Water has always been scarce in the Arab world, but growing populations place ever-increasing demands on the limited resources. Competing claims over water rights can lead to disputes between countries or between consumers.
The wealthier Arab countries can meet some of their needs by desalinating seawater. Meanwhile others drill ever-deeper wells which in time may only make the problem worse.
One new and important element in this debate is the concept of “virtual water”. Growing wheat, for example, takes a lot of water. By importing wheat and concentrating on crops which require less water, a country can acquire “virtual water” and use existing resources more efficiently.