The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered the most water-scarce region of the world. Disputes over water lead to tension within communities, and unreliable water services are prompting people to migrate in search of better opportunities. Water investments absorb large amounts of public funds, which could often be used more efficiently elsewhere. As the region’s population continues to grow, per capita water availability is set to fall by 50 percent by 2050, and, if climate change affects weather and precipitation patterns as predicted, the MENA region may see more frequent and severe droughts and floods

Map of yearly average precipitation in the MENA region (mm).

The need for alternative and improved water management options is therefore urgently needed, but a clear overview on what the main focus should be is lacking. A broad range of options exists which can be grouped by different approaches such as reducing the demand, increasing the supply, transfer between different sectors, transfer within different sectors, increase storage etc. An important aspect for the MENA region includes desalination.

Map of aridity in the MENA region.

To explore different options the World Bank initiated an initiative to generate an improved understanding of water issues in the region and overview of available options under different scenarios of water supply and demand management with special focus on desalination, taking into account the energy nexus and environmental concerns. As part of this initiative, FutureWater will carry out an assessment of water stress in the MENA region, including associated marginal cost of water supply to meet the water supply need. Conducting consultation workshops and meetings will be organized with relevant parties in the region (governmental, universities, civil society groups).

Green Water Credits can be seen as an investment mechanism for upstream farmers to practice soil and water management activities that generate benefits for downstream water users, which are currently unrecognized and unrewarded. This initiative is driven by economic, environmental and social benefits. The implementation of GWC has the potential of enhancing overall water management by reducing damaging runoff, increase groundwater recharge, stimulate a more reliable flow regime, and reduce harmful sedimentation of reservoirs.

GWC concept website

FutureWater coordinated and carried out the biophysical assessment that quantifies the impact of Green Water Credits practices on the green and blue water and sediment fluxes in the Upper Tana basin in Kenya, The Duhe basin in China and the Sebou basin in Morocco. The analysis leads to identification of potential target areas for GWC pilot operation on biophysical grounds. This required a distributed modeling approach (SWAT) accounting for the heterogeneities in the basin in terms of precipitation regime, topography, soil characteristics and land use. The developed tool quantifies the benefits of the management practices on erosion reduction and green and blue water flows in the basin.

In cooperation with Algerian partners the “La Mina” demonstration basin has been selected. With the SWAT model a biophysical analysis will be carried out, based on local available data and wherever needed in combination with remote sensing data. Several measures will be calculated which will quantify the effect of the measure on a selected set of indicators, such as erosion, green water, runoff, evapotranspiration etc. This will allow decision makers and downstream water users to invest in effective measures to improve water management and increase downstream water availability in a cost effective way.