Middle East and North Africa Water Resources Consortium
and Technology Exchange Network

EMI, MENA Secretariat
Rabat - Morocco
Driss Ouazar


Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region face similar problems of water shortage due to
the semi-arid climate and an increasing demand created by population and economical growth.
Development of water resources has been impeded by various reasons including the lack of
technology and public awareness. The Arab-Israel war has also made co-operation among the
riparian countries difficult. With the peace movement in the Middle East under way, water issues
take the center stage. Not only international water conflict needs to be resolved as a part of the
peace process, but also co-operative water resources development should immediately follow to
maintain a sustainable growth and prosperity. In view of the impending needs, a regional water
resources consortium should be formed to provide training and technical assistance, to promote
information and technology exchange, to provide expertise for arbitrating water conflicts, to organize long term and regional planning, and to serve as a center of excellence for relevant technologies in the region using information technology support.


The objectives of the proposal is to initiate an organizing effort for a water consortium addressing
water resources, quality, and economical issues in the Middle East and North Africa Region. The
organization is intended to be a scientific body which serves as a consulting arm for governments in
the region initiating national or international water conservation, environmental protection,
management, and utilisation projects.

Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region are under severe stress of water supply.
Not only is the quantity of renewable water per capita the lowest as compared to other regions of
the world, but also the water quality is inferior, and often unacceptable. The European Union, the
United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) and the World Bank have issued critical warnings
and called for immediate action.

Since water issues often involve international co-operation, an unbiased scientific organization
formed by water specialists in the region, and scientists from North America and Europe, can
facilitate the co-ordination of studies and implementations of water projects.

The short term objectives of this proposal is to seek seed funding to support an initial organization
effort. Among the immediate tasks include the establishment of a regional water resources computer
on-line network, the convening of a workshop/conference, and the initiation of an international co-
operative research project. The long term objectives will be decided in a round table forum in the
workshop. This effort will help validating the concept and become a basis for further joint projects.
The co-operation mechanism has been presented at a thematic session at the Amman Summit, where the permanent status of the consortium has been discussed. Technology provides opportunities for helping resolve some of these problems. Information on existing technology and science, can be a basis for creating co-operative actions amongst countries in the region.

Water Crisis in the Middle East and North Africa

The water situation in the Middle East and North Africa region is precarious. Population and
development have overwhelmed traditional management practice. Water scarcity is the most critical,
and pollution growth is as severe as the rest of the world. It is projected that the per capita
renewable water supply will fall from 3,430 cubic meters in 1960, to 667 cubic meters in 2025. In
several countries of the region, renewable freshwater will barely cover basic human needs within two decades.

Managing water resources and preserving water quality require international efforts. Rivers and
aquifers cross national boundaries. More than 200 river basins are shared by two or more countries.
These basins account for about 60% of the earth's land area. It is estimated that about 40% of the
world population lives in watershed that is shared with neighboring countries. International water
issues also involve important groundwater resources. In a number of cases, aquifers cross
international boundaries; thus pumping by one country interferes with another country's pumping
or stream flows. Assessing the effects on riparian countries of over pumping in different areas of a
deep aquifer is difficult and requires international co-operation.

The crisis has existed for a number of years. To some extent, damage has been done. The
consequence is a stunted economy and a wounded environment. Its environmental manifestations
include wide spread destruction of vegetation and natural habitats, erosion of uplands and
watersheds, over-exploited and damaged aquifers, salinization of streams and groundwater,
desertification of semiarid areas, and in particular, depletion and pollution of limited water

Acute shortage of water, if left unresolved, is bound to further exacerbate tension and conflict. No
country in the region can resolve its water problem independently without encroaching or
redistributing the resources of its neighbours. Therefore no comprehensive water development can
take place without peace, or conversely, no peace is sustainable without water resources

Preservation of the environment and resource base are essential for sustainable development. The
protection, enhancement, and restoration of water quality and the abatement of water pollution are
faced with many countries in the region. To meet the challenge, exchange of technical ideas and
experiences among scientists in the Middle East and North Africa countries, with the participation
of water specialists from developed countries, is of great importance for future collaboration.

Computer On-Line Water Resources Information System

Sharing of information is a first step toward international co-operation. A regional water network
can not only serve as a repository for valuable water data and an access for computer software, but
also provide a posting place for newest technology, a forum for exchange information and expertise

Network information technology such as Internet is diffusing throughout the world and transforming our ways of communicating and managing information. This has influenced the way we teach, undertake research, disseminate knowledge, conduct service activities, run professional organizations and interact with colleagues. The availability of front ends such as Mosaic and Netscape for browsing the Word Wide Web (WWW) has much enhanced the user-friendliness and hence the efficiency of the Internet. For water resources information, initiatives include WETnet, UWEB, USGS Water Information, MEWIN, UWIN, and WaterTalk. In particular, ESIMEAU (INCO-DC) and MedCampus programme, both recent European funded Projects, are themselves networks relating the South and the North of the Mediterranean for information and technology exchange within the region on water resources issues. WEB technology is amongst the best information systems for connecting the partners involved.

It is our interest to build a free-access water resources information network providing not only
passive information, but also active expertise consultation. The WRC's relationship with water
research and engineering communities will facilitate the technical development of the proposed
Middle East and North Africa Waternet. The virtual world (cyberspace) will ease communication at
almost no cost. The impact on data, projects professionals, education, water agencies, water models,
will be tremendous.

It is therefore suggested to build an on-line information resources system to help enhance and
improve communication and information sharing amongst water resources professionals in the

INRIA (French National Institute for Informatics and Automatic) has offered the possibility of
using INRIA's server as a mirror to WATERNET.

A presentation of the prototype will be delivered during the conference .

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