"The renewable surface and ground water resources of Syria are estimated at 10,000 million cubic meters annually.
The country requires approximately 400 million cubic meters annually in order to sustain itself. Agriculture consumes between 86-90 percent of the water resources of the country. This figure may decline slightly as a result of agricultural policy changes and improvements in irrigation techniques, but agriculture is expected to remain the major consumer of water resources due to the Government’s commitment to self-sufficiency in major food crops such as grains, which require irrigation. Based on current rates of depletion, it is estimated that Syria may soon experience water deficits in three of its major river basins. This problem will be exacerbated if the country experiences particularly dry or successively dry growing seasons. Syria’s National Environmental Action Plan cites depletion and contamination of surface and groundwater resources as the country’s first priority in terms of sustainable resource management.
The impact of such depletion is already being felt in many areas of the country.
Declining groundwater levels have resulted in land going out of agricultural production,wells being relocated and rural residents migrating to more distant locations. Freshwater springs, used for drinking water in many rural communities, have decreased output or have dried up in some cases. Depleted groundwater aquifers have led to increasing salinity levels in some areas. Declining river levels and water flow has resulted in poor water quality. These effects have resulted in higher water treatment costs, lost agricultural production, and increased health risks to individuals.
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The National Action Plan sets out five high priority environmental problems, and proposes four major actions with accompanying measures for each priority in the areas of policy development, institutional development, investment programs and training and information. In the areas of “Sustainable Use of Water Resources,” these actions include:
• Matching development planning to availability of water resources;
• Stopping the over-exploitation of water resources, maintaining sustainable use levels
and stopping the intrusion of saline water into coastal aquifers;
• Providing rural areas with potable water;
• Reducing the contamination of water resources due to domestic and industrial wastewater discharges."
Source: UN Common Country Assessment 2005
An anonymous commentator on an earlier post provided a vivid description of the water problem and pollution in Damsacus, as follows:
"The water resource and cultivated land is abundant in north and north east of the country. However, the poverty in that region is overwhelming because of neglect. Also, the coast area could generate a lot of resources which started showing in small and mid size project, I have heard about from locals.
The shortage of water resources and the retreat of cultivated land I alluded to are in Damascus city and Damascus suburb. This area inhibited with the ¼ of the population in addition to being the place for central government.
Syria in general is suffering today from deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes and the inadequate potable water supply. Especially in Damascus and the surrounding, which is over populated, the inadequate use resources made it reach the breaking point. Visiting observer can see how the whole area which makes the portable water basin in Blodan, Zabadani and Barada stretch are polluted by sewer lines, over population and un controlled wells pumping.
The centric governing in Syria still concentrate on Damascus region where most of its housing projects planned without any indication of easing the grip for some self governing for other areas to ease the pressure on this region. Currently the municipality in this region can not provide adequate portable water for its current populace. The rapidly growing population estimated at 2.5% and the arrival of Iraqi refugees, and the accelerated migration of poor from rural area to large urban centers have created a serious problem of slums. The fragmented authoritarian regime expedites slums formation. These slums are similar to caves and worse where even water is not provided. The statistic shows a 36% violation in Damascus for building code. An estimated 1.2 million units of substandard houses is constructed in Damascus. Not to mention the air pollution, which is obvious if you visited the city, the water shortage, and water pollution from sewer all created environmental problems which has exacerbated by a serious nepotism and mismanagement."
A Syrian blogger, Aleppous, quoted the following article on desertification in Syria:
(AKI) - Rising heat, dwindling rainfall and soil erosion threaten to reduce some 65 percent of Syria's territory into a desert wasteland, a Damascus-expert has said, contradicting official reports that desertification threatens 18 percent of the country. "The temperature increase, together with erosion are killing plant-life and causing fertile topsoil to disappear, as is the squandering of water resources and inadequate irrigation practices," the expert, speaking on condition of anonimity, told Adnkronos International (AKI).
According to the expert, rising salt levels are threatening the fertility of 50 percent of land lying along the banks of the River Euphrates with some 6,000 hectares of land a year becoming not suitable for agricultural production due to illegal irrigation.
The authorities are failing to modernise the irrigation systems that would help curb the desertification process, she said.
Encroaching desert due to drought is one of the main challenges facing Syria, admits Muhammad al-Oudat, a senior environmental researcher with Syria's national nuclear energy entity.
"Deforestation, the illegal construction of roads in rural and suburban areas as well as uncontrolled grazing as well rising temperatures," are the main causes for desertification, al-Oudat told AKI.
The government is working with the United Nations Development Programme to develop projects aimed at safeguarding the environment and to offset the desertification threat, he said.