The most notable thing about my water consumption as compared to that in my region is that per capita/day, some of these countries are using around as much water as I use alone daily. Despite the fact that it looked like the US average was about 1,800 gallons or so per person, and my daily usage is slightly under that, this is still lots of fresh water that I am using daily, and (luckily) barely have to think about. (I’m pasting the results I got below for reference). I am very fortunate that I can turn on the faucet, shower, washing machine, etc. without really having to think critically about where my water is coming from. And, for the most part, I don’t have to worry about water pollutants as much as individuals may in the North African region. We are afforded with excellent plumbing and instant access to clean water whenever we want it. In my own life, I haven’t had to look that far to think about what it’s like to not have that kind of access to clean water. When my family and I used to visit Pakistan to visit family, we weren’t able to drink water from the tap because our bodies were not used to whatever chemicals or pollutants were in the water – we could get really sick from ingesting it. My grandparents, having lived in Pakistan their whole lives, were “immune” to the pollutants and could drink tap water as they pleased, though they often tried not to and there were always huge packs of water bottles in the house because of it. When my sister and I would need to take baths/showers, my mom would boil water in huge buckets to wash us (when we were little enough!) As we got older we obviously learned that we couldn’t ingest the water. All of this to say, in Karachi where my grandparents lived, water scarcity/cleanliness was not the worst that it could be, but it did make myself and my sister think from a young age how lucky we were to always have access to clean tap water.
Turning to the broader implications of my own water usage and the water usage of countries I’m studying, as I note above, the North African countries that I’ve been looking at r have for the most part an average amount of water used per capita that is about the amount that I use on my own in a day, with some variations as can be noted below. For example, in Egypt, 977 gallons of water are used per capita a day, meanwhile I am using 1,342 gallons a day – that’s just for one (small) person. Obviously, this puts a lot of things in perspective. Our use of water in this country is definitely something we all take for granted, as I’ve outlined above. One thing that I know about this region, especially after having done research about water scarcity in Libya for the presentations, is that it’s only becoming more of a problem with climate change. These regions in North Africa (and the Middle East as well) are situated in places where there isn’t much fresh water to begin with. I imagine that this water scarcity in the area also presents several challenges in terms of the agricultural potential of the region. Without local crops being able to thrive, that makes it difficult for local communities to sustain themselves food-wise. Again, this problem will be exacerbated with climate change.
Additionally, to use Libya as an example again, they have relied quite heavily on groundwater resources, and an example of this can be seen in the Great Man-Made River Project that delivers water through underground aquifers. During his rule, President Gaddafi overemphasized the availability of a lot of natural resources, including the water that could be gained from this man-made river under the Sahara, and he created a lot of propaganda surrounding it, too, emphasizing its importance. In reality, there is a lot of overexploitation of this water resources as well as mismanagement. These challenges to water availability have social and political implications as well, as people will eventually start to move away from these areas, and it is something which has led to political instability. These problems cannot be addressed unless there are strong institutions that have the capacity to help. Ideally, governments in North Africa would try and deal with these problems of water availability, but they’re struggling in a lot of areas. Government infrastructures are weakened even more by problems with water scarcity, and thus, it becomes a security problem as well.
In addition to the destabilization of governments, there also may be competition for resources within the NA region which could lead to tensions or conflicts between countries that share water resources, such as the man-made river project. These countries will also become more dependent on external actors if the local governments are destabilized to the point where they cannot address the problem of water scarcity (which seems to be the current situation in some countries). From the reading that I’ve done about this region, I feel like this is the direction these countries might be going in. While the UN has its “sustainable development goals,” many governments don’t have the capacity to even start to address those. And so, I think it will become the work of external/non-state actors such as UNICEF and others to work towards progress when it comes to water availability.
My personal water usage is: 1342 gallons/day, 9,394 a week and 488,488 gallons a year
Egypt: 3,700 LITRES per capita/day (this is 977 gallons)
Libya: 5,600 LITRES per capita/day (this is 1,479 gallons)
Tunisia: 6,100 LITRES per capita/day (this is 1,611 gallons)
Algeria: 4,400 LITRES per capita/day (this is 1,162 gallons)
Morocco: 4,700 LITRES per capita/day (this is 1,242 gallons)