Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen, is in danger of depleting its remaining water supply within the next 15 years, according to an indepedent report commissioned by the Yemeni government.
A preliminary draft of the report was obtained last month by the Science and Development Network, a nonprofit information service.
The report found that poor water mangement and excessive agricultural consumption are to blame for the city’s quickly dwindling fresh water supply.
Yemen is one of the most arid countries on Earth and is almost entirely dependent on groundwater and rainfall for its water supply.
Sana’a is located more than 100 miles inland and at roughly 7,400 feet elevation, and is seen as particularly vulnerable to water shortages in coming years, as its main groundwater source is being rapidly depleted by thousands of illegal wells (New York Times).
The population of Yemen has more than doubled since 1975, putting a strain on the existing drinking water supply. Coupled with the fact that growing khat, a stimulant drug that is very popular with the people of Yemen, requires large amounts of water, experts agree that Sana’a could be the first city in the world to run out of water.
According to the National Agricultural Research Institution, khat consumes around 6,300 cubic metres of water per hectare, whereas wheat consumes 4,300 cubic metres. In Sana’a alone, khat plants consume 60 million cubic metres of water per year — twice the amount consumed by its citizens (SciDev.net).
The United Nations has found that water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.
Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).
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