Being Green, Syrian style: Water

If you mention local environmentalism to a Syrian, you get pretty much a reaction of helplessness, and they can’t be blamed. Green campaigns as seen on the internet and foreign media don’t resonate with anyone (we don’t have the infrastructure or similar problems), and knowledge of local environmental needs is virtually non-existent.

This post is exactly for that, with data specific to Syria, I’m going to try my best to raise awareness of the most pressing issues, and how in many simple lifestyle changes, you the citizen can help local nature in more ways than you know of. Let’s start with..


The most vital resource in the region, and obviously the most scarce. Water is predicted to surpass oil as the cause for world conflicts in the 21st century, and guess which highly volatile countries are squandering their last remaining sources.

Now imagine the Arab leaders sharing this cup together


The facts:

Syria has enough renewable water to provide 800 cubic meters for each person annually (A country is considered water scarce once it goes under 1000 cubic meters, which we did five years ago). Of course that is not only water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, showering and such, but also water to irrigate your carbs and veggies. Actually, that’s where 90% of our water quota goes, with 2% to industrialization and 8% to personal use. Right now, Syria uses 25% more than what renewable water can provide, which means ground level water is being depleted at an alarming rate, a blunder that will cost lives in the upcoming decades.

How you can help:

First start with personal use. 8% of 800 is 64 cubic metres annually, and you should try to stay under that. Water bills are bi-monthly, so your bill must be at most 10 cubic meters for each household family member. Please go check this, and tell me the results. Our family average is fifteen per person now, and going under ten is going to be hard. But remember, every time you go over ten, you’re using up from a tanker that won’t be refilled. You now are aware, act accordingly.

To be honest, I don’t think going significantly under 10 per person is possible (the US average is 20), but as you realize, even if you go insane and cut it to 5, then you only cut your water use from 100+% to 96%. Therefore we must take a look at the number one place our water is used and wasted, agriculture.

Syria has a policy of food self sufficiency, which means that if we happen to be under siege some day, the country has to have the capability of producing enough food for the people (Ironically, at the last drought, we lost the capability to do even that, and we’re importing wheat for the first time). The way it’s being done is that we subsidize most of the farm requirements: seeds, diesel for pumps, fertilizers, and water. Water until a while ago was subsidized so hard it was virtually free, and that resulted in many bad habits to keep on, like flooding irrigation, and the trend of growing tropical fruit locally.

That place in the middle of the red looks perfect for growing avocados!

The government has started a campaign for reduced water irrigation systems which optimally can reduce a crop’s water need in half (making your 90% go down to 50). There are things we can do too. First, boycott all locally produced water intensive crops, like rice and tropical fruits. You can buy Somalian bananas instead of Syrian ones, we just have to accept that some crops aren’t meant to be grown in a desert! Then if you have the option to choose the farm, choose to buy from ones with the best water reduced irrigation methods, preferably drip irrigation.

More of the being green series will be up soon 🙂

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19 Comments on “Being Green, Syrian style: Water”

  1. A. Says:

    I remember once, my bother was showing me around syria.

    So we walked, and walked.. Till we reached this wall that a had a huge sign saying don’t throw trash.

    Straight under it, there was a pile of trash..

    I remember reading that Syria wants to implant the fine system on littering from cars.. 5000 pounds if they were caught throwing trash from their car..

    At first I thought it’s crazy, but considering the fact that people who own cars in Syria are rich, and the bribing system is ever-so-flowering in Syria..

    It’s sad.. Before setting out rules and guides for people to go green (Which they won’t) They have to change their rock Mentality. And start caring.

    Hopefully the government starting something won’t up end with some politician sucking all the money to his pocket and then quitting on it!

  2. I think it was better if you wrote this in Arabic. you know many who can understand English have ideas about this.
    Thank you anyway

    • seleucid Says:

      Had the exact same thing in mind. Stopped it because I don’t have a venue for Arabic readers.

      There are more to come Kenan, and I’m ready to translate all of them if you help me post it in a site with Arabic readers, with a humble mention :).

      • ما بظن أنو اسلوب النصح بينفع مع القراء العرب ومعظم اللي بالنت من السوريين شغل منتديات وحكي فاضي يعني تسلية ع السريع بس مهما كان الفكرة مهمة ولو وصلت لعدد قليل
        والله ما بعرف…
        كل التحيات الك ولفكرك

      • seleucid Says:

        يعني ما بتنصحني محل؟ والله أنا غرضي توفير المعلومات أكتر من اننو نصيحة.

  3. Haitham Al-Sheeshany Says:

    The coming wars shall be “watery”! that`s 4 sure.
    We do nothing bwt it -sadly- , just waiting till it hits us!

    I`m from Jordan, and this is a total crises but awareness is almost zero plus no actions 😦

    It`s a good effort, thank u.

    Spreading the word in Arabic would be a good idea as Kenan said.


    • seleucid Says:

      Last I read about Jordan water woes, you guys were under 500, you were killing the dead sea (again), and the government was spending 250 million dollars on a desalinization plant.

      How’s that going for ya?

      • Haitham Al-Sheeshany Says:

        Thanks 4 reminding me! lol

        مشروع ربط البحرين هو الحل
        بس كثير ناس عم يتخوفوا منه!

  4. ما بعرف مكان مناسب بس بظن أنو مدونتك هي منبرك الأفضل حاليا الا اذا ما كان الك قراء بالعربي
    فيه منتديات الها شعبية بس بدك تنصاب بصدمة من الردود اللي ما الها علاقة بالموضوع
    آسف لتخييب آملك

  5. murkyone Says:

    I remember when we were kids, it was the geography subject percisely, we were taught that Syria started using the drip irrigation method in watering the farms, this was perhaps 12 years ago.. I find it funny cuz if it were true, I think some changes would’ve occured by now.

  6. The region as a whole is screwed. Lebanon is stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have the water, we’re too scared and too busy fighting to build the infrastructure to harvest it and we find ourselves constantly battling with/for it. We’re letting 900* cubic km of water PER CAPITA run into the Mediterranean every year!

    Regardless, 800* is a lot! Lebanon hovers around 400-500*, so agriculture must be hang up in Syria. The Syrians are not only self sufficient, but they export agriculture like madmen!

  7. Btw, bonus points for the topic. I love a man who talks middle eastern fresh water resource management to me 😉

  8. mark Says:

    Really good post, well done. This is an important issue and I hope it gets the attention it deserved. The latest “5-year plan” just kicked off with a lot of effort apparently going towards economic reform and sustainable development. But it’s not clear to me what priority water is given in this plan.

    • seleucid Says:

      Thank you for reading.

      I hear that major governmental policies are being implemented towards water conservation methods. I’ll keep you posted if I get any articles on that matter.

  9. 50% Syrian Says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this. I’d like to share with you a few tips on domestic water rationing.
    ** This is what we do at home:
    1- In the bathroom, there is always a plastic tub in the sink, we wash our hands in it, and we use the same water to discharge of the water in the toilet. Basically we seldom use the “syphone”. This has cut back on our water use a lot.
    2- In the kitchen we have a large plastic bucket near the sink. Every time we wash vegetables, fruits, rice, lentils, etc, we pour the remaining used water in that bucket. When it fills up we use the water to water our plants. Sometimes we use it in the toilet.
    3- In the shower, we have a plastic container; sometimes you need to run the water a little bit until it turns hot. Well, we don’t waste that water, we fill that container up until the water is hot enough for showering. We use that water for the toilet.
    4- The washing machine is a big water waster. I am a firm believer that there is no need to use water more than we do with hand washing, that’s why we use the shortest washing program so as not to waste water, and that is for all types pf clothing (white and colored), what we play with is the degree of heat.
    Hope this is useful

    • seleucid Says:

      Much appreciated!

      I would also love if you can tell me your average water bill. I’d love to see those policies coming to an effect

    • Amanda Shotts Says:

      An Australian friend of mine told me that many Australians in the north have timers in their bathrooms, so that they only shower for 2 minutes to save water… Good idea I reckon.

  10. […] A wonderful young Syrian doctor blogger: Being Green, Syrian style: Water Posted December 24, 2010 by […]

  11. بنت من هل بنات Says:

    I understand that this article is quite old but having just come across it and finding it absolutely inspiring and its message important, I had to leave a comment to say 1) bravo and 2) an arabic version of this is urgently needed!

    An important thing about the internet is that there is lots of information posted on it, people see it right away or (like in my own case with this piece of yours) they see it eventually. If you have an arabic version of this I would gladly help you circulate it as best I can, beginning with my family in Syria and others around the Arab world.

    Yeah, I think the message here is THAT important– and I’m not even a tree-hugger! I believe these concerns and personal initiatives are not given enough attention in Syria (or anywhere in the Arab world for that matter) but that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.

    (and yes I am aware of the current situation in Syria, but this is as good a time as any to try something)


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