Towards Improved Water Demand Management in Agriculture in the Syrian Arab Republic
by M. Bazza and R. Najib

Damascus, Arab Republic of Syria
28-29 April 2003

First National Symposium on Management and Rationalization of Water Resources Use in Agriculture Organized by the University of Damascus

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© FAO 2003


Until recently, the prevailing perception was that of infinite fresh water on the planet, but the assumption is tragically false. Available fresh water amounts to less than one half of one percent of all the water on earth. The rest is seawater or is frozen in the polar ice. Fresh water is renewable only by rainfall, at the rate of 40-50,000 cubic km per year. Global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people on earth already lack access to fresh drinking water. If the current trend persists, by 2025 the demand for fresh water is expected to rise by 56 percent more than is currently available. In spite of the hard work and progress, the number of people without access to water supply in developing countries remained practically the same throughout the 1990s. According to the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report, the majority of the world’s population without access to improved water supply lives in Africa and Asia. The Population Council predicts that world population will grow to 7.8 billion over the next 25 years, with most of the increase in urban areas.
The urban population will roughly double to 4.5 billion. After 2020, all population growth and most poverty in the developing world will occur in urban areas, as the rural population declines. Universal water supply coverage by 2023 will mean that in urban areas an additional 1.9 billion people will need water supply (Damme, 2001). At the same time and according to FAO estimates, 70-80% of the increase in food demand between 2000 and 2030 will have to be covered by irrigation. This means that competition for water will continue to grow with growing population and increased needs for food, drinking water supply, industrial goods, recreational facilities, safe environment, etc. At present, water use in agriculture represents around 70% of the total worldwide, the largest share, but agriculture is also the most vulnerable sector because of its vulnerability and lower priority with respect to most other sectors.