Snapshots of the Middle East

Written by Kimberly Wakkary, on 12 April 2019

The Middle East is a region that generally experiences a hot and arid climate. While the region depends on several water sources for its population and agriculture, the issue of water scarcity is becoming ever more prevalent due to mismanagement, severe weather changes and an increasing population. Additionally, the massive influx of refugees places much stress on the host countries and with the population so rapidly increasing, the demand for water has only put an even heavier strain on the region’s water resources. "Water scarcity is evident in the Middle East and causing serious problems and unavoidable threats to public health, food security, and economic development. Hence political instability in the region" says Dr. Naser Almanaseer, head of the Civil Engineering Department of the Al-Balqa University of Applied Sciences. The issue of water scarcity and water related problems in the Middle East is a key theme within DUPC2, which is reflected through the eight projects under DUPC2 that focus solely on this theme. Read below some snapshots of DUCP2’s water scarcity in the Middle East projects.

Connecting experts to tackle water scarcity in MENA (CONNECT)

CONNECT is a project aiming to connect regional experts from the Middle East and Nile Basin countries to exchange knowledge on water scarcity issues, and have them contribute to solving the issue. The project engages refugees in the Netherlands with water related backgrounds and organises workshops on GIS, Remote Sensing, Decision Support Systems and Water Diplomacy. Additionally, CONNECT seeks to bring together IHE Delft’s project partners from the SCARCE, WIN and Microwave project with the hopes to increase the number of water experts from the MENA region who are connected with each other in order to develop measures and strategies to alleviate water scarcity.

The project is executed by IHE Delft in cooperation with UAF (a refugee NGO), NBCBN, HRI (partner of NBCBN), Nile Basin Initiative, ICPAC (regional drought centre for the Horn of Africa and UNDP Istanbul. 

The project organized a debate session during Arab Water Week 2019 on solving water scarcity ideas in the Middle East during which stakeholders from the region shared their ideas and research findings. Attendees worked together to hypothesize on the scalability, transferability, and integration for projects and programmes of water scarcity the in the MENA region.

For more information about the project click here.

Decentralised wastewater treatment and reuse for local sustainable solutions, contributing to conflict resolution (KidronNar)

Farmers around the Kidron or Al-Nar stream have left their lands as increased disease from the polluted streams affect the area. The untreated wastewater of 300,000 people from various communities is discharged into the stream, which flows from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The polluted stream is a hazard to the surrounding communities, and forms an environmental threat to the area. 

The KidronNar project led by IHE Delft, in close cooperation with local universities, EcoPeace Middle East and Engineers without Borders, investigates and demonstrates the feasibility of a decentralised approach to treatment and the reuse of wastewater in the KidronNar basin. Academics together with local authorities and grass root organisations from both sides of the conflict are developing practical and innovative wastewater management schemes, which hopefully brings trust and good people-to-people relations from both sides. 

For more information about the project click here.

Improving living conditions in Palestinian refugee camps (WASAR)

“Water and sanitation solutions to the refugees: two cases from Jordan and Palestine”, known also as WASAR, is a South – South project led by Birzeit University in Palestine in cooperation with Al-Balqa Applied University in Jordan and IHE Delft.

The project aims to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in the Jerash Refugee Camp in Jordan and the Al-Jalazoun Refugee Camp in Palestine. The living conditions in such refugee camps are harsh, and the camps have high population density. Additionally, refugee camps have inferior water supply and sanitation services – which constitute a huge threat to public health and the environment. WASAR’s results will be translated into guidelines for governments, NGO’s, and aid agencies in adopting low cost and integrated solutions for water supply and wastewater treatment in refugee camps.

For more information about the project click here.

Tapping into alternative water sources (SCARCE)

Like many countries in the Middle East, Jordan is suffering from water scarcity. The massive influx of refugees and climate change have all contributed to this unfortunate, yet potentially dangerous situation. To address this increasingly dangerous issue, Jordan is tapping into alternative water sources, such as sea water, brackish groundwater and maximising wastewater reuse in agriculture. 

Desalinisation, Diplomacy and Water Reuse in the Middle East (SCARCE) is a project conducted in Jordan and addresses the country’s desire of using water resources other than freshwater resources. The project focusses on capacity building by providing training courses on these challenges at two universities: Al-Balqa’ Applied University (BAU) and the University of Jordan/Aqaba campus (UOJ). Additionally, these training courses will also be provided for the Water Authority. 

The project is conducted in cooperation with the Jordan Water Authority, Al-Balqa’ Applied University and the University of Jordan. 

For more information about the project click here.

Shifting gears to enhance the university system (ENHANCE Birzeit)

Historically speaking, the Palestinian university system is geared specifically towards producing graduates for governmental jobs. At the moment, there is a shift towards producing graduates who are prepared for jobs in other sectors. Palestinian universities thus need to strengthen its emphasis on enhancing research and scientific skills and tools, improve applications in the field, increase extra-curricular activities, increase the use of information technology by Masters’ students and enhance the content and homogeneity of their programmes.

The project ‘enhancing the structure, content, and outreach of the Water and Environment Masters’ Programmes at Birzeit University’, also known as ENHANCE, focussed on exactly what the title implies: enhancing Birzeit University’s Water and Environment programme current curricula. ENHANCE is led by the Institute of Environmental and Water Studies of Birzeit University, in cooperation with IHE Delft. The project completed last year. The Water and Environment Master programs curricula have been structured, courses content and teaching methods modernised and a new outreach approach is developed and applied. Fifteen new students have registered for the academic year 2018/2019.

For more information about the project click here.

Microwave Faecal Sludge Treatment

Another project conducted in Jordan is the Microwave Faecal Sludge Treatment project, which addresses the issues of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, specifically in light of the current refugee crisis. Rapid accumulation of large amounts of faecal sludge is a direct consequence of the heavy usage of onsite sanitation facilities in refugee camps. Faecal sludge contains many pathogens, and is therefore a hazard to public health if not decontaminated well enough.

IHE Delft is currently working on a microwave based treatment for faecal sludge, which can be used in combination with a reliable and durable portable desludging system developed by the Netherlands Red Cross.

If you would like to know how the Microwave Faecal Sludge Treatment works, click below to see the videos.

  • This video explains how the treatment process works and which are the first steps taken to make it work. Click here for the video.
  • This video shows the work and operation of the microwave system. Click here fore the video.

For more information about the project click here.

Finding affordable means to purify contaminated groundwater (GWDEMO)

While around two billion people in the world depend on groundwater as an essential source that provides drinking water, natural impurities and human caused pollution form a serious threat to safe drinking water supply worldwide. Groundwater purification technologies are expensive, thus the safe drinking water supply from contaminated groundwater is not always affordable to countries in transition.

‘Practical experiences with treatment of arsenic and iron contaminated groundwater GWDEMO’, also known as GWDEMO is a project led by IHE Delft in partnership with the Water Authority of Jordan, Birzeit University, Water Supply & Sewerage PUC Subotica (local government) and Foundation Water is Our World (NGO). The project aims to develop four case studies on groundwater purification techniques that can be incorporated in IHE Delft’s existing MSc programme in Urban Water and Sanitation, and the module/short course in Groundwater Resources and Treatment. Additionally, these case studies will be developed to showcase the successful application of purification technologies on a full drinking water production scale. The case studies are on absorptive iron a manganese removal at the WTP Baqa in Jordan, full scale arsenic removal plant based on the IHE ADART technology in Jaber, Jordan, and full scale arsenic ammonia and iron removal plant in the village of B. Vinogradi in Serbia. Three of the case studies will focus on developing a technology on drinking water production scale and the fourth case study will be developed on groundwater quality assessment based on the results from Hydras I and II (DUPC1 projects).

For more information about the project click here.

Water intelligence for improved water management in Lebanon (WIN)

The Litani River in Lebanon is located in the fertile Bekaa Valley, a major agricultural area in the Litani River basin. The Bekaa Valley also hosts many refugee camps and unfortunately, farmers along the Litani are withdrawing more water than the river can supply and farmers and refugees are competing for water.

The project Water Intelligence in the Near East (WIN) addressed the issues surrounding water governance, climate change and water problems relating to the refugee crisis. The project has demonstrated how information on the country’s water supply can be comprehended and used more effectively by governing agencies to explore and implement effective approaches of water management. Additionally, it has encouraged policy makes closely involved to cooperate with responsible departments to develop an analysis on the current drawbacks and how the situation can improve. The project finished in April 2018 and was conducted by IHE Delft in cooperation with the Litani River Authority, the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, the National Council for Scientific Research and the FAO. Experiences and results from this project are being used for the design of the the follow up activities in Lebanon, see section ‘Upcoming’.

For more information about the project click here or click here to read the story "Water Intelligence for a  more sustainable use of crucial resource".

Capacity Development activities in Iraq

Water scarcity is an issue faced by many countries and for Iraq, this is not different. There has been a request from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Embassy in Iraq about possibilities to address water challenges through the programmatic cooperation between DGIS and IHE Delft (DUPC2).

One of the ways in which this is going to be done is through a capacity building programme that will support the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources to understand water scarcity and approaches addressing water management, tools and cooperation regarding water scarcity. These activities will also be undertaken under the MoU between IHE Delft and the Ministry of Water Resources.

Climate change student competition

The climate change student competition aims to encourage interdisciplinary research on climate change adaptation and water scarcity solutions, and to transform it into a policy brief. In addition, it helps students to become more involved in policy making and to provide information to policy makers to help them understand and visualize which sector is going to be the most impacted by climate change in the long run. The first competition was about climate change and land degradation, whilst the second, and latest, focused on the climate change adaptation and water scarcity in the Levant River.

The competition was iniated by the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, and Banque Libano-Francaise (BLF) in partnership with IHE Delft, Wageningen University and Research, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The competition was open to students from universities from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, as well as IHE Delft and WUR. The latest competition granted a prize to six students.

Read full story here.


Four new projects in the MENA region led by partners from the global South

Eight new projects have been selected under the recent call for ‘Research for development proposals led by institutes from the global South’ (read more here). Four of these eight projects are targeting the MENA region. A small description of those four projects can be found below.

  • The project “Integrating time series ET mapping into an operational irrigation management framework (ITSET)” is led by the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The aim of the project is to create savings in water, energy, and enhance food production and livelihoods of farmers in the MENA region, which can also be applied at a global level. This will be done by providing a daily map on water use, vegetation indices and yield and water productivity on agricultural landscape. The expected outcome of this project is to provide field-scale water use for the public, guide farmers to improve irrigation at the field level, provide a tool for managing water deliveries and allocations at the district level, develop a smart-phone application available to the public for accessing the generated ET (evapotranspiration) data and widely disseminate the application via conducting training for stakeholders.
  • The project “Water-intensive agricultural growth in North-Africa: changing gendered farm identities and practices” is led by TARGA Aide in Rabat, Morocco. The aim of this project is to create global action-research collaborations to generate new inspirations for thinking about and dealing with interconnections and interdependencies between humans and groundwater. This will be done by expanding the empirical documentation and analysis of ground water practices, and by establishing south-south sustainable rural transformation networks and collaborations in the field of groundwater, as well as to shed light on the social and ecological impacts of water based agricultural growth models. The expected outcome is to produce a palette of stories of change, by documenting how rural actors creatively re-negotiate the rules of the game for their own purpose and reinvent farming identities and practices in the process.
  • The project “Tracing soil amendment impacts of processed wastewater sludge on the rehabilitation of Jordan’s agro-pastoral areas (TRACE Rehab)” is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Amman, Jordan. This project aims to combat the ongoing degradation and desertification of Jordan’s dry rangelands (the Badia), and to re-vitalize these depleted agro-pastures essential to the rural population depending on a livestock-based agricultural system. This is to be achieved through working towards an evidence-based framework on restoration approaches aligned with the national strategy and regulations of Jordan. In the long term, the project will contribute to securing community livelihoods and the Bedouin tribal heritage of the country.
  • The project “Assessment of wastewater treatment technologies and promotion of smart irrigation systems in the MENA Region using an eco-friendly gum (MENARA)” is led by Birzeit Universtiy, Palestine. It deals with the reuse of treated wastewater (TW) for irrigation of selective crops. The project will investigate plant species characterized by the prevailing local conditions (different vulnerability to chemical and microbiological contamination). The project envisage to study in-depth the application potential of hydroretents gum (hydrogel absorbent) to reduce the irrigation water demands and improving the soil quality. It will also do an economic study on the farmers’ ability to pay for irrigation by treated wastewater. The project aims to provide the knowledge and best practices to support and develop large-and small-scale farmers led irrigation systems with hydrogel at affordable prices, while being locally accessible and environmentally friendly.


This story was written in collaboration with Deborah Lemos Correa.


Connect with us

Never miss a thing!