Water levels are near crisis levels, World Bank warns

WASHINGTON — The Middle East's shortage of fresh water is approaching "crisis levels" and countries must look beyond political borders to seek common solutions, a new report by the World Bank concludes.

The situation in Gaza alone is "more acute than anywhere else in the world," the report's author, the World Bank director of agriculture and water resources management, John Hayward, said last week.

Gaza residents each have access to 15 gallons of water per day, " a very, very different" situation from the West Bank, where the figure is 40 gallons per person per day, he said.

The report, "Averting a Water Crisis in the Middle East and North Africa," was prepared to address a vital issue but is not meant to interfere with the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian negotiations that include water rights, Hayward stated.

The World Bank is alarmed that the region has seen "a very marked downturn" in its growth potential, he said.

"One of the factors affecting that downturn which we believe will have an effect in the future is the scarcity of water. The situation is becoming worse by the day."

Cutting water subsidies, promoting conservation and increasing agricultural irrigation are among the long-term solutions to the crisis, the 32-page report states.