Water Problem In Syria: Reasons And Solutions

Water problems have always been an existing issue in Syria, even before the recent war that started back 2011. Water usually is out once or twice every day and people just got used to this routine. For example, in my grandmother’s house, they used to always fill up multiple empty bottles with water before they go to bed because they know that the water will be cut in the morning when they wake up. It’s not only my family that got used to do such a thing, but almost every family in Syria has water bottles ready just in case a water cut happens. This just shows how bad water management is in Syria, where people have to use water bottles for their everyday tasks. A lot of people blame the government for this problem without doing their research and without asking what the real problem is. Water cuts isn’t a new thing, and it doesn’t seem that it’ll go away anytime soon. Water shortage is a major problem in Syria because of wars for water supplies and because of draughts. Solutions for this problem can be by getting help from nearby countries and digging up more wells.

One reason why the water problem exists in Syria is because of wars. Syria has been involved in multiple wars in its history. Most of the wars used water as a weapon against each other by capturing major water sources and taking all the water or draining the water so the enemy doesn’t get any. Therefore, controlling water resources has been an important tool throughout the years in order to obtain economic and political achievements. The earliest example of this is the war between Lagash and Umma, which are both ancient Mesopotamian/Iraqi cities, when the king of Umma drained an irrigation canal leading from the Tigris River, this lead the ruler of Lagash to go into war which he lost at the end. As in Syria, controlling water was a major tool during the war that lasted the past 8 years.

For example, the Euphrates dam, being the biggest dam in Syria (measurements) and one of the three main dams that provide around 70 percent of water and electricity, has been targeted by both sides of the conflict that is still going in Syria. Especially that the location of the dam is 50 kilometers west of Raqqa, which is the self-declared capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This has led to the war of Tabqa, which was between the Kurds & the U.S. forces against ISIS. This war has started as a mission to recapture Raqqa. Due to the dam being the center of the conflict, it has been under the threat of collapsing because of the damage it received from the air strikes and the bombs from both sides. Moreover, as a consequence of this damage, the dam stopped working. This did affect the farmers severely, as a result the residents of the area starting suffering as well due to the lack of food and water which made them rely on non-sterile resources that did cause the rise of a lot of diseases like Typhoid and Salmonella.

Another reason why there is a water problem in Syria is because of draughts throughout the years. Syria has dealt with multiple draughts in the past 20-30 years. “While six major droughts from 1990 to 2005 have impacted Syria, these droughts lasted one or two seasons”. “The drought that began in 2006 was the first to become multi-seasonal lasting into 2011. During this drought, rainfall in most parts of the country fell below eight inches per year, the minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming.”

A lot of farmers in Syria had to migrate to other professions and workstyles after the 2006 draught that damaged the nature of the work they used to have. The draught in 2006 was worse than before, as NASA worked on a new research study that stated that the recent man made global warming did have a more intense impact on recent draughts compared to past ones. One of the reasons Syria is getting drier than other parts of the world is that it lies in a subtropical dry zone areas. This means that the region around Syria can face a drop in the air mass, that causes the air to dry out. The article went on further more into other studies that revolved on the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea to study the previous draughts that occurred in the past 1,000 years. The results were surprising, as the period of 1998 to 2012 was the drier than the previous driest period which was between the years of 1205 to 1219. And although all of the studies were an estimate, but the article concluded that the draught period of 1998 to 2012 is 98% likely to be the driest period in the last 500 years.

One solution that helps to solve the water problems in Syria is by getting help from nearby countries. Most of the countries around Syria are dealing with the same water problems if not worse. For example, there is Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. You would probably assume that Iraq has the worst water management out of those three countries due to its history with wars, but, it’s Jordan. Jordan is in the list of most countries threatened by water shortages due to it lacking natural resources. Iraq and Lebanon are dealing with the same problems as Syria. That’s why countries like those in the Middle East should help each with building a good sustainable water source/supply that all of them benefit from, and then through that water source they branch out with more water sources to help other nearby countries in need.

Another solution that can help solve the problem in Syria is by digging up more wells. An example for this is the Damascus hammam, the hammam is a public bathhouse that has its own water supply that comes from a private well-made specially for the hammam. The elegant Al-Malik al-Zahir hammam dates back to 985 AD but is experiencing unprecedented demand since fighting cut water supplies to the capital, leaving millions facing shortages

Hammams have a long history in the Middle East and Turkey, but in recent years Damascenes have tended to visit them only on special occasions, with just a dozen or so customers visiting Al-Malik al-Zahir each day before the water crisis.

In Syria's rural areas, long-abandoned Roman wells have become more than a relic of a bygone civilization. For communities struggling to cope with the disastrous ongoing conflict, these ancient wells, dug more than 2,000 years ago, have now become a means of survival.

  • 36 ancient Roman wells have so far been rehabilitated to store water for drinking and irrigation.
  • 450 families, approximately 2,250 persons, have benefited from clean and safe water stored in the wells.
  • Each well can store 150 cubic metres of water.
  • It costs US$ 3,000 to rehabilitate one well.

Some people might believe that the best solution to the water problem in Syria is to get help from nearby countries, but in reality this is the least likely solution to happen because of the political tensions.

Annotated Bibliography

  1. Blanche, E. (2017). In Syria, water is a weapon of war. Retrieved from https://www.upi.com/Top_News/Voices/2017/04/03/In-Syria-water-is-a-weapon-of-war/7121491228928/
  2. https://mashable.com/2016/03/02/syria-drought-900-years-civil-war/
09 March 2021
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