Doc. 8805

10 July 2000

Lack of water resources and agriculture


Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Food

Rapporteur: Mr Takis Hadjidemetriou, Cyprus, Socialist Group


Water scarcity is one of the most important agricultural and environmental threats for several European countries, particularly in the Mediterranean region. The situation is getting worse as demand for water increases while the availability of resources is decreasing (over-exploitation, pollution, unbalanced distribution, sectoral water-use conflicts, management incapability…).

Agriculture accounts for up to 80% of the use of water resources and its challenge has always been to produce more food in order to meet the demands of an increasing population (the population growth forecasts for the Mediterranean region imply a doubling of food needs over the next thirty years).

Agriculture not only consumes the highest share of water but also has the highest potential for efficiency improvement. Different measures are therefore suggested in this report (increased irrigation efficiency, cropping patterns changes, water conservation measures, utilisation of non-conventional water resources, strengthening institutions, education and training,…).

The adoption of proper policies would allow minimising the effects on agricultural production and rural incomes because it should not be forgotten that agriculture provides food security, creates employment, contributes to the development of rural areas and supplies agri-industries with raw materials.

I.       Draft resolution

1.       The limited nature of water resources, the threats to their use (over-exploitation, pollution) and the imbalance in their distribution have now reached critical levels and will pose serious challenges to the international community in the coming years. The international community has begun to recognise the risks involved and, especially since the 1992 Rio Summit and the adoption of Agenda 21, has been looking more closely at ways of tackling the problem, most recently at the Second World Water Forum (The Hague, March 2000).

2.       For their part, the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly have been giving the matter consideration for many years. In particular, past initiatives have included the European Water Charter (1967), the Freshwater Europe Campaign and Assembly Recommendations 1224 (1993) on the protection and management of freshwater resources in Europe and 1232 (1994) on the management of water resources in relation to agriculture, as well as participation in the establishment of the “Solidarity, Water, Europe” network in 1998.

3.       Agriculture is, by its very nature, the largest user of water resources – accounting for approximately three-quarters of water consumption – and it is here that the greatest savings can probably be made with the aid of more efficient irrigation technology and procedures. However, we must not destabilise the sector with radical measures, as our peoples’ food security depends on it. Solutions can only be found within the context of comprehensive, integrated management of water resources.

4.       In Europe, the problems are particularly serious in the countries of the south, which suffer chronic water shortages (low precipitation levels, overuse of groundwater, salinisation and pollution of water-bearing layers, deforestation and desertification and conflicts over types of use between different sectors, etc.), as was correctly highlighted again at the third Mediterranean Agriculture Forum (Nicosia, October 1998).

5.       The population growth forecasts in the Mediterranean region imply a doubling of food needs over the next thirty years, which will demand significant growth in agricultural output and higher levels of water consumption, while also bringing about increased difficulties in terms of the supply and use of water resources.

6.       The Assembly urges the governments of member states, in particular those of countries most exposed to water shortages, to:

i.       include agricultural policy measures for water in a comprehensive water resources management policy and, to that end, set up national water agencies responsible for all issues relating to water (supply, demand, charging, data collection, research, co-operation, information facilities, etc.) so as to encourage rational and sustainable management of water resources and the drawing up of national water management plans to improve the conservation and renewal of water stocks and improve supplies;

ii.       promote co-operation between member states, notably with regard to the transfer of surplus water resources to countries with a water deficit;

iii.       have farmers grow traditional crop varieties more suited to local climates, employ irrigation methods that consume less water (micro-irrigation, fertigation, etc.) and adapt agriculture consumption to available water;

iv.       introduce, in co-operation with professional agricultural organisations, measures to assess agricultural practices and provide advice with a view to promoting sustainable agriculture, notably with regard to the efficient use of water resources;

v.       promote less intensive and more ecological agriculture and breeding to reduce the excessive use of chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides, etc.) and the production of effluents, which are the cause of serious pollution of water resources (surface and ground water);

vi.       adopt measures to reduce the very great losses that occur in water collection and supply systems by renewing distribution networks, reducing evaporation losses and improving the management of irrigation systems;

vii.       reduce all excessive water consumption in line with available resources, not exceeding the threshold for the restoration of stocks, and, where appropriate, provide the necessary alternative installations on a timely basis (recycling, desalination, etc.);

viii.       adopt, to this end, a comprehensive, integrated water management policy which, on the basis of constant assessment and monitoring of available resources and needs, makes the necessary adjustments between supply and demand and strikes the appropriate balance between competing types of use;

ix.       adopt flexible water charges that vary according to the types of use and sector and bring the price of water gradually into line with its real cost so as to prevent excessive consumption without, however, penalising agriculture, on which our food security depends and for which water is an essential resource;

x.       expand co-operation with agricultural organisations so as to improve the information, training and assistance provided for farmers with regard to irrigation and cropping methods and choosing high-value varieties that need little water;

xi.       promote research on irrigation methods, recycling and re-use techniques for waste water and the selection of crop varieties that need little water, while paying particular attention to health and environmental risks;

xii.       foster co-operation with international, research and agricultural organisations competent in the water sector (FAO, Unesco, Unep, OECD, European Union, Icamas, World Water Council, Ifap, etc.).

7.       The Assembly urges the parliaments of the member states, in particular those of countries with a water shortage, to adopt the necessary legislative measures to implement the above recommendations.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Hadjidemetriou

Table of contents

1.       Introduction ………………………………………………………………………….5

2.       Causes of water shortage …………………………………………………………….5

3.       Increased demand and sectoral water use conflicts ………………………………….6

4.       The need for increased water availability and effective use of water ………………. 7

5.       Management of the supply-demand sectors ………………………………………… 7

6.       Should agriculture be the sector to carry the burden of the new policies? …………. 8

7.       Measures to overcome water shortage threats ……………………………………… 9

8.       Conclusions and recommendations ………………………………………………… 12

Appendix 1:        Water situation in the Near East countries compared to the world situation

Appendix 2:       1. Water demand forecast by sector and sub-region in the Mediterranean region

      2. Current sectorial water demand in the three Mediterranean sub-regions

Appendix 3:       Water resources and water demand per capita, by region

Appendix 4:       Ministerial Declaration of The Hague on Water Security in the 21st Century

1. Introduction

1.       In our post-war times and as the military threats of the cold war have subsided, we are faced with new dangers resulting from the environmental degradation. Environmental degradation is beginning to be recognised as a major threat to both the industrialised nations and the developing countries.

2.       The recognition of the magnitude of the problem and the adaptation of our attempts to secure the sustainability of our natural resources are essential in minimising the crisis, but also to tackle specific problems.

3.       In regions such as the Middle East and the Mediterranean one of the most important and serious environmental threats is water scarcity. Water availability has reached a crucial threshold as water resources in many nations in the area deteriorate dramatically. Water, access to which should be considered as a basic human right, in many countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, is a scarce, finite and invaluable commodity. Today, it can not any more be considered as a free commodity, available in unlimited quantities.

4.       Rainfall is highly variable, erratic and conventional water resources have been seriously depleted. This has resulted to rapid deterioration of water quality. Water resources distribution throughout the region is not uniform, with the countries of Eastern and Southern areas being less favoured, compared to the countries of the Northern Mediterranean. Generally, in Northern countries precipitation is one and a half times greater than that of the Southern regions of the Mediterranean, with the resulting internal runoff being nearly three times greater in the northern countries as compared to the southern ones.

5.       Due to the aridity that prevails in these regions of the Mediterranean Basin, the area is considered as one of the poorest worldwide in terms of water resources. The phenomenon, of course, is not a new one. Most of the countries in the region suffered a lot from water shortage throughout history. This could be a sound conclusion if one looks at the elaborated and sophisticated irrigation systems, distribution channels and underground reservoirs that were developed and are discovered in ruins throughout the region.

6.       Nowadays, the situation is getting worse as demand for water increases while availability is showing a decreasing trend. At the beginning of the new Millennium, it is time for an integrated approach to water resources which will address the water scarcity problem in its entirety.

2. Causes of water shortage

7.       In terms of annual rainfall the south-eastern part of the Mediterranean is included among the less-favoured areas of the world. Rain falls between November and April, and is unevenly distributed in time and place. Droughts are also very frequent.

8.       Precipitation during the last century shows a considerable declining trend. The decrease in precipitation leads to an increased use of fossil water, while the lack of recharge results in depletion of the aquifers and deterioration of the quality of the water. Salinisation of aquifers constitutes a serious problem in areas of over-pumping. Furthermore, the formation of the soils of the area and the low organic content leads to increased use of chemical fertilisers, a factor causing additional deterioration of the quality of water due to the pollution of nutrients. Deforestation on the other hand creates additional problems as it increases the run off and it does not permit the recharge of the aquifer.

9.       It is worth noting that some of the above limitations can not be minimised directly. For some others, rectifying measures could indeed be promoted. But, what is really necessary is an integrated management of water resources.

3. Increased demand and sectoral water use conflicts

10.       The limited water supply along with the rapidly increasing demand for water leads to the conclusion that, unless urgent measures are taken, inadequacy in both the quantity and quality of water could reach a crisis within the next few years. The issue of water is so problematic that some countries in the Middle East have considered military action over water. The shortage of water is so big that in certain areas there is tension as to who owns and uses the river waters crossing national boundaries. These tensions are emerging to conflicts and water can well become the reason for instability.

11.       Undoubtedly, most countries in the region suffer from a shortage, and the scarcity of water is used as a political issue. Going back in history, one may conclude that there has almost always been a water crisis. But in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East the problem has become more acute with time. (See Appendix 1: Water situation in the Near East countries compared to the world situation.)

12.       No doubt, the competition among different sectoral uses exacerbates the problem. The East and South part of the Mediterranean are experiencing one of the highest population growths in the world, exceeding 3% per annum, in certain areas. In addition there is an increase in the per capita water requirements as the standard of living increases and advanced technologies are day by day becoming an indispensable part of people’s lives.

13.       Additional requirements for domestic use of the water supply are created due to the concentration of large segments of the population in big cities as a result of urbanisation and unbalanced development. On the other hand, taking into account that the Mediterranean basin is the leading tourist destination, with 300 million tourists annually, tourism generates seasonal peaks, which are directly connected to increased demand for domestic water.

14.       Industry is another major user of water in the region, with about 15% of the fresh water being allocated to this sector.

15.       However domestic and industrial uses together absorb less than one-fourth of the available water, agriculture is the major water consumer, absorbing almost 3/4 of the water resources. The percentage of irrigated areas in total agricultural land varies widely from country to country, reaching in several cases 80% of the cultivated area. (See Appendices 2 and 3.)

16.       Agricultural water use is generally determined by the extent of irrigated acreage, the type of crops grown, climatic conditions and the use of technology to improve irrigation efficiency. Import and export markets, irrigation management, drainage and salinity, water prices and water conservation are the main factors affecting the economic viability of farms and the incomes of the farming population.

17.       The expansion of irrigation has been a major objective in the agricultural policies of the countries of the region, as the income from irrigated land is almost ten times higher than that of rain-fed land. Once the products of irrigated agriculture (vegetables, fruits) constituted the most valuable cash crops, inevitably the expansion of these crops replaced traditional crops and varieties which were cultivated for centuries and were well adapted to rain-fed conditions. The mild weather conditions in the area that lead to early production compared to the countries of Central and North Europe, intensified this approach. Inevitably, throughout the region the demand for water for irrigation is increasing.

18.       The challenge has always been to produce significantly more food and fibre in order to meet the demands of an increasing population. It seems that this trend will continue in the future as demand for food appears likely to double in the next 30 years around the Mediterranean. However, this should be done in the context of environmental and water resource securing responsibility.

19.       Irrigation is extremely water-intensive. Irrigated crops require about 200 to 500 tons of water to produce one ton of product. But, if one takes into account the limited efficiency of irrigation as well as losses due to management incapability and lack of appropriate technologies, these amounts increase sometimes 3-4 times. Depending on aims, needs, methods and effectiveness, the irrigation requirements vary extremely from one country to another due to the different constraints facing irrigation. In some countries which are poor in surface water but have rich aquifers, there is an intensive exploitation of their underground resources which in many cases are not renewable. In other countries the cost of developing water resources is too high.

20.       In several cases the losses in the conveyance systems are as high as 50%. Besides, lack of technically sound irrigation methods and mismanagement of irrigation projects leads to environmentally damaging results and in resource wastage.

4. The need for increased water availability and effective use of water

21.       The challenge of today, which will inevitably be a pressing need for tomorrow, is to increase water resources and to provide solutions leading to high and effective use of the available water resources by all users. This could be feasible by facing the problem within the framework of practical application and use. Currently, the amount of water consumption by all sectors in the region is higher than the renewable amount of water. Water deficit is steadily increasing. On the other hand, the potential to increase water availability in the region through further exploitation of conventional water resources is limited and in certain cases could be considered impossible.

22.       The present demand for water in the Eastern Mediterranean surpasses by far the available supply. The water shortage gap is expected to increase even further in the years to come. Because, on the one hand the supplies are not expected to increase appreciably in the future while on the other hand the requirements for water are expected to increase with time and as the population and the economies expand.

5. Management of the supply-demand sectors

23.       Water is a sine-qua-non for progress in the eastern Mediterranean. Its importance warrants our full attention while its management demands the use of an advanced and farsighted new policy. Improvements in the supply-demand sector, the creation of national and regional water sector data bases, institution building, intensification of research and environmental preservation are integral parts of this new water resources management policy.

24.       Efficient management of water resources should be at the heart of the common concerns, not only of the countries in the regions where water resources are limited, but of all nations. Appropriate policies should be adopted for preferential allocation of water, giving appropriate weight to competitive uses and balancing short demands with long-term objectives. Such policies should be continuously in the interest of present and future generations. In allocating water resources, existing reserves and the rate of their replenishment must be taken into account. High quality water shall be allocated to high quality uses i.e, human and animal consumption. Alternative sources must also be sought for other uses for which quality is less important, such as agriculture and industry.

25.       Cost-effective exploitation of conventional water sources has reached saturation point in most Eastern Mediterranean areas. Nonetheless, good management practices dictate that any additional surface and groundwater sources that are financially feasible should be developed. In contrast, the supply of water to agriculture can be increased via the development of the secondary sources such as reclaimed wastewater and unconventional poor quality water. In addition, attention should be given to supplementary sources such as water harvesting and cloud seeding, though their contribution to the water budget is expected to be very small.

26.       In view of the tight constraints in increasing the supply, management of the demand sector warrants closer attention. Noting that in the Eastern Mediterranean more than 80 percent of the annual water crop is consumed by irrigation, it is easily concluded that a small percentage of savings of water from this economic activity can give considerable quantities of water than can be used to satisfy the water supply constraint. Better management of the demand sector is achieved through the improvement of irrigation efficiency, a shift to less water demanding water allocation changes, proper water pricing and through water conservation measures.

27.       A decline in gross water demand (i.e. the production of water required), particularly in agricultural irrigation, began at the end of the 20th century in several Mediterranean countries whose conventional water resources were “exhausted”. In Cyprus, the quantity of water used fell by more than half between 1985 (540 hm3/year) and 1998 (235 hm3/year), while in Israel demand fell from 2,000 hm3/year in 1985 to less than 1,500 in 1991, before rising to 1,700 in 1994. In Malta, total water production (including desalination) fell from 47.2 hm3/year in 1992-93, to 40.8 in 1997-981.

28.       These reductions are due to a combination of water saving efforts, particularly increased efficiency of use and the reduction in losses during distribution. However, figures will tend to stabilise once maximum savings have been reached in terms of use and transport. This stabilisation will be followed by a period of slow growth, corresponding to the growth in non-conventional water production.

6.        Should agriculture be the sector to carry the burden of the new policies?

29.       The importance of agriculture for the economies of most of the Mediterranean and Mid-East countries is well known, despite its declining share of GDP and employment. It still continues to be considered as the backbone of the economies; it provides food security for the people; creates employment for the rural population; supplies agro-industries with the required raw material; and undoubtedly it strongly supports rural life and increases rural incomes.

30.       There is much concern in the countries of the region that irrigated agriculture will be the first sector that will be affected disproportionately by increasing water scarcity and growing demand for water by other sectors. Indeed, as agriculture will have to compete with higher value uses if market mechanisms and competition rules are allowed to play freely, it is the single sector to receive the highest pressure. In light of the high opportunity cost of irrigation water and the lack of economic possibilities to increase supply on a large scale, agriculture is expected to release water resources to other sectors that can use it in a more profitable manner.

31.       It is not proposed that profitability alone should be our only concern. The survival of rural life, the conservation of the environment and the preservation of nature must receive equal attention. For these parameters are today becoming more important for more and more people.

32.       However, not only because agriculture consumes the highest share of water, but also because it has significantly the highest potential for efficiency improvement, all agree that major water savings, inevitably can only be made through measures on this primary sector.

7. Measures to overcome water shortage threats

33.       It has been stressed by many authors and experts that agriculture will not die if it receives less water. If agricultural water use is adequately managed, and if proper policies are adopted, the effects on agricultural production and rural incomes can be minimised.

7.1. Increased irrigation efficiency

34.       Overall irrigation efficiency (conveyance, distribution and field application) are disappointingly low. Extreme values of as low as 20 percent are encountered in some areas. The efficiency can be increased through modernisation and through the use of advanced technological practices and management techniques. In Cyprus, for example, where pressure buried pipes are used for the conveyance of water the efficiency is higher than 95 percent and the use of sprinkler and drip irrigation has raised the on-farm application efficiency to more than 75 percent. There is a pressing need for training, organisational, technical and financial assistance that should be extended to both farmers and water organisations so as to modernise the existing irrigation schemes and implement new irrigation methods thus raising the physical and economic efficiency of water application.

7.2. Cropping pattern changes

35.       In achieving self-sufficiency the growing of strategic crops such as cereals is promoted in certain areas. These crops, however, demand a lot of water and are low in cash value. It is prudent in this water short region, to substitute the water-demanding low-cash crops with low water-demanding high-cash crops. Voluntary change of the existing cropping patterns is possible provided trade and price liberalisation of agricultural crops is adopted, as envisaged in the provisions of the World Food Summit Conference (Rome 1996). It is stressed, however, that agricultural extension services should be provided to the farmers for such a transformation process.

7.3. Water allocation changes

36.       Allocation of water to the different competing demands, even of the same sector, such as agriculture, should be governed by the market mechanisms thus yielding maximum benefits and at the same time satisfying equity and sustainability in the societies. This is inherently difficult to achieve because people and even leaders in the region consider water as a free commodity.

7.4. Water price increases

37.       In managing the demand the most important and by far most effective tool is to assign to the price of water its true cost including of course its external costs. However, this policy is very difficult to implement, at present, because in many areas the water is allocated free of charge. It is necessary, therefore, for every country, taking into account socio-economic considerations such as level of subsidies, ability to pay, social and rural welfare, to draft a time schedule over which tariff structures are to reflect the real cost of the water. The present starting price, however, should cover at least the operation and maintenance costs and in any case the price of water should not be adjusted according to the market values, especially when it is used for agricultural purposes.

7.5. Water conservation measures

38.       Water conservation measures should be communicated to society at large and to the farmers in particular as to the savings possible in water use. These measures should be the subject of public debate, campaigns and information at the farm level via the extension and special advisory services. In general "water consciousness" should be cultivated in both farmers and the public at large. Currently, conservation of water from the existing water resources represents the main and most popular approach. Conservation of the water, however, in order to be effective should be addressed to the main users. In the entire region most of the water is used for irrigation. It is therefore imperative that water conservation measures should be addressed primarily to the agricultural sector and the farmers. Conservation of water at the farmers’ level, together with efforts to reduce losses from the collection and distribution systems, is the most effective, efficient and appropriate way. At the farmers’ level, substantial saving of water is feasible.

39.       The current finite water from conventional sources could be substantially increased, if innovative approaches and new technology aimed at exploitation of non-conventional water resources are implemented. Such resources are infinite in the region. Treatment and use of non-conventional water resources should be the policy and not the exception to the rule in the region. Desalination, particularly of seawater, should be more feasible and acceptable if renewable energy sources in the process of purification are used. On this aspect, in the region, considerable experimental work supported by the European Union is in progress and the results are promising.

40.       At the farmers’ level, by using micro-irrigation systems and applying appropriate irrigation, more than 80% of water-use efficiency is obtained. This, however, became feasible due to the acceptance by farmers of the new irrigation technology and the extensive research undertaken in order to evaluate and/or further develop the new technology before being applied by the farmers.

41.       Moreover, being aware that the new technology could potentially achieve high water-use efficiency, provided that crop water requirement and scheduling or irrigation is also applied, particular attention was attached to these aspects. Through intensive research, estimations of the water requirements of all main crops and sound scheduling of irrigation, high water-use efficiency can be achieved at the farmers’ level.

7.6 Effective use of water

42.       It should be stressed that although particular effort and funds have been devoted to efficient water use, the effective water use (water needed per unit of produce) is still suffering and in certain cases is totally ignored. Cropping pattern, based on effective water use, should be a policy in the region. On this aspect, research in progress in Cyprus will provide valuable results applicable to the whole region.

43.       Due to the wide acceptance and use of modern irrigation systems, attention was also devoted in the region to fertigation: the application of fertilisers with the irrigation water. In this way, the yield per unit of water applied has been substantially increased. This method, besides, being the most advantageous with the modern irrigation systems, it is also the most environmentally friendly approach. On this aspect substantial multidisciplinary research has been undertaken over the last three decades.

44.       Cyprus is unique and constitutes a rare example of a country where the maximum has been done to increase overall water-use efficiency. This, however, is not the case in all countries of the region. Some of the measures successfully undertaken in Cyprus at the farmers’ level include:

• Use of modern micro-irrigation systems, which cover practically 100% of the irrigated area in Cyprus.

• Irrigation scheduling based on actual crop water requirement.

• Fertigation as a means to further increase yield per unit of water.

7.7 Utilisation of non-conventional water resources

45.       As has already been mentioned, conventional water resources in the region are limited and finite. Water shortage in almost all the countries of the region has been addressed by exploiting all possible resources, and almost all feasible alternatives have been employed. It is therefore imperative that non-conventional water resources should be used. These non-conventional water resources include the use of wastewater and desalination.

46.       In this respect, wastewater reclamation and reuse have emerged as a realistic option of a new reliable source of water to meet shortage, cover water needs and also meet wastewater disposal regulations aimed at protecting the environment and public health. However, the use of wastewater could be associated with severe health and environmental impacts. In this respect, research should be undertaken in all countries using wastewater in agriculture, to study agronomic, environmental and health aspects associated with the use of treated wastewater for irrigation. In this direction, most of the chemical and physicochemical parameters associated with wastewater need to be extensively studied and useful conclusions for a rational, environmentally sound use of these waters obtained. The results of such a multidisciplinary research in Cyprus indicated that with a) the treatment level required, b) the irrigation technology available, and c) the code of practice suggested, the health and environmental risks are well below the acceptable level.

47.       In order to control wastewater treatment and reuse, guidelines should be considered as a prerequisite in all countries of the region. Currently, in most of the countries no guidelines exist.

48.       Desalination is becoming an option to increase water resources in the region. Desalinated water it is a reliable and non-erratic water source. The high cost of desalination is still a problem and prohibits agricultural use of such water. Because of this, research efforts to use renewable energy sources (solar and wind) for desalination should be supported. Convincing public opinion to accept this approach is still another major problem. It should be noted that currently, in the process of desalination, conventional fuel energy sources are used. Innovative approaches and use of renewable energy sources may provide desalination processes of lower cost which will also be environmentally friendly. Research in progress is directed towards this target.

49. A water authority responsible for all water-related matters should be established in every country. In parallel, existing relevant institutions and organisations, public or private, should be strengthened. Farmers’ user groups and/or irrigation co-operatives should be encouraged to be involved in the processes of water management, especially in annual and intra-sectoral allocation of the available water resources. In addition, regional and bilateral administrative bodies need to be developed to undertake information exchange on all aspects regarding water development and use. Research in the field is urgently needed and every help, financial or otherwise, has to be extended to such kind of institution. National governments, the European Union, international organisations and the United Nations should provide assistance towards this direction.

7.9. Establishment of data bases

50.       Each country in the region must establish its own water resources computerised data base for the timely collection, analysis and dissemination of information for a better management and support of the envisaged research. Concurrently, a regional data base centre, linked via a wide area network and by satellite to national centres, is required. Help in the form of financial and technical assistance for the purchase of the required equipment and the training of personnel should be given priority, especially for the poorer countries in the region.

7.10. Education and training

51.       Until the early fifties, nearly the entire area irrigated in the region was under traditional water-wasteful methods of irrigation. Farm irrigation practices were almost identical to those used in ancient times. In fact, irrigation techniques changed very tittle throughout the centuries. The conveyance of the water from the source to the farm-gate, the in-farm distribution and the delivery to the plants were conducted by gravity through open earth canals. Thus, the amount of water reaching the crop root-depth was less than half the amount released from the source.

52.       Since agriculture is the largest water user, any saving in the water used for irrigation, even the smallest, accounts for a lot. In this context, the need for education and training of farmers towards improving the water saving and the water management ability is of immense importance.

53.       Educational programmes aiming at promoting water consciousness should be tailored for the needs at all levels of the society, as well, and will lead to saving and conservation of water.

8. Conclusions and recommendations

54.       Water in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the Middle East region is a scarce and valuable commodity. This means that every effort should be devoted to increasing water resources and conserving existing water resources.

55.       Conventional water resources in the region are already entirely committed. It is therefore imperative that new non-conventional water resources should be used. In this respect, wastewater reclamation and reuse have emerged as a realistic option for a new reliable source of water to meet the shortage, cover water needs and also meet wastewater disposal regulations aimed at protecting the environment and public health. It is recommended that all wastewater available be treated and used.

56.       Conservation of water from the existing water resources represents the main and most popular approach. Conservation of water, however, in order to be effective, should be addressed to the main users. It is, therefore, imperative that water conservation be addressed primarily to the agricultural sector and farmers. Conservation of water at the farmers’ level, together with efforts to reduce losses from the collection and distribution systems, is the most effective, efficient and appropriate way. At the farmers’ level, substantial saving of water is feasible.

57.       Particular effort and funds have to be devoted to efficient water use. Effective water use (water needed per unit of produce) is still suffering and in certain cases totally ignored. Cropping pattern based on effective water use should be a policy in Cyprus and in the region.

58.       The strategies for planning and use of water resources should promote a sustainable and environmentally friendly development. This is in accordance with the Maastricht Treaty, signed in February of 1992. Countries in the region should protect their environment and work in close co-operation with their neighbours to conserve the fauna and flora of the whole region, including of course the fish population in the lakes and seas.


Water situation in the Near East countries compared to the world situation






Total area


134 233 000

18 486 000


Total population


5 716



Population growth

% per year




Population density






M3 billion

110 000

3 848


Total renewable water resources

M3 billion/year

40 000



Water per inhabitant


6 997

1 577


Water for agricultural use

M3 billion/year

2 236



Water for agricultural use





Water for domestic use

M3 billion/year




Water for domestic use





Water for industrial use

M3 billion/year




Water for industrial use





Total water withdrawal

M3 billion/year

3 240



Withdrawal over renewable water





Water withdrawal per inhabitant





Irrigated land


246 408 529

47 735 647



1. Water demand forecast by sector and sub-region in the Mediterranean region


Water demand (M3 billion)


increase (%)







































Energy (power plants)










2.       Current sectorial water demand in the three Mediterranean sub-regions


Water use sectors* (km3/year)





Energy (power plants)


























*       This does not include the costs of incidental development and evaporation loss from reservoirs, which is considerable, even in Northern countries (700 million cubic metres per year in France and 1,500 in Spain).


Water resources and water demand per capita, by region


Water resources


Water demand (M3/capit/year)


Trend until 2025

Forecast in 2005


Trend until 2025

France, Italy,















Spain, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco


decline except Spain












Malta, Middle East, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia










rapid decline





Ministerial Declaration of The Hague on Water Security in the 21st Century

1.        Water is vital for the life and health of people and ecosystems, but around the world women and men lack access to adequate and safe water to meet their most basic needs. Water resources, and the ecosystems that provide them, are under threat from pollution, overuse, land-use changes and many other forces. This leads to one simple conclusion: business as usual is not an option. There is, of course, a huge diversity of needs and situations around the globe, but together we face one common challenge: to provide water security in the 21st Century. This means water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, protection from hazards, living in a sustainable environment.

2.        This challenge is not new: nor are attempts to address it. Discussions and actions started in Mar del Plata in 1977, continued through Dublin, Rio and CSD-6 and will continue through the Second World Water Forum and this conference to the Rio+10 meeting in 2002 and beyond. The challenge has been revisited in the unprecedented process of broad participation and discussion by experts, stakeholders and government officials in many regions of the world. This process was initiated by the World Water Council and continued by the Global Water Partnership and the World Commission on Water in the 21st Century, and has led to the World Water Vision and the Framework for Action.

The Seven Challenges

3.        To achieve water security, the seven key challenges we face are:

Meeting basic needs: to recognise that access to water is a basic human need and, thus, to empower women and men to decide on their safe and adequate water and sanitation.

Protecting ecosystems: to ensure the integrity of ecosystems through sustainable management.

Securing the food supply: to enhance food security through increasing water productivity for food production.

Sharing water resources: to develop co-operation at all levels within and - in case of trans-boundary water resources - between states, through river basin management.

Managing risks: to provide security from floods, droughts and other hazards. Valuing water: to manage water in a way that reflects its economic, social and cultural values, and move towards pricing water services to cover the full cost of their provision. This approach should take account of the need for equity and the basic needs of the poor.

Governing water wisely: to ensure good governance so that the involvement of the public and the interests of all stakeholders are included in the management of water resources.

Meeting the Challenges

4.        We, the ministers and heads of delegations, recognise that our gathering and this declaration is part of a wider process, and is linked to a wide range of initiatives at all levels. We acknowledge the pivotal role that governments play in realising actions to meet the challenges, including the need for institutional, technological and financial innovation to move beyond business as usual.

5.        The actions advocated here are based on integrated water resources management (IWRM), with planning and management of land and water resources taking account of the inclusion of social, economic and environmental factors and integrating surface water, groundwater and the ecosystems through which they flow. IWRM in turn depends on collaboration and partnerships at all levels (from individual citizens to international organisations), based on a political commitment to and wider societal awareness of the need for water security and the sustainable management of water resources.

6.        We commit to further advance the process of collaboration to turn agreed principles into action, based on partnerships and synergies between stakeholders, governments and the public. To this end, we agree to take action in the following areas:

A.        We will establish targets to meet the challenges, strategies to achieve them as well as indicators of progress at the national and sub-national level, as appropriate, inspired by the indicative water security targets identified in the Framework for Action (attached to this declaration). The national and sub-national targets will be developed in preparation of the Rio+10 conference in 2002. The strategies can be included in the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, called for in the Rio+5 resolution.

B.        We will stimulate the UN system in the further development of indicators to monitor targets set by the countries and to report on these indicators in the biannual World Water Development Report as part of the overall monitoring of Agenda 21.

C.        We will work together with stakeholders to develop greater awareness and commitment of all partners concerned and identify models of best practice, based on enhanced research and knowledge generation capacities, knowledge dissemination through education and other channels and knowledge sharing between individuals, institutions and societies at all levels.

D.        We call upon the United Nations system and the International Financial Institutions to review their policies and programmes in the light of the Vision and the Framework for Action and to assist eligible countries in meeting their targets and strategies.

E.        We call upon the Secretary General of the United Nations to further strengthen the coordination of activities on water issues within the UN system. We will adopt consistent positions in the respective governing bodies to enhance coherence in these activities.

F.        We call upon the Council of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to review its Operational Strategy against the Vision and, based on this, to expand the activities of the GEF in the freshwater area by catalyzing investments in national water management issues that have a beneficial impact on international waters.

G.        We welcome the continuation and the follow-up work by:

* The World Water Council with respect to the Vision;

* The Global Water Partnership with respect to the development of the Framework for Action.

H.        We welcome the statements (annexed to this declaration) made by the representatives of the major groups as clear tokens of their readiness to work with us towards a secure water future for all.

7.        The challenges are formidable, but so are the opportunities. There are many experiences around the world that can be built on. What is needed is for us all to work together, to develop collaboration and partnerships, to build a secure and sustainable water future. We commit ourselves, individually and acting together, to achieve this and to stimulate and facilitate the contributions of society as a whole. To this end, we welcome the pledges made at The Hague (annexed to our declaration). This Declaration reflects the resolve of our governments and represents a critical step in the process of providing water security for all.

Agreed to on Wednesday 22 March, 2000,

in The Hague, The Netherlands

Reporting committee: Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Food

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none

Reference to committee: Doc. 8321 and Reference No. 2360 of 30 March 1999

Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the committee on 20 June 2000

Members of the committee: Mr Behrendt (Chairman), MM. Hadjidemetriou, Hornung (Alternate: Wodarg), Korkeaoja, (Vice-Chairmen), MM Agius, Aliko, Mrs Angelovicová, MM. Anton, Aylward (Alternate: Connor), Bojars, Calmes, de Carolis (Alternate : Robol), Carvalho, Čiupaila, Etherington, Floros, Goldberg, Goris, Haraldsson, Janowski, Kharitonov, Kitov, Kjaer, Lazarenko (Alternate: Kosakivsky), van der Linden, Mariot (Alternate: Goulet), Mrs Mikaelsson, MM. Myrvoll, Pisanu, Pollozhani, Prusak, Radic, Rupar, Shugarov, Skopal, Spindelegger, Staehelin, Steolea, Szinyei, Taylor John D., Uriarte, Yürür.

N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printing in italics.

Secretary to the committee: Mr Sixto.

1        Taken from “The Mediterranean”. Water for the 21st Century. Vision to action. MEDTAC-Blue Plan