Understanding the water crisis in Africa and the Middle East: How can science inform policy and practice?

By S. Islam, L. Susskind | March 1, 2015

When it comes to conflicts over the allocation of freshwater supply, who bears the burden, at what cost, and at what scale are important questions. While science can contribute to resolution of certain water allocation disputes, more scientific certainty will not resolve most water allocation controversies. Water stress in Africa and in the Middle East—particularly in the Nile Basin—is likely to lead to a range of conflicts, not because there is not enough scientific information to go around, but for other reasons. Water stress is likely to emerge as an increasingly important concern because population growth, current allocation practices, unchecked demand, and underinvestment in infrastructure are not being appropriately addressed. An effective way to resolve water crisis is to reframe conflicting needs and uses of water as opportunities for joint decision-making about this shared resource. The authors use the Nile Basin to illustrate how such informal problem-solving and decision-making can be initiated.

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