Friday, January 15, 2010
Yemeni Water War
Yemen has no functioning government yet no one seems to notice. Like Bolivian Indians, people survive masticating narcotic leaves, the djat.
There is no perennial surface water anywhere in Yemen. Annual average precipitation in the Sana’a Basin is 700 to 800 million cubic meters (MCM), and only 5 percent of it infiltrates in the soil. The remaining 95 percent evaporates.
In the Sanaa plateau, total recharge is estimated between 80 MCM and 120 MCM. Total abstraction is about 250 MCM a year, which is 100 percent to 150 percent higher than recharge. More than 80 percent goes to irrigation, half of it for the djat, and the balance to domestic use. Water abstraction is uncontrolled, unmetered, unlicensed, and unpaid for. There are 15,000 wells, 70 of them were state owned for public water supply. As said, all the water is pumped from aquifers. There are two unconnected aquifers: the shallow alluvial one to depths of 30 to 80 meters, and a deeper Tawilah sandstone aquifer, at 100 to 1,000 meters. The Tawilah is a fossil aquifer, its exploitable potential is about 2,000 million cubic meters (that is, at current rate it will dry up in 8 years. In reality, its yield will fall but the deeper wells may be able a little water even after 2020).
The picture is of a semi-drugged society living in an unimaginable water scarcity, yet spending half of the little water they pump up from the soil to grow narcotics. An enterprising young man could install a deep well and sell water to the public: if he can maintain the business working, he will make much money in the coming years in Sana'a.