Water Diary

April 14, 2024 | | Leave a Comment

My personal water use is 1,533 gallons per day, equivalent to about 5,803 liters. This is about 300 gallons less than the US average, at 1,802 gallons per day. My weekly use amounts to 10,731 gallons, and my annual use to 558,012 gallons. Per capita daily use in my area of the Middle East is 4,500 liters in Turkey, 5,100 liters in Iran, and 5,800 liters in Syria. No data was available for Iraq. The average daily use for the 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa where data was available is 5,233 liters.  The United States gets 80% of its water from internal sources, with only 20% water gained elsewhere. These numbers are quite variable in the Middle East. In this region, the numbers are similar to the United States, with 79% for Turkey, 82% for Iran, and 84% for Syria.

If a country depends on water from freshwater imports or from “virtual water”, i.e. imports that used water to make the final product, then that will affect how the country interacts with other countries. These three countries depend on fewer imports of water to sustain their population. However, the countries are still very water stressed, as caused by urbanization, climate change, and poor infrastructure in some places. The poor infrastructure used to desalinate water and provide it to people has hindered development. Water problems have also led to political tensions. Turkey and Syria in particular have had conflict over access to water in the Euphrates River. Turkey has placed dams on the Euphrates to gather further resources that also limit the flow of the river into Syria. The river is essential to Syrian agriculture and development, leading to tensions. Syria accuses Turkey of pressuring Syria through control of the dams, while Turkey insists on its fair use of the dams through international agreements. Turkey’s use of the dams for political pressure is clear, however, especially to resolve the issue of Syria’s support for the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). In exchange for discontinued support of the PKK, Turkey would release 500 cubic meters per second of water downstream. Syria exiled the leader of the PKK, improving relations with Turkey.

Iraq is another downstream country that receives water from the Euphrates River. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Turkey cut off flow from the river. Turkey has debated in the UN over what constitutes fair share of the river’s resources. Politicians in the late 1990s began to cooperate with water policies. Turkey in particular began a policy of having zero problems with their neighboring countries. The three countries also came together in the Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation (ETIC) that aimed to promote collaboration among the countries regarding water use and innovation. Turkey has signed the Memorandums of Understanding regarding water management with both Iraq and Syria, though the latter two’s governments eventually rejected the memorandums due to general mistrust of Turkey. The countries do not have a system in place to monitor data related to the use of water, which would highly benefit all involved.



“Turkey, Syria and Iraq: Conflict over the Euphrates-Tigris.” Climate Diplomacy. Accessed April 1, 2024. https://climate-diplomacy.org/case-studies/turkey-syria-and-iraq-conflict-over-euphrates-tigris.


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