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Water's Scarcity in the Mideast and World

By Die Welt/German Newspaper News Service / April 17, 1998



About 2 billion people around the world are without clean drinking water.

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More than 80 countries have acute water shortages. Seventy percent of the world's drinking water is used for agriculture.

The oceans make up 97 percent of all water reserves on the planet, and two-thirds of the remaining 3 percent of water that is fresh is locked up in the polar caps. So only 1 percent of the world's water is there to serve mankind - and it is threatened by pollution and waste.

In the Mideast, the battle for the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers is as old as the borders between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. And the populations of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan rely on the same water sources. Israel taps two-thirds of its water from underground reserves in the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights, often leading to conflicts. [Israel agreed in principle earlier this month to allow Jordan to use the Sea of Galilee as a reservoir, according to the Associated Press.]

The oil-rich Gulf nations have invested in expensive seawater desalination plants. The United Arab Emirates converts seawater for its 2.4 million inhabitants, who use it freely: Abu Dhabi, the richest of the seven emirates, has the highest consumption of water in the world, with each resident using nearly 140 gallons per day. In comparison, average consumption per person in Germany was less than 35 gallons a day in 1997.