Climate change, overuse kill off Iraq Sawa Lake

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Reporting on one particular water scarcity that is sweeping the Middle East, Kuwait News found that the situation is not only due to climate change, but to overuse that kill off Iraq Sawa Lake thus human mismanagement of the vital resource would be looked at.

Climate change, overuse kill off Iraq Sawa Lake

The above-featured image is SAMAWAH: An aerial view that shows a pond remaining at the dried-up Sawa Lake in Iraq’s southern province of Al-Muthanna.- AFP

SAWA LAKE: A “No Fishing” sign on the edge of Iraq’s western desert is one of the few clues that this was once Sawa Lake, a biodiverse wetland and recreational landmark. Human activity and climate change have combined to turn the site into a barren wasteland with piles of salt.  Abandoned hotels and tourist facilities here hark back to the 1990s when the salt lake, circled by sandy banks, was in its heyday and popular with newly-weds and families who came to swim and picnic.

But today, the lake near the city of Samawa, south of the capital Baghdad, is completely dry. Bottles litter its former banks and plastic bags dangle from sun-scorched shrubs, while two pontoons have been reduced to rust. “This year, for the first time, the lake has disappeared,” environmental activist Husam Subhi said. “In previous years, the water area had decreased during the dry seasons.”

Today, on the sandy ground sprinkled with salt, only a pond remains where tiny fish swim, in a source that connects the lake to an underground water table. The five-square-kilometer lake has been drying up since 2014, says Youssef Jabbar, environmental department head of Muthana province. The causes have been “climate change and rising temperatures,” he explained. “Muthana is a desert province, it suffers from drought and lack of rainfall.”

1,000 illegal wells

A government statement issued last week also pointed to “more than 1,000 wells illegally dug” for agriculture in the area. Additionally, nearby cement and salt factories have “drained significant amounts of water from the groundwater that feeds the lake”, Jabbar said. It would take nothing short of a miracle to bring Sawa Lake back to life.

Use of aquifers would have to be curbed and, following three years of drought, the area would now need several seasons of abundant rainfall, in a country hit by desertification and regarded as one of the five most vulnerable to climate change. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, a global treaty, recognized Sawa as “unique… because it is a closed water body in an area of sabkha (salt flat) with no inlet or outlet.

“The lake is formed over limestone rock and is isolated by gypsum barriers surrounding the lake; its water chemistry is unique,” says the convention’s website. A stopover for migratory birds, the lake was once “home to several globally vulnerable species” such as the eastern imperial eagle, houbara bustard and marbled duck.

‘Lake died before me’

Sawa is not the only body of water in Iraq facing the perils of drought. Iraqi social media is often filled with photos of grotesquely cracked soil, such as in the UNESCO-listed Howeiza marshes in the south, or Razzaza Lake in the central province of Karbala. In Sawa, a sharp drop in rainfall – now only 30 percent of what used to be normal for the region – has lowered the underground water table, itself drained by wells, said Aoun Dhiab, a senior advisor at Iraq’s water resources ministry.

And rising temperatures have increased evaporation. Dhiab said authorities have banned the digging of new wells and are working to close illegally-dug wells across the country. Latif Dibes, who divides his time between his hometown of Samawa and his adopted country of Sweden, has worked for the past decade to raise environmental awareness.

The former driving school instructor cleans up the banks of the Euphrates River and has turned the vast, lush garden of his home into a public park. He remembers the school trips and holidays of his childhood, when the family would go swimming at Sawa. “If the authorities had taken an interest, the lake would not have disappeared at this rate. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I am 60 years old and I grew up with the lake. I thought I would disappear before it, but unfortunately, it has died before me.”

– AFP

The pulse of the Dead Sea

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Here is the story of something happening before our very eyes, that of the pulse of the Dead Sea, giving us a feel of what to expect in the future. But if we go by its name, that sea that for millennia had no pulse has recovered but only to be shrinking. 

Sarcasm apart, water scarcity and security have become a national matter in the MENA region where 12 of the 17 most water-stressed countries in the world are located. So what strategies are being employed by the GCC states to counter this threat?

But Water scarcity issues have been vexing experts for decades. Scientists developed and debated various water scarcity concepts, indicators, and projections, essentially saying that it is a global issue with strong local specifics. Worldwide estimates of people affected by water scarcity vary accordingly and get gloomier with time.

The picture above is for illustration and is of The World Atlas.com.

The pulse of the Dead Sea

27 July 2021

The Dead Sea is shrinking. There are many reasons for this: climate change is a contributing factor, as is human overuse of water as a resource. The sinking water level has a number of dangerous consequences. For example, fresh groundwater flowing downstream causes salts to dissolve in the soil, resulting in sinkholes. But it also leads to large-scale subsidence of the surrounding land surface. Researchers from an interdisciplinary team of several sections from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, together with colleagues from Hannover, Kiel and Padua, have now for the first time demonstrated a direct link between the decrease in the water table, evaporation and land subsidence. They report on this in the journal Scientific Reports.

One of the measuring stations at the Dead Sea with climate sensors and GNSS equipment. Photo: Jens Wickert

The team used a wide range of instruments; from measurement methods based on the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to radar satellites and on-site gauge and climate stations. The researchers showed that the solid earth moves up and down synchronously with fluctuations in the water surface and groundwater level with a time lag of about eight weeks. However, the trend is clearly in one direction: downward.

The water level of the Dead Sea sinks about one meter per year, and the land sinks about 15 centimeters per year. Inflows from rainfall in the surrounding mountains and the Jordan River cause short-term rises in the lake level. However, water withdrawals from the tributaries for agriculture, pumping of saline water to extract potassium, and evaporation in the high heat turn the balance permanently negative.

The coupling of land subsidence to the sinking water table has long been clear. But the fact that the movement of the land surface is so directly related to hydro-meteorological fluctuations is new. The researchers determined this connection within three years. For agriculture, tourism and infrastructure in the region, land subsidence and water loss are very threatening. The measurements show for the first time how closely land, water and atmosphere are linked here.


Original study: 
Sibylle Vey, D. Al-Halbouni, M. Haghshenas Haghighi, F. Alshawaf, J. Vüllers, A. Güntner, G. Dick, M. Ramatschi, P. Teatini, J. Wickert & M. Weber: Delayed subsidence of the Dead Sea shore due to hydro-meteorological changes; in Scientific Reports.


Link:   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-91949-y

Saraya Aqaba Waterpark set to open on July 3 in Jordan

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A story by Bea Mitchell on blooloop of 15 Jun 2021 illustrates well the ambitions of those countries around the Red Sea in terms of diversified economic development. It is about the Saraya Aqaba Waterpark set to open on July 3 in Jordan. The employment of Jordanian people will obviously improve as of this summer. But not only; here is the story.

The picture above is for illustration and is of Mashable ME.

Saraya Aqaba Waterpark set to open on July 3 in Jordan

Saraya Aqaba Waterpark, the first world-class water park in Aqaba and the largest in Jordan, is scheduled to open on July 3.  

Saraya Aqaba Waterpark in Jordan features more than 25 rides, slides and experiences across more than 28,500 square metres. It opens in Aqaba on July 3.

The water park’s rides and attractions are inspired by Jordan’s iconic landmarks, including Dead Sea Drop, Wadi Rum Race and Aqua Jerash.

Dead Sea Drop guests will take a vertical plunge, while Wadi Rum Race is a competitive multi-racer. Aqua Jerash features play attractions for young guests, including slides, waterfalls and rotating water jets.

“We are excited to announce that Saraya Aqaba Waterpark will be the first of its kind waterpark in Aqaba and the largest in the kingdom,” said Chris Van Der Merwe, general manager of Saraya Aqaba Waterpark.

25 rides, slides and experiences

“At Saraya Aqaba Waterpark, guests from Jordan and around the world are in for an aquatic adventure like no other with slides, rides and experiences suitable for guests of all ages.

“The water park has been carefully designed with families in mind and as such guests can expect a family-friendly environment, both in and out of the water.

“We are looking forward to welcoming you at Saraya Aqaba Waterpark for unforgettable memories that will last for a lifetime,” added Van Der Merwe.

Also opening at the water park is the Rose City Diner, alongside refreshment kiosks around the park serving snacks, ice cream and drinks. The attraction’s signature shopping outlet is called Al Siq Souk.

Jordan’s landmarks inspire rides

Saraya Aqaba Waterpark is located within the Saraya Al Aqaba Residential City, which features a combination of residential, business, leisure and entertainment facilities.

Saraya Aqaba Waterpark was developed by Eagle Hills and is operated by Farah Experience LLC, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Miral Asset Management LLC.

“Over the years, Farah Experiences has garnered deep industry expertise managing and operating award-winning theme parks and attractions in Abu Dhabi,” said Julien Kauffmann, CEO of Farah Experiences.

Images: Eagle Hills Jordan

Bea Mitchell, A journalist specialising in entertainment and attractions, Bea loves theme parks (mainly Disney) and is particularly interested in things of a gothic, horror or fantasy nature