The water crisis in Yemen [Archives:2004/761/Health]

August 5 2004

Ismail Al-Ghabiri
Water forms a major factor in the operation of socio-economical development, as there will be no possibility of agricultural development or expansion nor the achievement of agricultural and industrial development without the availability of sufficient water. Currently however, it is not possible to provide the necessary reserves of clean water, fit for human consumption, and plentiful enough to meet the increasing needs of socio-economical development during the coming years. Despite the fact that water is an essential condition for life, and the inevitable increase in the need for water, vital for any socio-economical development.

Yemen and the Water
Yemen depends on two main sources to obtain water firstly the rain and secondly underground reservoirs. Yemen has an increasing need for water as a result of the increase in its number of inhabitants, the different socio-economical developments and what the expansion imposes on the volume of planted areas (in need of watering and irrigation) to respond to the food needs of the population.

Yemen is considered as one of the poorest countries in terms of water because of its geographical location, which is situated within the semi-arid countries. The average rain fall ranges between 50 mm annually in the coastal line and less in eastern areas, to 500-800 mm, in the mountainous heights. The total annual rainfall ranges from between 11-12 billion cubic meters to 92 billion cubic meters in a year.
The Western and Southern Western slopes and the higher plateaus possess the biggest proportion of these rains which gradually lessen in the eastern and north eastern directions until the desert weather shows on the Rub-al-Khali where the percentage of rain fall reaches to evaporation quantity approximately 0.03 to 0.25. This percentage distinguishes that weather is changing to dryness.

Underground Water
Underground water reaches to approx. 10 trillion cubic meters; 1 trillion cubic meters out of which in Al Masila basin, 2.5 trillion cubic meters in the Tehamah basin and the rest of the underground reserves are distributed among the rest of the area. The quantity being drawn from the reserve water is 1.5 trillion cubic meters yearly, utilized by 55 bore wells. So, pumping of 3400 million cubic meters is taking place from these waters, of which most goes towards agricultural activity. Thus, 90% of the same being utilized in the agriculture and 8% goes to households, and the rest 2% goes to the industrial sector. This quantity of consumption exceeds the underground feedback by 900 million cubic meters which causes a growing decrease in the underground water level, as the decrease level in some cases reaches between 2-6 meters yearly. This status became worst by the late seventies and early eighties of last Century when the deep well drilling began increasing and the water draining started heavily when farmers found out that there is a quick income from using these waters in agriculture.

Surface Water
The agriculture is a significant water consumer in Yemen as its consumption ratio reaches to 90% of the water. The rain is the main source for irrigating what is equivalent to 53% of the grown areas which
is an estimated 687 thousands hectares whereas farm owners relying on rain waters reach to 795 thousand owners in the different areas of the Republic of Yemen. As well, agriculture is considered as the most heavy consumer of underground water since it irrigates agricultural areas estimated at 384 thousand hectares i.e. reaches up to 30% of the total grown area in Yemen.
The number of the owners of these waters from different sectors and ends goes up to 87 thousand farmer owners.
The water coming from the wadis after seasonal rains as well irrigates an area of agricultural land equivalent to 12% of the total grown area. Further, the water sources in upper wadis irrigates an area estimated at 64 thousand hectares i.e. equivalent to only 5% of the planted areas, and the number of owners of these waters reaches to 81 thousand of farmer owners.

Due to the circumstances, the location, nature, geological formation and natural factors (represented in the limitation of re-fed water which does not exceed 2500 million meters yearly – as a result of Yemen's dry location, or for reasons of the temperature rise that leads to increased evaporation averages, which leads to increased demand for water, or due to the topographic most steep in the heights) – all of which factors have collectively lead to a lowering level of 130 cubic meters for each person in a year, and up to 127 cubic meters in our current year – 2004, which represents one tenth of the water poverty line approved in the world which is limited to 1000 cubic meters yearly.

Inhabitants Challenge
Supposing inhabitants growth in Yemen is only 3%, despite that the real average is 3.7% the highest average of delivery in the world, the number of the inhabitants in the 2025 A.D. shall be 36 million inhabitants approximately. In the light of this increase, the number of town inhabitants will raise to 15 million people and rural inhabitants shall also reach 21 million people. In such circumstances, the coverage for the inhabitants needs of water for house-holds use only, upon the following percentages, will cover 90% of the towns inhabitants by hygienic water, and 70% will be covered by health sanitary services. As for the rural areas, the water coverage will reach to 80% of the inhabitants and the health sanitary services will cover only 30%. Eventually, the future status represents one of the water problem challenges.

Water Challenge
Solving the severe water problems, as the scientific studies show, will be necessary for providing the food needs of growth areas which will increased to double the currently available areas i.e. between 8900 hectares and one million, three hundred thousand hectares which areas shall be determined by rain-falls water. It is necessary to impose more efficiency in irrigation, by using modern devices of irrigation up to 60% on top of what is currently existing that doesn't exceed 37%. Finally, to provide the agricultural water needs and household use as well as to secure the industrial needs and other services, it is necessary to provide approximately 4,628 million cubic meters of water, out of which 359 cubic meters will be for house-holds consumption and 419 cubic meters for industrial use and other non-agricultural services whereas the total re-feeding sources is 2500 million cubic meters i.e. the water insufficiency for 2025 will reach to 2128 million cubic meters.