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This is a much wider problem, of course. See Billions Face Water Insecurity,
Study Finds<http://forhumanliberation.blogspot.com/2010/09/80-billions-face-water-insecurity-study.html>
--K
On Tue, May 3, 2011 at 2:51 PM, Robert Mann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>  This  Earth Policy Institute article depicts dangerous trends in the
> Middle East with rising populations, shortage of water and consequent lack
> of food.
>
>
>         *Water Shortages Threaten Food Future in the Arab Middle East*
> *
> **www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2011/update95*
>  By Lester R. Brown
>          Long after the political uprisings in the Middle East have
> subsided, many underlying challenges that are not now in the news will
> remain.  Prominent among these are rapid population growth, spreading water
> shortages, and ever-growing food insecurity.
>         In some countries, grain production is now falling as aquifers are
> depleted.  After the Arab oil-export embargo of the 1970s, the Saudis
> realized that since they were heavily dependent on imported grain, they were
> vulnerable to a grain counter-embargo.  Using oil-drilling technology, they
> tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat.  In
> a matter of years, Saudi Arabia was self-sufficient in wheat, its principal
> food staple.
>         But after more than 20 years of wheat self-sufficiency, the Saudis
> announced in January 2008 that this aquifer was largely depleted and they
> would be phasing out wheat production. Between 2007 and 2010, the wheat
> harvest of nearly 3 million tons dropped by more than two thirds.  At this
> rate the Saudis likely will harvest their last wheat crop in 2012 and then
> be totally dependent on imported grain to feed their Canada-sized population
> of nearly 30 million people.
>         The unusually rapid phaseout of wheat farming in Saudi Arabia is
> due to two factors.  First, in this arid country there is little farming
> without irrigation. Second, irrigation there depends almost entirely on a
> fossil aquifer, which, unlike most aquifers, does not recharge naturally
> from rainfall.  And the desalted sea water Saudi Arabia uses to supply its
> cities is far too costly for irrigation use, even for the Saudis.
>         Saudi Arabia's growing food insecurity has even led it to buy or
> lease land in several other countries, including two of the world's
> hungriest, Ethiopia and Sudan.  In effect, the Saudis are planning to
> produce food for themselves with the land and water resources of other
> countries to augment their fast growing imports.
>         In neighboring Yemen, replenishable aquifers are being pumped well
> beyond the rate of recharge, and the deeper fossil aquifers are also being
> rapidly depleted.  As a result, water tables are falling throughout Yemen by
> some 2 meters per year.  In the capital, Sana'a-home to 2 million people-tap
> water is available only once every 4 days; in Taiz, a smaller city to the
> south, it is once every 20 days.
>         Yemen, with one of the world's fastest-growing populations, is
> becoming a hydrological basket case. With water tables falling, the grain
> harvest has shrunk by one third over the last 40 years, while demand has
> continued its steady rise. As a result, the Yemenis now impor tmore than 80
> percent of their grain. With its meager oil exports falling, with no
> industry to speak of, and with nearly 60 percent of its children physically
> stunted and chronically undernourished, this poorest of the Arab countries
> is facing a bleak and potentially turbulent future.
>         The likely result of the depletion of Yemen's aquifers-which will
> lead to further shrinkage of its harvest and spreading hunger and thirst-is
> social collapse. Already a failing state, it may well devolve into a group
> of tribal fiefdoms, warring over whatever meager water resources remain.
> Yemen's internal conflicts could spill over its long, unguarded border with
> Saudi Arabia.
>         In addition to the bursting food bubble in Saudi Arabia and the
> fast-deteriorating water situation in Yemen, Syria and Iraq-the other two
> populous countries in the region-have water troubles. Some of these arise
> from the reduced flows of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, which both
> countries depend on for irrigation water.  Turkey, which controls the
> headwaters of these rivers, is in the midst of a massive dam building
> program that is slowly reducing downstream flows.  Although all three
> countries are party to water-sharing arrangements, Turkey's ambitious plans
> to expand both hydropower generation and irrigated area are being fulfilled
> partly at the expense of its two downstream neighbors.
>         Given the future uncertainty of river water supplies, farmers in
> Syria and Iraq are drilling more wells for irrigation. This is leading to
> overpumping in both countries.  Syria's grain harvest has fallen by one
> fifth since peaking at roughly 7 million tons in 2001.  In Iraq, the grain
> harvest has fallen by one fourth since peaking at 4.5 million tons in 2002.
>        Jordan, with 6 million people, is also on the ropes agriculturally.
> Forty or so years ago, it was producing over 300,000 tons of grain per
> year.  Today it produces only 60,000 tons and thus must import over 90
> percent of its grain. In this region only Lebanon has avoided a decline in
> grain production.
>          Thus in the Arab Middle East, where populations are growing fast,
> the world is seeing the first collision between population growth and water
> supply at the regional level.  For the first time in history, grain
> production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to
> arrest the decline.  Because of the failure of governments in the region to
> mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people
> to feed and less irrigation water with which to feed them.
>
>                                 # # #
>
> Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of "
> *World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse*."
>
> *NOTE: This piece originally appeared in* The Guardian* on Friday, April
> 22, 2011.
>