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Marginal and Virtual Water for Sustainable Water Resources Management in Syria


  • Khaldoon A. Mourad

Summary, in English

Arid and semiarid Middle Eastern countries generally, and Syria in particular, face serious water shortage problems and challenges with water sustainability. Climate change, population growth, and economic development play a major role in decreasing available water resources per capita. This, in turn, has great impact on domestic, agricultural, and industrial water use. In this study, marginal and virtual water are analysed in light of increasing water demands in Syria, and ways to increase available water resources per capita are presented. In particular, greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting, crop pattern changes based on virtual water contents, and the use of WEAP for water evaluation and planning in Syria are presented and discussed. Greywater reuse is becoming an increasingly important resource for potable water conservation in many countries. Due to the absence of rainwater sewer systems in many rural areas in Syria, priority in future policies and plans must be given to the design and construction of collection systems. Virtual water is the water embedded in a product. If agricultural plans take crop water requirements and virtual water concepts into consideration, they can reduce water needs. Recognizing all of the above, the thesis shows that the potential for potable water conservation through the use of greywater for toilet flushing in Syria can be up to 35% of domestically used water. The economic analysis of the treatment of greywater through artificial wetlands and commercial bio filters showed that, with the current water tariff, the payback periods would be 7 and 52 years, respectively. However, these periods could be reduced to 3 and 21 years, respectively, if beneficiaries paid the full water costs. Furthermore, additional roof rainwater harvesting in Syria could increase water availability to as much as 35 million m3 (MCM) in rural areas. Rainwater harvesting could add up to 3% to available national water resources. In the agricultural sector, Syria could save more than 500 MCM of water if lower water consumption crops were substituted on half of the land currently planted with cotton. Crop change scenarios may depend on a national agricultural trade based on imports of high water consumption crops and exports of low water consumption crops. The implementation of modern irrigation techniques and improvement of national development policy play a vital role in reducing the gap between water supply and demand. Overall, it was found that the Syrian water shortage can be reduced from around 2000 MCM in 2010 to about 500 MCM in 2050 despite a projected population increase. To balance national water needs efficiently, the projected water availability and demand in all water basins need to be considered. The study of water availability, water demand, and water balance at a basin level helps in promoting optimal solutions to tackle water shortage problems. Thus, WEAP (Water Evaluation And Planning system) was used to study six different scenarios for the seven main Syrian water basins while taking development, regional cooperation, regional confrontation, and climate change into account. The model showed that excess water availability for some basins can help to balance projected water scarcity for other basins.

Publishing year




Document type



Lund University


  • Other Social Sciences



Defence date

27 September 2012

Defence time


Defence place

Room A:B, A-building, Sölvegatan 24, Lund University Faculty of Engineering


  • Kaveh Madani