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Middle East freshwater reserves rapidly depleting : Report

Tigris River
People fish in the polluted Tigris River, next to a sewage pipe, in central Baghdad, Iraq,  July 31, 2008.  (Selcan Hacaoglu/AP)

The Middle East already does not have a lot of freshwater and now it seems, its reserves are depleting.

A new NASA study released on Tuesday says parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost as much as 144 cubic kilometres of its total freshwater stored in the past decade. That, say NASA scientists, is almost the total amount of water in the Dead Sea. Almost 60 per cent of the loss is attributed to pumping of groundwater from reservoirs.

The team calculated that about one-fifth of the water loss resulted from soil drying up and snowpacks shrinking, partly in response to the 2007 drought. Loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for about another fifth of the loss.

But the majority of the water lost was due to reductions in groundwater.

"That is enough water to meet the needs of tens of millions to more than a hundred million people in the region each year, depending on regional water use standards and availability," said Jay
Famiglietti, principle investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine in a statement.

Another scientist compared groundwater to a savings account, to be drawn when needed but if it is not replenished, it will eventually be gone.

Satellite data was used in the study.  

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh



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