Working Together to Reduce Water Shortages in the Middle East

New MEWAC funding measure supports transboundary water projects

On July 1, seven cooperation projects started their work within the framework of the new "Middle East Regional Water Research Cooperation Program (MEWAC)" supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Coordinated by a German partner, participants from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Syria will be working together over the next three years on innovative solutions to increase water use efficiency in the region and to promote integrated water resource management across national borders.

Countries in the Middle East are among the most severely affected by water stress worldwide, which means that a very high percentage of available water resources are used. The stress is especially high on groundwater resources: supplies are often recharged at low rates and will be largely depleted in a few decades at current rates of withdrawal. The level of competition for water is already high, characterized by an overuse of water resources, worsening living conditions and the loss of ecosystems. In addition, this region is particularly affected by global climate change. The situation is further exacerbated by population and economic growth combined with an often inadequate water and wastewater infrastructure and untapped potential for water reuse. As a result, the region will need substantial investments and innovations in the water sector in the coming years.

The multilateral MEWAC research projects will develop technologies and concepts for desalination, agricultural irrigation and cultivation methods, water reclamation in mining, and for integrated water resources management (IWRM). The results will contribute to implementing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to transboundary exchange in the region.

The cooperation projects are categorized into two modules: Module A with three projects that bring together participants from Germany, Israel and at least one other state in the Middle East. This module is supported by the BMBF and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). In four other projects (Module B), institutions from Germany and at least two other countries in the region are cooperating. Relevant actors from business, government and society are involved from the outset to ensure practical relevance and transferability of research results. The MEWAC funding measure is part of the BMBF strategy "Research for Sustainable Development - FONA".