The Middle East’s poorest country, Yemen, already spends a third of its families’ income on fresh water, which is predicted to become too expensive to consume by 2017. “Most experts predict Sana’a, the fastest-growing capital in the world at 7% a year, will run out of economically viable water supplies by 2017. That is the same year the World Bank says Yemen will cease earning income from its oil, which currently accounts for three-quarters of the state’s revenues.
The cost of water in some suburbs of Sana’a has tripled in the last year, and armed conflicts over water resources around the city are increasing. Shortages in the summer months leave thousands of families with taps run dry, forcing them to spend a third of their meagre incomes on buying water from trucks. According to Mahmoud Shidiwah, chair of the Yemeni government’s water and environment protection agency, 19 of the country’s 21 main water aquifers are no longer being replenished after a long drought and increasing demand. He says Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, receives under 200 cubic metres a person a year, well below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic metres. The water basin in Taiz, one of Yemen’s largest cities, has already collapsed. Neighbouring Amran is close, as is Saada in the north. The water situation is so serious that the government has considered moving the capital, as well as desalinating seawater on the coast and pumping it 2,000 metres uphill to the capital. A third solution would be to transfer water over the mountains from another basin. Shidiwah says: ‘We have a very big problem. All options have been found to be unacceptable.'”