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Syrian Arab Republic

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Syrian Arab Republic

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Area: 5888268 km2
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City & Country

Water-Related Challenge Costs

Total annual estimated cost to address all water-related challenges: $4,198,834,521.00

Share of total annual estimated cost to address each individual challenge (2015 $USD):

  • Access to Drinking Water: $182,527,225.00 - [4%]
  • Access to Sanitation: $318,217,012.00 - [8%]
  • Industrial Pollution: $82,202,053.00 - [2%]
  • Agricultural Pollution: $66,289,746.00 - [2%]
  • Water Scarcity: $2,849,792,731.00 - [68%]
  • Water Management: $699,805,753.00 - [17%]

For more about this data, see information on WRI’s Achieving Abundance dataset here.

Water Challenges

As reported by organizations on the Hub.

No challenges found.

Country Overview

1.1.2.WATER USE Total annual water withdrawal in the Syrian Arab Republic was estimated at 16.69 km3/yr in 2003, 87.9 per cent of which was for agricultural purposes. From 1993 to 2003, total water withdrawal increased by almost 31 per cent. Agricultural water withdrawal followed the same trend, and municipal and industrial withdrawal increased by 39 and 89 per cent respectively. In 1999, the Euphrates and Asi-Orontes basins accounted for about 50 and 20 per cent of total water withdrawal respectively (Salman, 2004). According to Salman and Mualla (2003), total estimated water use in the Syrian Aran Republic is about 15 billion m3. The Euphrates and Orontes basins account for about 50 per cent and 20 per cent of water use respectively. Water balance in most basins has been in deficit (except in the coastal basin and the Euphrates basin). This will continue to worsen, especially in basins encompassing large urban areas such as Damascus and Aleppo. Agriculture is the largest water consuming sector in the Syrian Aran Republic, accounting for about 87 per cent of all water use. Domestic and industrial water use stands at about 9 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. While urban water demands are rapidly increasing due to the population growing around 3 per cent per year and industrial growth, new water sources are becoming scarce and extremely expensive to develop. Water deficits are expected to worsen. Since drinking water needs are given top priority in the government’s policy, water for agricultural use could face severe constraints (Salman and Mualla, 2003). Pressure on water resources comes from all sectors of the economy, with the highest demand from agriculture. In 2000, the area of cultivated land in the Syrian Aran Republic was estimated at 55,000km2, covering about 30 per cent of the country’s total area. Twenty per cent of this cultivated land area (12,000km2) was irrigated. The Euphrates and the Orontes basins make up the major share. The total irrigated area increased from 6,500km2 in 1985 to 13,000km2 in 2002 (Somi et al, 2001 and 2002). This rapid expansion of irrigated agriculture is mainly attributed to the government policy objective of achieving food self-sufficiency and the remarkable increase in groundwater irrigation (Salman and Mualla, 2003). The government’s policies have encouraged cereal and cotton production as a mechanism for ensuring the country’s self-sufficiency (Salman and Mualla, 2003). The notion of self-sufficiency was recently redefined into a more flexible concept designed to increase production of certain crops that profit from comparative advantage. Thus exports of these products can counterbalance the need to import other commodities (Sarris, 2001). The production of selective crops, especially wheat and cotton, has shown marked improvement when comparing consumption. The ratio of production/consumption for wheat has increased from 0.51 in 1989 to 1.41 in 1997. For cotton, it increased from 1.56 to 1.74 during the same period (World Bank, 2001). This high level of self-sufficiency and increased production of selective crops appears, however, to have come at the expense of unsustainable water use patterns (Salman and Mualla, 2003). Groundwater use, particularly for irrigation, has increased dramatically over the last two decades. Sixty per cent of all irrigated areas in the Syrian Aran Republic are currently irrigated by groundwater. Most are privately developed and operated (Salman and Mualla, 2003). A substantial portion of the increase in groundwater use is related to increases in irrigation for wheat, cotton, citrus and sugar beet. The area used to grow these crops has increased significantly in the last decade: sugar beet area has grown by 32 per cent, cotton by 75 per cent, irrigated wheat by 40 per cent and citrus by 40 per cent. Much of the expansion in wheat has been driven by rapid expansions of its price while water cost has remained low. Farmers from public irrigation schemes obtain water at an extremely subsidized rate, and groundwater costs do not reflect their real value because the energy required for pumping is also subsidized (Rodriguez et al, 1999) (Salman and Mualla, 2003). Government policies have contributed to the tremendous increase in groundwater irrigation. Wheat supported prices which have been higher than world prices for several years, coupled with subsidized energy costs, have proven to be a strong incentive for farmers to take up groundwater irrigation in many areas (Salman and Mualla, 2003). This great expansion of groundwater-irrigated agriculture has resulted in groundwater being overexploited in most of the country’s basins. Continuous decline in groundwater tables has affected some surface sources, such as spring flows, and caused seawater intrusion in land areas adjacent to the sea (Salman and Mualla, 2003). Traditionally, surface water has been developed widely in most basins and a large share of surface water is supplied by dams. Though there still remains some potential for further development of dams and growth of storage volume, the cost for such exploitation is considered extremely high (Salman and Mualla, 2003). Except for the Euphrates, most of the irrigation schemes’ distribution system is with low conveyance efficiency that does not exceed 40-50 per cent. Even with the Euphrates basin’s irrigation schemes’ concrete lined canals, the conveyance efficiency still does not exceed 60-70 per cent due to evaporation and poor maintenance (Salman et al, 1999). To improve the conveyance efficiency and to provide more reliable water supply to the fields, the Ministry of Irrigation has planned to convert the old open surface distribution system into a pipeline system and rehabilitate new lined canal systems (Salman and Mualla, 2003). Surface gravity system is the prevailing irrigation system at field level, covering about 95 per cent of the irrigated area in the Syrian Aran Republic. Basin irrigation is the predominant method used for wheat and barley. On-farm water use efficiency is low in general (40-60 per cent) due to overirrigation using traditional basin irrigation method. Even with cotton and vegetables, which are irrigated by furrows, the efficiency is still low due to the lack or inadequacy of land levelling. Thus, there seems to be considerable scope to increase the efficiency of water use at field level by introducing advanced on-farm irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation or by improving on-farm water management and water conservation (Salman and Mualla, 2003).

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Country Water Profile

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Organizations in Syrian Arab Republic

To empower underprivileged section of the society by taking stand and providing with financial and logistic support to bring quantities and qualitative changes in their livelihood development for in an Equal and just society implementing the SDG goals by the … Learn More

Our work is initiated to strengthen the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities using well thought out health communication channels and providing aids in these same areas. Learn More

Projects in Syrian Arab Republic

Every Drop Matters (EDM) is a unique partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and The Coca-Cola Company, which works across Europe and the CIS, the Arab States and Asia. Since they joined forces in 2006, the partners have … Learn More

The project aimed to expand implementation of water harvesting, soil conservation, and water use efficiency among olive-farming communities in the arid mountain region of northwestern Syria. Erosion control: stone and plant “walls” in lines across field to increase surface roughness … Learn More

Improving the livelihood of farming communities and sustaining the use of water resources in Syria, this project uses soil and water conservation techniques to help farmers in the mountainous regions of Syria. The construction of rainwater harvesting tanks and water … Learn More

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