Water Resources Development,

Vol. 26, No. 2, 141–155, June 2010.

ABSTRACT. All aspects of the fresh water situation in the Middle East and North Africa are underlain by the scarcity of fresh water in the region compared with the demands for it. However, physical scarcity has been worsened by institutions that may once have been adequate but that are increasingly failing to meet modern needs for water to be extracted in ways that are ecologically sustainable, used in ways that are economically efficient, and distributed in ways that are socially equitable. Despite this discouraging picture, the thesis of this article is that, in response to both internal and external forces, water-related institutions in MENA are slowly changing in ways that seem likely to improve the situation. Of three key goals identified early in the article—greater attention to demand management, wider stakeholder participation, and adoption of pro-poor strategies—modest gains are evident on the first two, but little on the third.