The Arabian Peninsula region covering Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, like many other regions of the world, have been experiencing continuous increased water demands. However a debate still remains as to how long the current practices of handling and managing water shortages will be an available option in the next (25-50) years. Water shortages in most Arabian Peninsula countries, from the prospective of renewable water sources, have reached a critical stage as water supply was estimated in 2012 at 36.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) with the demand reaching 35 bcm satisfied from the fossil groundwater. Natural and man-made water scarcities in combination with competing and conflicting water demands, have forced many countries to depend more on desalinated water, and extensive mining of groundwater sources. The domestic water requirement for most of the countries has been met by relaying on desalinated water supported by groundwater sources. While at the same time, agriculture sector has been depending on renewable and non-renewable groundwater sources. During the last three decades, water resources development schemes have primarily focused on the increased provision of supply and enhancement of services for urban/industrial activities and the increases in the food-production industry, which all came at the expense of depletion and pollution of water sources. The demand has been influenced by natural factors such as limited natural water sources availability caused by arid climate and anthropogenic ones like the increased population and high urbanization, low tariff and un-sustained development requirements, all changing the consumer consumption patterns. All in all, domestic supply-demand imbalances have been critical during the last two decades and partially satisfying the deficit by augmenting the supply with desalinated water and mining both shallow and none-renewable groundwater resources.
This paper attempts to address the region's current practices of water management in the context of policy and strategies formulations. Accountability, transparency, coordination, legal framework, dissemination of information, and, public/private sector participation are key components of systematic governance. Their impact on enhancing domestic water demand management was assessed in each country, as well as, the implications of increasing water demand are discussed from a sustainability point of view. All governance issues are interconnected to aspects within the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework.
The overall analysis will briefly address the current water planning and policy formulation in managing limited supplies. It will focus also on assessing the implemented management's measures of water supply and demand, such as the role of desalination and shallow/deep groundwater utilization; water harvesting, uses efficiency, pricing subsidies, public participation, role of NGOs, private sector involvement and the changing roles of water ministries. At the same time, the aspect of good governess practices is elaborated in relation as to how the current coordination and cooperation mechanisms within the water agency, and with other agencies, taking into consideration the overall legal framework. It discusses in particular how the water supply contract being prepared evaluated and awarded within a framework of transparency and accountability. Furthermore, it will also discuss the restrict practice of information dissemination and the role of public participation.
The analysis indicated the most prominent governance issues that hinder the enhanced management of the domestic water demand, are related to weak effort being made on the aspect of coordination within and outside the water sector. The absence of comprehensive legal frameworks that require coordination represents a major constraint. In addition, contract awarding practices have achieved only shortsighted project objectives with increasing dependence on foreign profit-driven firms and limited contribution of national expertise. Furthermore, the lack of free dissemination has limited the contribution of scientific and academic communities in addressing water problems, as central public authorities are reluctant to upload their relevant data on web-sites, or provide free excess to their database to researchers and consulting firms. Weak public/private sector participation has limited projects' public ownership, and public awareness of critical water situation and conservation issues. At the same time, the public rarely is informed on new development which decreases their initiatives. Social corporative responsibility is rather weak, as major consulting and construction companies with profit-motive are very predominant in their objectives.
All in all, the paper delineates the need to reform the water sector through the formulation and implementation of IWRM approaches with emphasis on the impact of good governess practice while considering the natural setting, the environmental and development requirements. The technical, economic and social implication of the current and future increasing domestic-water demand are briefly discussed. Based on the analysis of the water situation in the region, a variety of management measures are suggested in order to gradually balance supply with demand in a sustainable manner, while taking into account the socio-economic and cultural setting of each of the seven countries of the Arabian Peninsula.