab Interconnection Projects has reached $2 billion. F&S moreover said global dynamics in the demand for power and energy are changing the course of infrastructure development in MENA.

Majority of the infrastructure investments and developments will focus on the power and trade corridors of the region (for example, intercontinental power grids, gas pipelines, and crude oil export routes).

The MENA countries are undertaking a range of infrastructure projects including building/upgrading state of the art airports, ports, highways, bridges, economic cities, high-speed rail, urban transport facilities, and social infrastructure projects (land reclamation from sea).

Besides, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their needs for an active and healthy life.

The Middle East, with 58 percent dependency on food imports, is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world with regard to food security.

The MENA countries spend as high as 0.15 to 0.62 percent of their GDP on food subsidies. Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia are already facing food security challenges. It is noteworthy that many of the countries that experienced the food demonstrations of 2007-08, are the countries experiencing the Arab Spring; for example, Egypt. Short-term measures for assuring food security include increasing public sector wages, increasing government expenditure on bread and other food subsidies, reducing tariffs on imported food items, as well as increasing direct cash transfers to the poor. However, these measures place a heavy burden on government budgets.

The Middle East is, therefore, now looking at investing in food production in countries from where food is imported, to secure its food supplies.

Saudi Arabia is one such country, which is already providing funds, credit, and logistics to Saudi investors to invest abroad in agriculture. It is also establishing a strategic reserve for basic food commodities, to meet local needs for food and avoid future food crisis.

This is soon likely to be a key trend for all oil exporting countries in the Middle East, it noted. 

Frost & Sullivan said by 2025, the Middle East and North African (MENA) economies will be driven by unique forces of change – mega trends – that will guide the region’s growth trajectory.

These include urbanization, geo-socialization, future economic growth, connectivity and convergence, future infrastructure, power generation, health, wellness and wellbeing, new business model, future top industries, and political economy

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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”