Open Journal of Modern Hydrology, 2012, 2, 15-20 Published Online January 2012 ( 1
Water Status in the Syrian Water Basins
Khaldoon A. Mourad1, Ronny Berndtsson2
1Department of Water Resources Engineering, Lund University, Lund, Sweden; 2Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Department
of Water Resources Engineering, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Received August 2nd, 2011; revised October 13th, 2011; accepted December 5th, 2011
Syrian water resources face economic and physical water scarcity. This together with a large population and develop-
ment increase and the climate change may lead to increasing risks for international controversies and disputes in the
coming decades. According to FAO, the available water resource per capita AWPC is going to be half by 2025. De-
pending on its seven water basins, this paper analyses water demand and supply in the Syria with their projections till
2050. The paper shows that two of the seven Syrian basins need a specific concern as they face water scarcity problem.
However, two basins have extra water. Therefore, the paper focuses on the need for a sustainable water management,
which takes all nonconventional water resources into account to contribute in the Syrian water balance such as rain-
water harvesting and wastewater reuse.
Keywords: Renewable Water; Middle East; Sanitation; Water Harvesting
1. Introduction
Available water in a specific country is defined as the
surface and groundwater resources volumes that are re-
newed each year. Annual available water per capita in
Syria will decrease from 2684 m3 in 1970 to 620 m3 in
2025 [1].
Accessible water, on the other hand, is the renewable
water that can be accessed and used to a reasonable cost.
Good water resources management and by increasing the
existing unconventional water resources (e.g., rainwater
harvesting, re-use of treated sewage water, improving
efficiency in agriculture) play a vital role in increasing
the accessible water in a catchment. Decreasing the dif-
ference between the available and the accessible water, in
a country, reflects the real development in water prac-
tices, management, and sanitation.
Water balance of a water basin refers to the balance
between the input of water from precipitation, surface &
groundwater flow and the output of water by evaporation,
water uses, and stream flow (ground and surface water;
[2,3]). However, errors and uncertainties can be included
due to the difference between unaccounted inputs and
outputs, variation in variables, and over-simplification
using models [4].
2. Background and Study Area
2.1. Water Resources
Syria has about 21 million inhabitants distributed in fou-
rteen governorates with a total area of about 185,180 km2.
Syria can also be divided into seven water basins: Barada
& Awaj, Al-Yarmouk, Orontes, Dajleh & Khabour, Eu-
phrates & Aleppo, Desert, and the Coastal Basin “Figure
1”, each of which has its own geological, meteorological,
hydrological, and demographical characteristics [5].
Table 1” presents population; area and average precipi-
tation of each water basin.
Figure 1. The Syrian water basins.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJMH
Water Status in the Sy ri an Water Basins
Table 1. Characteristics of the Syrian water basins.
Water basin PopulationAreaa (Ha) Precipitation
Barada & Awaj 5,700,0008630 275
Al-Yarmouk 1,404,0005764 318
Orontes 3,830,00018,362 415
Dajleh & Khabour 1,340,00021 ,129 279
Euphrates & Aleppo 5,930,00051,238 217
Desert 369,000 70,786 141
Coastal 1,780,0005049 1147
a. area inside Syrian (excluding the occupied lan ds).
The annual rainfall in Syria, which occurs from De-
cember to March, decreases from about 900 mm at the
coast to about 60 mm in the eastern part of Syria with an
average precipitation about 46000 MCM (Millions m3) [6,
7]. Many cities and rural areas have no wastewater
treatment plants and some farmers use wastewater in
irrigation, which has affected the surface and groundwa-
ter quality by increasing nitrate concentrations [8].
The most important water resources in Syria are
shared with other countries such as Euphrates, Tigris and
Orontes rivers, which have many treaties with Lebanon,
Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey to ease managing shared water
resources in the region [9].
2.2. Water Demand
Depending on its demand sectors, agriculture consumes
about 90% of the Syrian water, which indicates to a real
need for further development in irrigation techniques.
The total agricultural, domestic and industrial demands
were in 2010 ab out 15,400, 1214, and 648 MCM. Cereal
and dry legumes occupy more than 55% of the total cul-
tivated lands.
2.3. Water Sector Constraints
Many constrains are facing water use in Syria. These
include physical, economic, technical, and institutional.
Below a summary of these are given.
1) Physical constrains: Large seasonal difference in
rainfall requiring large storage capacity. About 60% of
the country receives less than 250 mm/year.
2) Economic constraints: Most water resources pro-
jects depend on exter nal funds, which are coordinated by
external consultants. This makes projects subject to vul-
nerability due to weak coordination and cooperation be-
tween different stakeholders. Corruption is another factor
that tends to weaken the project implementation and lo-
cal participation.
3) Environmental constraints: The limited number of
wastewater treatment plants, operation problems and lack
of public awareness has created many environmental pro-
blems such as surface and groundwater pollution using un-
treated wastewater for irrigation, and damaging of treated
effluent canals. Moreover, the absence of storm water
drains in big cities, especially Damascus, has a negative
effect on operation and maintenance of treatment pl ants.
4) Technical constraints: High water losses, lack of
wastewater treatment plants, groundwater contamination
due to high nutrient concentration in the treated wast-
ewater and slow implementation of modern irrigation and
water-saving technology. The losses in drinking water
system for example, are around 25%.
5) Institutional constraints: Many ministries are in-
volved parts of the water sector in Syria. The Ministry of
Irrigation (MoI) is responsible for monitoring, manage-
ment, and development of surface and groundwater re-
sources. The Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Re-
form (MAAR) is responsible for developing irrigation
practices in agricultural areas and reusing treated waste-
water. The Ministry of Housing and Construction
(MoHC) is responsible for drinking water supply and
treatment. The Ministry of State for Environmental Af-
fairs is responsible for water protection. Each ministry
has its own directorate in the governorates and many
ministries include water management in their annual
plans. However, overlapping and lack of cooperation is
negatively affecting efficient water resources planning
and management.
In view of the above, the objective of this paper was to
evaluate the water needs and supply in the different Syr-
ian water basins in order to achieve future sustainability.
Projections were made up to 2030 and 2050.
3. Material and Methods
Available water resources and water demands for each
water basin in Syria were estimated using all publically
available data from the Ministry of Irrigation (MoI), Cen-
tral Bureau of Statistics in Syria (CBS), Ministry of
Housing and construction (MOHC), and Ministry of Ag-
riculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR). The future esti-
mated projections depend on the availabl e data.
3.1. Water Demand Estimation
Table 2” shows the actual domestic, industrial, and agri-
cultural water needs in 2008 for the seven water basins
according to MoHC and MoI.
Table 2. Water needs.
Annual water demand (MCM)
Water basin Agriculture Domestic Industry
Barada & Awaj 675 340 33
Al-Yarmouk 205 118 32
Orontes 2195 298 235
Dajleh & Khabour 4669 126 11
Euphrates & Aleppo7003 526 153
Desert 118 42 10
Coastal 530 126 45
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJMH
Water Status in the Sy ri a n Water Basins 17
3.1.1. Agricultural Demand:
For agricultural demand we assumed that due to water
shortage, cultivated land will be constant and the impl-
ementation of modern irrigation practices will annually
save about 0.5% of t he c onsumed water.
3.1.2. Industrial Demand :
For the industrial sector , the number of industrial projects
is increasing every year. According to CBS the annual
increase between 1970-2010 was about 1.7%. Therefore
we can assume that the annual industrial demand is to
increase by 2%.
3.1.3. Domestic Demand:
According to Tables 1 and 2, we can estimate the daily
per capita domestic needs in “Figure 2”.
Moreover, According to CBS, the average population
increase, all over Syria, decreased from 3% for 19 60- 19 70
to 2.2% for 2000-2010. However the populations increase
is different from basins to basin (“Figure 3”). For the
future domestic demand projections, we assume, due to
the expected improvement in the drinking water systems,
that the domestic con sumptio n will b e redu ced b y 10 % by
2030 and anot her 5% by 2050.
3.2. Annual Renewable Water Resources
The annual renewable water resources in a basin are the
summation of the net surface water flow, the net ground-
water flow, and the reclaimed water. The total surface
water SW, groundwater GW and reclaimed water RW
(agricultural, domestic, and industrial) for the Syrian wa-
ter basins are presented in “Table 3”.
According to MoI, the reclaimed water in 2008 was
about 2306, 671, and 407 MCM in agriculture, domestic,
and industrial sectors, respectively. This corresponds to
about 15%, 55%, and 65% of the totally consumed water
in agriculture, domestic, and industrial sector, respec-
tively. In the national development plan, MoHC has an-
nounced the construction of more than 20 wastewater
treatment plants within the next 20 years. According to
this, domestic and industrial wastewaters will be treated
up to 85% by volume in 2040. This gives an average an-
nual increase of treated domestic and industrial wastewa-
ter of about 1% and 0.5%, respectively.
3.3. Climate Change Effect
Climate change will have severe impacts on regional wa-
ter stress [10]. The Middle East is likely to face a decrease
in precipitation amount by 20% - 25%, which will reduce
the runoff with about 23%, and Euphrates River flow may
be reduced by 29% - 73% [11]. Moreover, Middle East
average temperature may increase by about 2.5˚C to 2050,
which will affect evaporated water amounts [11]. Hence,
Figure 2. The daily water consumption per cap ita (L).
Figure 3. Annual population increas es (%).
Table 3. Annual renewable wate r res ources.
Annual water resources (MCM)
Water basin SWGW Ag. Do.In.
Barada & Awaj 37 470 99 20426
Al-Yarmouk 24 170 9 4726
Orontes 662891 53 32188
Dajleh & Khabour 1522000 467 1019
Euphrates & Aleppo7134645 1410 210122
Desert 21 150 0 3 0
Coastal 715485 53 3236
we assumed an annual reduction in surface and ground-
water resources b y about 0. 25% and an annual increase in
evaporation rate by about 0.25% up to 2050.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Water Demand and Resources Projections
According to the above, without building any scenario,
population, agricultural demand, industrial demand, and
domestic demand of the Syrian water basins for 2030 and
2050 are presented in Table 4. While Table 5 presents
water demands and resources projections in 2030 and
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJMH
Water Status in the Sy ri an Water Basins
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJMH
Table 4. Water demands projections.
2030 2050
Water demand (MCM) Water demand (MCM)
Water basin Population Domestic AgricultureIndustry Population Domestic Agriculture Industry
Barada & Awaj 8029476 430 631 49 10991550559 625 71
Al-Yarmouk 2242356 169 192 48 3447847 247 190 69
Orontes 6011108 421 2053 350 9094206 605 2033 504
Dajleh & Khabour 1922739 163 4367 16 2677222 216 4323 24
Euphrates & Aleppo 10140774 809 6550 228 166146451260 6485 328
Desert 569028 58 110 15 846941 82 109 21
Coastal 2325178 148 496 67 2969020 180 491 96
Table 5. Water resources projections.
2030 2050
Reclaimed water Reclaimed water
Water basin Surface
water Ground
water Do. Ag. In.
Water basin Surface
water Ground
water Do. Ag.In.
Barada & Awaj 35 447 259 93 39 Barada & Awaj 33 425 336 92 56
Al-Yarmouk 23 162 68 8 39 Al-Yarmouk 22 154 99 8 56
Orontes 629 847 45 50 280Orontes 598 805 65 49 403
Dajleh & Khabour 144 1901 130 437 13 Dajleh & Khabour 137 1807 1 73 43219
Euphrates & Aleppo 6782 613 323 1319182Euphrates & Aleppo6447 583 503 1306261
Desert 20 143 4 0 0 Desert 19 136 6 0 0
Coastal 680 461 38 50 54 Coastal 646 438 46 49 77
4.2. Water Balance
According to Tables 4 and 5 water balance calculations
showed that five of the seven water basins are in a water
scarce condition till 2050. However, Coastal and Eu-
phrates & Aleppo Basins will keep in the decreasing po-
sitive track (Figure 4). Therefore, a vital action is needed
to solve these water shortages.
4.3. Scenarios for a Better future
4.3.1. Water Transfer between Basins.
In this scenario we chose two neighboring basins, one
with a water shortage problem and the other with more
water availability. The following two examples were
a) The Orontes and Coastal basins.
Pumping 600 MCM per year of water from the Coastal
basin to the Orontes basin, will decrease water shortage
in the Orontes basin. However, this also means that the
Coastal basin needs extra water according to “Figure 5”.
b) The Desert, Dajleh & Khabour and Euphrates &
Aleppo basins.
Euphrates & Aleppo basin is rich with water. Howev er,
its neighbors Desert and Dajleh & Khabour basins have
water shortage problems. If we keep the Euphrates &
Aleppo and Desert basins balanced we can pump 1960,
1614, 1308, and 974 MCM in 2020, 2030, 2040, and
2050, respectively to Dajleh & Khabou r basin. Yet this is
not enough for this basin “Figure 6”.
4.3.2. Regi onal Coopera ti on .
Regional cooperation is needed to solve Dajleh & Kh-
abour, Barada & Awaj, and Al-Yarmouk basins. For Da-
jleh & Khabour basin, an annual amount of 500 MCM of
water from Tigris river with some water saving and
modern irrigation can keep the basin balanced. Al-Yar-
mouk and Barada & Awaj basins can be balanced by the
Syrian water in the occ upied Gol an heigh t s .
4.3.3. Technical Scenario.
We assumed an optimistic scenario that the water con-
sumption per capita will be 125 liters in 2030, due to the
improvements in the water supply networks and the im-
plementation of water saving devices, which gives 1.9,
5.25, 4.4, 6.65, 5.9, 9.35, and 3.45 Lpcd as an annual de-
crease in the domestic water consumption till 2030 in the
Barada & Awaj, Al-Yarmouk, Orontes, Dajleh & Kha-
bour, Euphrates & Aleppo, Desert, and the Coastal basin,
respectively. Moreov er, we assumed that all do mestic and
industrial wastewater will be reused (90% of the demand)
and that rainwater-harvesting tech niq ues will sav e ano ther
1.5 % of the total rainfall in each basin by 2030. The re-
sults from this scenario are presented in “Figure 7”.
Figure 7 shows that this scenario can balance more
basins. However, Dajleh & Khabour and Orontes basins
still have water shortage status.
5. Conclusions
Syria is considered a water-scarce country as five of its
Water Status in the Sy ri a n Water Basins 19
seven water basins face a real water shortage problem.
However, good development practices and water coop-
eration at national and regional level can help in balanc-
ing water needs and water supplies. The improvement of
drinking water systems can help in reducing domestic
water losses as it reached more than 50% in some cities.
The results showed that reusing all domestic and Indus-
trial wastewater might increase reclaimed water by 1000
MCM in 2050. On the other hand, climate change will
have a severe effect on the Syrian water resources. It will
decrease the surface and groundwater by about 1300
MCM in 2050. However, rainwater harvesting can con-
tribute as a climate change adaptation technique that can
save annually about 20 0 0 M CM .
Figure 4. Water balance in the Syrian basins.
Figure 5. Orontes and costal basins scenario.
Figure 6. Desert, Dajleh & Khabour and Euphrates &
Aleppo basins scenario.
Figure 7. The technical scenario.
Syria is a key country in the Middle East and can pos-
sibly serve as an indicator for the area. As seen from the
above need its water resources shortage problems could
be balanced by reclaimed water and rainwater harvesting.
We believe that this is typical for all countries in the
Middle East.
6. Acknowledgements
Funding from the MECW project at the Center for Mid-
dle Eastern Studies, Lund University, is gratefully ac-
knowledged. Valuable cooperation from all stakeholders
in Ministry of Irrigation, Ministry of Environment, and
other ministries in Syria is also acknowledged.
[1] FAO—Food and Agriculture Organization. Aquastat da-
tabase: Syria Arab Republic, 2011.
[2] P. Kerkides, H. Michalopoulou, G. Papaioannou and R.
Pollatou, “Water Balance Estimates over Greece,” Agri-
culture Water Management, Vol. 32, No. 1, 1996, pp: 85-
104. doi:10.1016/S0378-3774(96)01251-6
[3] L. Zhang, N. Potter, K. Hickel, Y. Zhang and Q. Shao,
“Water Balance Modeling over Variable Time Scales
Based on the Budyko Framework-Model Development
and Testing,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 360, No. 1-4,
2008, pp: 117-131. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.07.021
[4] R. C. Owen, “Water Budget and Flow Patterns in an
Urban Wetland,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 169, No. 1-4,
1995, pp: 171-187. doi:10.1016/0022-1694(94)02638-R
[5] CBS-SYR. Central Bureau of Statistics of Syria, Popula-
tion and Demographic Indicators, 2011.
[6] CBS-SYR, Central Bureau of Statistics of Syria, Number
of Private Industrial Projects in Syria, 2011. From
[7] GCSAR—General Commission for Scientific Agricultu-
ral Research, Country Profile Syria, 2011.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJMH
Water Status in the Sy ri an Water Basins
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. OJMH
[8] Z. Kattan, “Characterization of Surface Water and Ground-
water in the Damascus Ghotta Basin: Hydrochemical and
Environmental Isotopes Approaches,” Environmental Ge-
ology, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2006, pp: 173-201.
[9] MoI-SYR, Ministry of Irrigation in Syria. Agreements
with Neighboring Countries, 2011.
[10] N. W. Arnell, “Climate Change and Global Water Reso-
urces,” Global Environment Change, Vol. 9, Suppl. 1,
1999, pp. S31-S49. doi:10.1016/S0959-3780(99)00017-5
[11] M. J. Trondalen, “Climate Changes, Water Security and
Possible Remedies for the Middle East,” Scientific Paper
from Potential Conflict to Co-operation Potential (UNE-
SCO PCCP, 2009.