Rainfall and irrigation in Syria
Syria, Agriculture, 3/19/1999
Due to an uneven geographical distribution of rainfall, the quality of agricultural land varies considerably between different regions. Syria's prime agricultural land is its 200 km coastline on the Mediterranean Sea where an average annual rainfall of over 600 mm allows agricultural activity without irrigation.
Other fertile areas include the mountainous northern region and the narrow zone of medium-dry land stretching from Sweida in the south, through Damascus, up to Aleppo.
In the Euphrates area to the northeast, large areas are used for the cultivation of barley and other cereals.
With the exception of the strip and irrigated areas, large parts of Syria are heavily reliant on seasonally changing rainfall. As a result, harvests have traditionally been erratic. In recent years, considerable efforts have been put into expanding irrigation throughout the country, and between 1988-1997 the size of cultivated areas under irrigation are estimated to have grown by over 80%.
While these efforts are set to continue in the coming years, around 79% of agricultural land currently remains dependent on rainfall. Water consumption has remained broadly stable in recent years, but an increasing amount is lost during transportation in an aging distribution network.
Against the background of an increased use of artificial irrigation and the country's high population growth, water reserves are set to become a problem in the near future. According to the World Bank, Syria's current per capita renewable reserves of 432 cubic meters will decline to around 160 cubic meters by 2025. As in other countries of the region water management will therefore become increasingly important.
With the expansion of local industry, questions of population needs of water will also to be addressed. With the help of the European Union Finance, a number of water treatment plants are presently being constructed in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.
Because of rainfall shortage, agriculture in Syria is dependent on other water resources, most areas are irrigated with groundwater. The water resource in Syria is divided into seven principal water basins. The rainfall water is considered as the only water resource for feeding the underground sources.
The annual rainfall source is estimated at 84 billion cubic meters as the only water resource available to the Syrian farmers is the water of the Euphrates. The Euphrates is being fed by al-Kahbour.
In this respect, Syria and Turkey have an agreement stating that Syria is allowed to use 12 million cubic meters of water per tear from the Euphrates in order to irrigate some 460,000 hectares. Syria and Iraq signed an agreement stating that Syria is allowed to use 24% and Iraq is allowed to use 28% of the total Euphrates water.
Water resources in Syria are distributed among the following: al-Jazira basin; Aleppo basin, which consists of Quiq basin and Jabboul basin; the group of the Syrian desert basins which consists of al-Dawe, Palmyra, Khansar, al-Zalf, Wadi Miyah, al-Rasafa, al-Tanf and al-Sabai Byar; Houran basin; Damascus basin, Orentos basin and the coastal basin.
Local rainfall and snowfall constitute the main source of underground water for these basins, except for the Jazirah and the Orentos basins, which are fed by external sources.
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