The Republic of Yemen is a developing country in the Middle East with a population of 27.5 million (BBC, 2017). An article written by A. Noaman and A. W. Al-Sharjabe states that the problematic issue of water supply is due to significant shortages in resources (A. Noaman & A. W. Al-Sharjabe, 2015). The main city that will be discussed in the report is Sanaa, the capital. The purpose of this report is to discuss the depletion of accessible water reserves in Yemen and propose viable solutions to resolve the problem. The water provision methods that will be studied are water re-use and brackish water treatment. The requirements that will be considered are cost and the effects the two methods have on agriculture as it is a significant part of Yemen’s economy and job opportunities.
- Background Information
According to the IMF, Yemen is estimated to have a GDP of 37.3 billion US dollars in 2017. The GDP value of Yemen represents 0.04 % of the world’s economy, with inflation reaching 18% (Global Finance Magazine, 2017). Malnutrition has heightened by 57 % since 2015 and affects up to 3.3 million people. Although Yemen exports oil, the levels of poverty increase (The World Bank, 2017.) Yemen is dry and hot with low annual rainfall and very high temperatures in summer (Weatheronline.co.uk, 2017.) It’s the second-largest country in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 km². (Breisinger, C. et al., 2010.) Sanaa could be the world’s first capital city to “run out of water” as groundwater reserves dry up. (Cruickshank 2017.)
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Sanitation is another drawback. The sewage network is inadequate and carelessly maintained; and covers only 44% of the population. Numerous areas do not have sewers thus, raw sewage is disposed of directly into valleys. This causes a health hazard and threatens to contaminate groundwater resources. There are only two effective approaches to decrease the water shortage: by increasing water supply or decreasing the water demand. (A. Noaman & A. W. Al-Sharjabe, 2015.)
Figure 1: Drainage basins and watersheds of Yemen
(Al-Sabri and K. Halim, 2017.)
Figure 2: Shows the water demand increase for agriculture in Yemen
(Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006.)
- Options to solve water scarcity
a. Brackish water treatment
Brackish water is higher in salinity than fresh water (Bbc.co.uk, 2017). Brackish water appears naturally in both surface and groundwater. There are many locations for brackish water in Yemen. Some locations naturally obtain brackish water, whereas others due to over-pumping of groundwater and rigorous use of irrigation water which led to increasing salinity. Brackish water is used for to irrigate plants in coastal plains. Water stress can occur due to excess salinity in water. A wide-ranging water management system needs to be implemented to ensure that the quality of available water is put to best use. Due to water scarcity problems, there is a need to use brackish water in agriculture and water supply purposes. (Al-Sabri and K. Halim, 2017.)
Figure 3: Site map of proposed brackish water wells
(Al-Sabri and K. Halim, 2017.)
b. Water re-use
Wastewater treatment is a particularly effective, low cost and low maintenance procedure (Ec.europa.eu, 2017). Promoting water reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation could ease the crisis. Wastewater can now be considered as an innovative and alternative water source which can be used for irrigation in the agricultural trade. (Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006.)
Table 1: Key characteristic of raw sewage based on samples in 2001
(Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006.)
- Comparison of options
High salinity of groundwater in the seaside basin has significant economic impacts including: the change in harvesting patterns in the coastal areas includes the shift from cultivation of fruits to cultivation of field crops and limited types of vegetables. This has led to lowering the farmer’s income because the average income return of fruits is higher (Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006.) Therefore, the use of brackish water is accompanied by low crop productivity and low-income level. These costs increase because of higher fuel prices leading to negative economic impacts on people, national income and gross domestic product. To avoid increases in costs when using brackish water, it is necessary to have a sound water management system to ensure that the quality of available water is put to effective use (Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006). The cost of desalination of brackish water is lower than the cost of desalination of seawater which needs additional transportation costs. Nevertheless, water reuse progresses the environment as it uses less pressure and energy. Furthermore, it requires lower investment and energy than another method would. (Ec.europa.eu, 2017.)
The use of brackish water in cultivation in Yemen has aggravated the problem of seawater disturbance in the agricultural regions along the shoreline. The salinity in the soil has amplified which has led to a decrease in the fertility and efficiency of soil and growth of crops. In agricultural areas, there is a major deterioration in the value of farming lands where salinity is high due to the shortage of filtered water. There is a lack of research on the use of brackish water requirements and recommendations that suit crops most which could affect farmers (Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006).
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Whereas, with water-reuse a growing intake of water results in more wastewater being produced, and greater problems of waste disposal. With the increasing pressure in promoting environmental issues, the reuse of wastewater will not only alleviate the problem of water scarcity, but also help solve the problem of wastewater disposal. (Ec.europa.eu, 2017.)
- Conclusions and recommendations
Brackish water has become an important resource that could be used for agricultural and domestic purposes. The reports by NWRA clearly present that the increase of groundwater salinity affects farmers. Thus, Yemen’s government should launch brackish water research centers to identify how to leach the crops and at what water requirements. Additionally, brackish water with high or low salinity could be purified and used for domestic purposes. Brackish water would be more suitable than wastewater in terms of agricultural purposes as farmers use wastewater without any attention to its standards (Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006). The cost of desalinating brackish water is lower than the cost of desalinating seawater, which is why it is recommended as Yemen has a low economy (Ec.europa.eu, 2017.). Another recommendation would be that studies collected on water requirements for the crops must be provided to the farmers as they will then irrigate crops in a healthy manner. (Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006). Water scarcity is an urgently deteriorating issue in Yemen and must be resolved directly.
- Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006. Agriculture and Water Resources Crisis in Yemen: Need for Sustainable Agriculture. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 28(3), pp.55–75.
- Almas, A.A.M. & Scholz, M., 2006. Potential for wastewater reuse in irrigation: case study from Aden (Yemen). International Journal of Environmental Studies, 63(2), pp.131–142.
- A . Noaman & A. W. Al-Sharjabe, 2015. Efficient management of municipal water: water scarcity in Taiz City, Yemen – issues and options. Proceedings of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, 366, p.186.
- Al-Sabri, A. and K. Halim, D. (2017). Status and New Developments on the Use of Brackish Water for Agricultural Production in the Near East. Yemen Country Report. [online] Cairo, Egypt: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Office for the Near East (RNE), pp.1-34. Available at: http://www.yemenwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Yemen-Country-Report_Brackish-Water-Use.pdf [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].
- Bbc.co.uk. (2017). BBC Nature – Brackish water videos, news and facts. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/habitats/Brackish [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].
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- Breisinger, C. et al., 2010. Impacts of the triple global crisis on growth and poverty in Yemen. IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc, pp.IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc, 2010.
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- Cruickshakn, M. (2017). Yemen is on the verge of running out of water. [online] Thinkprogress.org. Available at: https://thinkprogress.org/yemen-humanitarian-crisis-water-54a9c0b52831/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].
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