Strategic Framework: A Holistic Approach to Addressing Water Resources Challenges in Yemen

Strategic Framework: A Holistic Approach to Addressing Water Resources Challenges in Yemen

November 29, 2022

Incredible as it may sound, Yemen is now experiencing its “water golden age”. In terms of water, Yemen is living well above its means. This is made possible by exploiting non-renewable groundwater. An inheritance created by nature over 10,000 years has been largely depleted over the past 50 years.

The country is rapidly approaching an era where only renewable water resources will be available. Such resources (rain, surface and shallow groundwater) fall at least one third short of present water demand.

Those resources will have to be shared between agriculture and an ever-increasing demand for urban water supply. Given the extreme water scarcity in Yemen, fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goal 6, which ensures access to water and sanitation for all, will require considerable reallocation of water resources from agriculture.

The battle for rational and equitable use of nonrenewable resources is lost: more can, and should, be done to ease the transition to a renewable-water-only world, and to minimise the human cost, conflicts, and inequalities deriving from it.

This is in a context where water usufruct rights are unclear, and the traditional rules unfit for purpose in the twenty-first century. The most problematic consequences of poorly defined water rights are inequitable distribution at the village level and conflicts of interest between agricultural users of water and urban water suppliers.

UNDP is implementing different projects for solutions to water problems in Yemen. They include Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), prevention of water-related conflict through joint projects with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and promotion of coffee production to replace qat, so as to reduce water consumption in agriculture.

Under the joint project with FAO, “Resilience Programme in the Irrigation and Agricultural Sector”, funded by the German Development Bank, UNDP conducted a study, “Water availability in Yemen”, to map current and future water resources in Yemen based on available information. The study provided insights into water balances and recent trends, and revealed that the scarcity of groundwater is no longer negligible, and more comprehensive intervention with a new approach is needed.

Based on the evidence of the study and signs of the change toward peace, UNDP has developed this strategic framework for the water sector to respond to challenges with a comprehensive approach utilising UNDP’s long-term experience and comparative advantage in the water sector.

Document Type
Regions and Countries
Sustainable Development Goals