Preparing for drought in the world’s most water-stressed region
May 20 2021
In Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco, the MENAdrought project has brought together experts in water management, modelling and remote sensing, water planning and others to provide policymakers, water managers and engineers with the training, data, tools and planning skills they need to cope with future water shortages.
MENAdrought rests on three pillars: monitoring and early-warning systems; impact and vulnerability assessments; and elevating the importance of drought mitigation, response and preparedness.
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has been leading a USAID-funded project to deliver the basis for improved planning
IWMI partnered with the US National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to adapt their drought monitoring system to local conditions. Crucially, national partners were involved in the process so that they can make use of satellite data locally while sustaining the effort and improving the modelling for their specific needs.
A crucial planning tool is an Enhanced Composite Drought Index (eCDI), which takes observations from satellites, along with locally specific historical data, to enable evidence-based choices. The eCDI, plus newly developed artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced seasonal rainfall forecasting, gives scientific guidance for when to declare a drought and when to trigger emergency relief. The geographical specificity and local accuracy of the eCDI means that early mitigation can be directed to areas in greatest need, forestalling greater problems later on.
Throughout the project, an overriding concern has been to ensure close cooperation of water utilities and various government departments responsible for sectors such as agriculture, health and industry. As a crucial element in the entire water-food-energy nexus, integrated management is essential for water and food security. Our work with MENAdrought has shown that proactive, evidence-based drought decision-making can make a difference, with results that will be valuable far beyond the Middle East and North Africa.