The Forum for Partners in Iran's Marketplace

January 2017, No. 82


Water as the Oil of 21st Century!

Droughts, storms and floods will cause us to notice atmospheric changes and the change in the volume of water in our access.

Water can be regarded the oil of the 21st century. Access to water resources is the main factor in development of the world economy and effectiveness of government policies in the years to come. In fact, global shortage of water resources threatens economic growth and leaves a negative impact on geopolitical stability. We should accept that water in the years ahead will be a very valuable commodity and can be the main factor for many domestic and interstate conflicts; water crisis is the main crisis of the twenty-first century and is the main factor that causes us to feel atmospheric changes.

Droughts, storms and floods will cause us to notice atmospheric changes and the change in the volume of water in our access. On the other hand, drop in the quality of drinking water is also a very serious problem that will become apparent more than before due to the same water crisis. The important point is that we live in a planet that has sufficient water resources but if these resources are not protected and in absence of a proper management for its consumption, a hard future will be awaiting us.

Although 70 percent of the Planet Earth is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of this water is fresh and safe while one percent of it is available. Meanwhile, water meets a large part of the needs of the body and without water even there is no possibility for human survival and for production of other foodstuffs. It is expected that by the year 2025, half of the world countries will be faced with shortage of water resources and by the year 2050, over 75 percent of the world population would be witness to water crisis.

International warnings indicate that 46 world countries with a total population of 2.7 billion are at the risk of living in extreme dehydration; Moreover, atmospheric changes and water related crisis have escalated the possibility of violence in those countries and their conflict with other countries.

In 56 world countries with a population of over 1.2 billion, the risk of political instability has been forecasted. This shows that half of the world population is faced with a crisis which requires high costs to encounter or even eliminate. It is a crisis that has been created due to improper management of the resources, which prevailed abundantly in the world in previous decades. Of course, we should bear in mind that this crisis is seen more in the Middle East and North Africa rather than other countries of the world. Because these countries are in tropical areas and management of water resources and wetlands in these regions is not done properly.

Therefore, water can be considered one of the scarcest resources available on Earth and one of the most essential of them. On the other hand, this slight volume of water in the world has not been evenly distributed and some areas such as those in North America have high volumes of water while the Middle East and North Africa do not have adequate water resources for supplying their everyday needs.

Studies conducted by the World Bank show that countries in the Middle East and North Africa are the world countries with the most water scarcity while their population grows every day and for the shortage of financial resources, they cannot take advantage of a great part of water industry technology.

Therefore, water shortage in these countries has resulted in a cut in their agricultural output and has endangered survival of human beings and animals. According to the World Bank, five percent of the world population is residing in these regions while only one percent of the water resources to be restored in the world belong to these countries and this imbalance well shows the situation the Middle East is facing today and what conditions it will experience in future.

According to a report by the United Nations, 12 world countries with most water scarcity are located in the Middle East and the average accessibility to water in the Middle East and North Africa is 1200 cubic meters per person, which is one-sixth of the average access to water in the world.

The average amount of water available to each individual a year ago was equal to seven thousand cubic meters. Meanwhile, some of the countries of this region have allocated the highest per capita consumption to themselves and the scope of their problem broadens every day. It should be noted that the Persian Gulf littoral states are experiencing the largest gap between water supply from restorable resources and demand for water. For example, Bahrain has used 220 percent of its renewable water resources while the amount of consumption in Saudi Arabia is 943 percent and in Kuwait 2465 percent of the renewable resources.

On the other hand, atmospheric changes caused reduction of rainfalls to 20 percent and increased precipitation rate. Meanwhile, wetlands that play an important role in water supply in the countries are rapidly degrading and this high speed of destruction is more observed in tropical countries than in other countries. Of course, absence of protection for wetlands and their unprincipled use has escalated the speed of destruction, which can be controlled contrary to the atmospheric changes.

However, this event is taking place and although the wetlands can be classified as protected areas and their further destruction can be prevented, until their renewed regeneration, a solution should be found for water supply.

Commenting on this problem, the Foreign Policy journal wrote that the Middle East has a big economic advantage and that is richness of this region in oil and natural gas reserves. The Middle East has high oil reserves a great part of which has been discovered and a large part has still to be explored. It seems that politicians in these countries should export oil and with its revenue should purchase the desalination technology or import fresh water into their countries through piping or other methods agreed with their trade partners.

This system can be called ‘oil for water’, which in future is the only way to supply fresh water to the Middle East. It is expected that up to that time, the price of water in the world would grow considerably as its value for the continuation of human survival and the survival of other creatures is not less than oil.


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  January 2017
No. 82