Sustainable water resources management


Regulatory action in Yemen must be taken soon before scarce water resources run out altogether.

  • Executing agency: UN/DESA Division for Sustainable Development
  • Senior advisor: Mr. Claude Sauveplane
  • Start date: 1 January 1998
  • End date: 1 October 2002
  • Partners: UNDP and Government of the Netherlands
  • Total budget: USD 3,886,964

The Republic of Yemen is a semi-arid country in the southwest Arabian peninsula, whith an area of 536,000 km2 and a population of about 12.4 million. The country is confronted with extremely acute water problems. The renewable water resources are finite and limited, while demands for water are growing. As no perennial river flows in the country, the only reliable source of water is groundwater, which supports the major economic activities, including agricultural production. The latter has been a major source of economic growth and consumes about 93% of the total water used. The current level of groundwater abstraction greatly exceeds recharge in most of the aquifers, specially in northern areas and the intermontane plains, including Sana'a basin. Hence, a large proportion of the abstraction is being supported by depleting groundwater reserves, which is causing a marked decline in water levels and a deterioration in water quality, undermining the sustainability of the resource base. Urban supplies and agricultural production have been under increasing threat from unregulated and widespread use of pumped irrigation supplies by the private sector. The situation calls for immediate regulatory measures to reverse the trend in water over-exploitation.

The programme is designed to build the full managerial and technical capacity of the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) of Yemen to ensure sustainable development of scarce water resources. The NWRA was created by Presidential Decree No. 154/95 as the sole institution responsible for water resources planning and management in the country. A Draft National Water Legislation has been prepared and submitted to the Cabinet for discussion and approval.

The national programme for the sector including the national water policy has been recently released in the National Five-Year Development Plan, which describe sectoral priorities within the context of national development objectives. The national programme is also designed to strengthen linkages between the NWRA and agencies representing water users such as NWSA, GAREWS and different departments of the MAWR to encourage efficient water resources management. The linkages between NWRA and these agencies during the implementation stage of the programme have been taken into account.

This programme forms an integral part of three additional government programmes on environment, poverty alleviation, and decentralization planned for the near future. All of these would work together in an integrated and coordinated manner towards realization of national development objectives, including sustainable water resources management.