Intersectoral water markets in the
Middle East and North Africa
Naser I. Faruqui
As the introduction to this volume discusses, water is rapidly becoming the key development issue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The natural aridity of much of the region coupled with high population growth and urbanization is creating severe inequities. Because the urban growth rate of less-developed Muslim countries (LDMCs) in the MENA is higher than the overall average for all less-developed countries (LDCs) – 3.2 per cent versus 2.9 per cent for 1995–2015 – informal settlements in cities all over the region are burgeoning. The urban or peri-urban communities are rarely served by public utilities, either because they were unplanned or because of legal or political restrictions imposed on the utilities.
Many of the community residents rely on informal supplies of water sold by private vendors. For LDCs, on average, these families pay ten to twenty times more per unit than residents receiving piped water serviceup to one hundred times in some municipalities (Bhattia and Falkenmark 1993). A literature search for prices paid by the unserved urban poor in Muslim countries revealed almost no data available on the topic. However, during the exceptionally warm summer of 1998, in Jordan, the city of Amman suffered a severe water shortage, exacerbated by an odour problem. The public was forced to buy water from vendors, and the black-market price of water delivered by truck tankers reached US$14 per cubic metre (Bino and Al-Beiruti 1998). Even under normal weather conditions, some of the poor pay a very high price in Jordan. An informal