Current hydric situation in the Mediterranean and the Middle East

For many years now, the Mediterranean has been facing problems leading to a situation of serious environmental degradation.

An increase in the temperature and salinity levels has been recorded during the second half of the 20th century in the Mediterranean Sea. However, this increase does not follow progressive trend and periods of temperature alternation have been observed.

Following several climate change scientific reports, sea level trend at the global scale is higher than at the regional scales. Furthermore, in the regional scale there are other influence factors such the atmospheric pressure and the wind.

In addition, the small rises in temperature registered in the Mediterranean Sea, would have been compensated with an increase in the salinity, even though this fact is uncertain owing a lack of historical data.

Nevertheless, we can establish a prediction for the future: “The increase in the water stress in the Mediterranean basin (due to a higher evaporation rates and a decrease in rainfalls and water courses levels) will cause the raise of salinity would made up for the raise in temperature”*.

Drought in the Mediterranean and Middle East, resulting from lack of rainfall, reduces run-off, thus also affecting, among other things, power generation. In combination with high rates of evaporation and lack of moisture, it alters soil properties making the soil less productive, thus holding back agricultural development, the backbone for the economy of the Mediterranean basin countries.

The main cause of the water stress suffered by the Mediterranean and Middle East is the increasing use of natural resources by the rising population and the higher demand for water per capita. This is not only because customs are being adopted that do not allow for balanced water use but also, and especially, because economic and industrial development in the region has turned its back on any type of sustainable management of resources and conservation of the natural environment. Industrialisation is not only responsible for the shortage of water but also for the high levels of pollution in the Mediterranean sea which are destroying natural habitats.

Over the last century, water has become a much-valued resource leading to disputes between different peoples, causing internal and even international conflicts.

Proper water management is therefore necessary, especially because water is a limited resource in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Before this is possible, it is necessary to create a greater awareness amongst society. Industries must become more respectful of the environment, national policies must be adopted to promote such industries and sustainable, equitable water management must be set up. The countries in the region must continue working together on research to resolve the problems of the Mediterranean. Fair, common policies must be adopted, preventing further international conflicts.

Med-O-Med has adopted a firm commitment to water use, not only because of its symbolic importance in Islam, but also because Islamic civilisation was behind a real revolution in water use. The example it set survives today in certain institutions, one such being the Valencia Water Tribunal in Spain which continues to function effectively today as it did in the past.

Med-O-Med sees water management as one of the main challenges for the Mediterranean and Middle East region.

* Spanish Climate: Past, Present and future. Regional climate change report. CLIVAR network. Fiz F. Pérez & Roberta Boscolo. January 2010.

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