Water well upgrades offer solution for Syria's drought-hit northeast

08 Jul 2010

An innovative approach to water resource management in Syria is estimated to be helping 18,000 people hit by a three-year long drought.

UNDP and its partners are upgrading a network of ancient water sources under the barren terrain of the country’s northeast, where water shortages have led to large-scale population displacement in recent years.

More than one million people, already close to the poverty line because of low incomes, have been affected by the drought which has driven tens of thousands of families to urban settlements such as Aleppo, Damascus and Deir ez Zour.

Beginning in 2009, the Government of Syria, Spanish Development Agency and UNDP began rehabilitation of Roman- and Arab-built wells that were constructed some 2000 years ago.

Ninety-five wells were surveyed and, to date, 35 have been or are currently being upgraded, with an estimated 18,000 beneficiaries (not including livestock).

Well rehabilitation involves cleaning and pumping out stagnant water, widening and deepening wells to increase water capacity, analyzing water quality, and finally handing over to local authorities and communities.

Syria’s northeast is the poorest region in the country. Buying water from private tankers at a cost of 2000 SYP/month (approximately $40 USD) was a heavy financial burden for the population.

For those who previously could not afford the cost, the upgraded wells provide access to safe drinking water and undoubtedly improve quality of life.

These wells also contribute to sustainable and environmentally-friendly local development, protect traditional ways of life and reduce pressure on rural residents to migrate to urban centres, a move that can have devastating social and economic impacts.

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, particularly in the Middle East where populations are expanding and fresh water supplies are diminishing fast.