Existing water resources in the Middle East are inadequate to meet each country's current internal agricultural, domestic and other usage, let alone to meet the needs of new transboundary water agreements or the minimum water needs of nature.
The political, economic and physical security risks that could result from the potential water shortages, due to projected climate changes, are of such a magnitude that preventive actions must be taken now to protect the security of the region.
Countries that have water-sharing agreements and/or broader 'peace' agreements in place might find it easier to cooperate towards sustainable solutions provided there is the political will to do so. Where no or only interim agreements exist, it is important to finalize such arrangements now because, with anticipated climate changes, water-sharing arrangements will only become politically more difficult to achieve. Third parties will need to facilitate bilateral and regional long-term solutions.
Other factors, such as each country's level of institutional, economic and infrastructure development, will determine the extent to which it is affected by climate and its ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Aid agencies therefore should tailor assistance programmes to recipient Middle East countries with climate change policy objectives in mind.
Countries will have to act domestically, with near-term and long-term planning that consists of mostly demand-side but also some supply-side water and energy management policies.
Demand management policies should be the first option to be adopted by Middle East countries. Less freshwater for agriculture, an expanded use of recycled wastewater, and alternative income support mechanisms for rural communities should become the norm. Along these lines, more domestic water conservation is critical. To help achieve this goal, measures such as government incentives for water conserving policies and technologies (e.g. waterless toilets and rainwater harvesting) are essential.
Supply-side options, such as sea water desalination, which are presently promoted throughout the region, are energy intensive, contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions that further exacerbate climate change. Desalination technology is also not equally affordable to the different countries in the region. Although the region is blessed with sunshine, it lags behind in investments in solar power. Desalination based on solar energy could be the basis for more sustainable supply-side water management options. Cross-border cooperation for sustainable solutions that involve water conservation technology transfer and joint development of large solar fields, for example, will not only help water security, but advance political security, as well.
Without combined national, regional and international commitments to deal with the climate crisis, climate change will become the new and real threat to Middle East security with spill-over security implications for the rest of the world.
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.