Water crisis looms over India, Morocco, Spain, Iraq as reservoirs shrink



Shrinking reservoirs in four countries – India, Morocco, Spain and Iraq – might lead to a Cape Town-like “day zero” water crisis, according to a satellite warning system.

After three years of drought, Cape Town had launched a countdown for the day when water supply would completely stop. The “day zero" was also an attempt to enforce the judicious use of depleting potable water among millions of residents.

The World Resource Institute’s (WRI) satellite-based early warning system launched on Wednesday released data about the four major reservoirs along with political, social and environmental dynamics surrounding the four nations and warned that they face a day zero-like situation.

WRI maintained that reservoir levels could fall for a number of reasons, including drought, water mismanagement and upstream land use. “This lack of water can create ripple effects throughout society – from rising food prices to unemployment to political insecurity,” it said.

Morocco is facing the worst water crisis

Morocco’s is likely to face the worst crisis with its second largest reservoir – the Al Massira dam surface area – shrinking by more than 60 percent over the last three years. From 2005 to 2008, the dam dried up to the present level affecting more than 70,000 people, while food grain production fell by 50 percent.

The reservoir which supplies water to the agricultural sector in the Doukkala area is also a lifeline for cities like Casablanca. Experts say the reservoir’s level is decreasing annually but the demand for water keeps increasing.

Keeping in view the fast pace of urbanization and expansion of the agriculture sector, Marrakesh plans to tap into Al Massira’s water through a massive water transfer project financed by the African Development Bank.

World Bank data reveals a whopping 33 percent of Morocco’s labor force is employed in the agriculture sector. Even more alarming for the sector, the country’s law gives priority to domestic and industrial water use over farming. In such a situation, the “water crisis could severely threaten the agricultural sector’s access to water, disrupting rural incomes and livelihoods,” WRI warned.

Graph shows depleting water level in Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat. /WRI Infographics

**Politics over water in India **

Last year’s weak monsoon lowered the Indira Sagar dam's peak reservoir level 33 percent lower than average. The Narmada River fills up this reservoir in Madhya Pradesh (MP), and an allocated quota of water is released to maintain the Sardar Sarovar reservoir water level located in the neighboring state, Gujarat.

Reports claim there is political pressure on MP’s Chief Minister not to release more water, as that could adversely impact the livelihoods of water users, which is a sensitive political issue before assembly elections set for year-end.

“As of March 15, 2018, the government of Gujarat has stopped supplying water for irrigation; the state minister has appealed to farmers not to sow summer crops. The low water level has also curtailed Sardar Sarovar’s ability to generate electricity,” the report said.

**The situation with Turkey, Iraq, Spain **

Turkey’s Southeast Anatolia Project with 22 dams and 19 hydropower plants, desertification, poor management, and drought have reduced the Mosul dam water surface area in Iraq by 60 percent.

WRI researchers pointed out country’s water stress, an indicator of competition for water among users, is set to increase due to growing populations and climate change. “It’s likely that struggles surrounding water shortages will continue in this arid nation.”

Timeline reveals a steep decline in Spain's Buendia dam. /WRI Infographics

Iraq is reeling under prolonged conflict weakening its institutions. There has been more than 6,000 conflict and protest events In Iraq from 2017-present, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Spain extreme drought has dried up Buendia Dam water surface area by nearly 58 percent in the last five years. The country’s largest power company, Iberdrola, experienced a 58 percent drop in hydroelectric power production due to the lack of water last year.

Experts warn that droughts will likely become more frequent and severe in this region, and water stress is projected to increase in many parts of Spain by 2040.