By Hana Namrouqa – Mar 19,2017

Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser speaks at the opening of the Fourth Arab Water Week at the Dead Sea on Sunday (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Water and Irrigation)

DEAD SEA — Arab and international banks and funds are urged to steer their financial support towards water and wastewater projects tailored to address regional priorities, including the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project (Red-Dead), a senior government official said on Sunday.

“The Red-Dead is a strategic project,” Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser said, indicating that the lack of financial resources for the development and operation of water resources is the second most challenging issue for Arab countries, after the dearth of water.

“The problem of water availability in the Arab region is eventually financial,” Nasser said at the opening of the Fourth Arab Water Week, which opened on Sunday at the shores of the Dead Sea.

Addressing an audience of some 500 water experts from the Arab region as well as representatives of international organisations and Arab water utilities, Nasser explained that regional conflicts had destroyed water infrastructure in several Arab countries, adding that water had also been used as a weapon of war.

“The water sector became very fragile in several Arab countries, and the limited water resources are getting scarcer because of climate change, the impact of which is prevailing way sooner than expected,” Nasser said.

The minister said that the impact of climate change started sooner than expected in the Arab world because “studies and research on the reality of the Arab water sector fell short from anticipating and evaluating its impact”.

“…, therefore, in light of the changing climate, the increasing population, regional conflicts and lack of resources in fragile environments, the Arab countries are urged to enhance the resilience of the water sector,” Nasser said.

Reliance on renewable sources to reduce energy consumption in the water sector, encouraging innovation and startups in the water desalination and wastewater treatment as well as good governance at water utilities are among the ways to enhance the sector’s resilience, Nasser said.

The challenge of managing water utilities in “fragile environments” in the Arab region is the focus of the fourth Arab Water Week, which is organised by the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (ACWUA).

Meanwhile, ACWUA Secretary General Khaldoun Khashman highlighted that the water sector in the Arab countries witnessing wars and conflicts paid a hefty price, as infrastructure and water resources have been destroyed.

Khashman noted that the association has lost contact with many Arab water utilities due to regional conflicts and instability, highlighting that water utilities in several Arab countries are now unable to pay their financial obligations to the association.

However, the association is still reaching out to the water utilities in conflict-torn countries, Khashman said, indicating that training people on the management of water utilities in countries such as Syria and Yemen is vital.

ACWUA held the first Arab Water Week in 2011. Founded in April 2007, the association aims at serving as a regional platform for the exchange of knowledge and best practices amongst member experts and professionals, as well as developing resources, facilitating training programmes, and advocating for professional certification to enable member utility staff to perform their duties in a professional, reliable and cost-effective manner, according to its website.