Water crisis ravages Middle East

A major water crisis is developing in the Middle East, with more than 12 million people in Syria and Iraq losing access to fresh water, food supplies and electricity.

According to a report compiled by 13 international aid groups working in the region, drinking and agricultural water is growing dangerously scarce due to rising average temperatures, record low levels of rainfall, and drought.

Dams are drying up, which is disrupting hydro-electricity supplies, and in turn impacting essential infrastructure such as health facilities.

Drought-affected agricultural land in Sinjar, Northern Iraq, August 2021. Source: Fared Baram/ NRC

80 per cent of the population in Syria and Iraq rely on two major rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, for their fresh water supply. But these rivers begin in Turkey, leaving Syria and Iraq very little control over their flow.

An agreement between Turkey and Syria in 1987 assured an average flow rate of 500 cubic meters per second across its borders, however local engineers are reporting a decreased flow of 200 cubic meters per second in recent months. Turkish regulators are not entirely to blame, with the region experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.

Local farmers are struggling, with many having spent their savings and fallen into debt to keep their crops and animals alive.