Water scarcity is one of the biggest global challenges and poses an even greater threat to the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), the world’s most water-scarce region.
Although water shortages are not a new phenomenon, failure to address this issue immediately will put economic growth at risk, increase vulnerabilities, and even compound social and political fragility.
In the long term, it may result in restricted supply and increases in tariffs, jeopardising the delivery of reliable and affordable water services.
Climate change, while not the sole cause of water scarcity, has a significant impact. These challenges are compounded by soaring water demand and weak water governance.
Other challenges include the deteriorating quality of water services, increasing population and urbanisation, rising agricultural demand and depleting groundwater resources.
If current trends do not drastically change, the world will only have 60 per cent of its necessary water supply by 2030
If the current trends continue, water demand is set to rise in the GCC by about 62 per cent by 2025. To counter the growing demand, investments are being made to increase capacity, conserve water resources and manage consumption.
UN-Water warns that the region has not made much progress on clean water and sanitation goals – under Sustainable Development Goal SDG 6 – and is not on track to achieve water security as set out in the UN’s Vision 2030.
The increasing complexity of the water sector’s challenges necessitates a paradigm shift beyond traditional water and sewerage infrastructure.
In the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in the uptake of digital technologies and their integration into water services. Industry stakeholders are increasingly adopting technologies such as large-scale reverse osmosis (RO) desalination, smart grids and metering to increase existing supply and production capacity.
To build a resilient and sustainable water future and drive data-driven efficiencies, it is imperative that the Mena region fully embraces large-scale digitalisation.
Despite several initiatives by both public and private sectors, progress across the region remains uneven and immediate action is required.
If current trends do not drastically change, the world will only have 60 per cent of its necessary water supply by 2030.
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