The Middle East is one of the driest regions in the world and has to cope with increasing water deficits. The scarce freshwater resources cannot meet the ever-increasing demand for water; the vital groundwater resources are already heavily overexploited and their quality impaired by salinization. In addition, ongoing political tensions in the region make collaborative water management challenging. In order to avoid an escalation of the regional water crisis, the SALAM consortium, together with partners from Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories, is focusing on transboundary water transfer strategies. The required freshwater can be obtained through seawater desalination both on the Mediterranean Sea and on the Red Sea, from where it would be transferred to regional demand centers. The BMBF-funded SALAM Initiative was instigated by the Georg-August-University of Göttingen and the German enterprise Rusteberg Water Consulting.
In Palestine and Jordan, freshwater resources are almost exhausted. The areas are therefore urgently dependent on imported water to meet their needs. According to forecasts, this demand will continue to rise sharply in the coming years. This means that unless countermeasures are taken, the regional water crisis will expand. Israel, on the other hand, has been investing heavily in the construction of seawater desalination plants for about 20 years in order to secure the national water supply. The plants produce more than 700 million cubic meters of freshwater per year. This supply is complemented by a comprehensive wastewater reuse program. Israel is thus able to mitigate the effects of increasing drought periods.
The SALAM initiative can now for the first time refer to concrete data on the extent of the water crisis in the region. Despite all the efforts of the water authorities to manage the scarce water supply efficiently, the freshwater deficit in Jordan and Palestine is consequent and is projected to increase. The amount of water needed is not available in the region and the deficit must be covered by external water resources or imports. According to the results of the first phase of the SALAM Initiative, the enormous amounts of water required can only be provided by seawater desalination. The solutions developed during the current project to solve the imminent water crisis in the Middle East are based on the conclusions that were drawn during the first phase of the project.