War-torn Yemen is set to be the first country in the world to completely run out of water.
War and strife are caused by shortages, and Yemen has been no exception to that rule. As the nation has succumbed to desertification, war has followed. As the world warms, desertification (in some regions in parts of China, the Middle East, the USA and Australia) will all increasingly create water shortages which by 2050 will affect billions.
For all these regions; that’s in the future. In Yemen, that future is right now.
Sanaa, Yemen’s capital is filling up already with desperate people escaping regional water shortages in the surrounding countryside. It has only ten years before the city wells run completely dry.
In the North, women and children now climb a 4,500 foot mountain before dawn to be at the front of the queue to get water from a spring, and although virtually every house has a rainwater tank, the scarcity is everywhere. In some cities, water now comes out of taps only about once a month.
Groundwater reserves are being used faster than they can replenish themselves. People dig unlicensed and illegal wells to try and tap the last drops of a depleted aquifer that has sunk dramatically from 60 feet down to now 600 feet down. Yemen has been water-poor for thousands of years, but has never had scarcity at this level.
And in a horrifying example of how crazy people might become in this situation; a terrible choice has been made to funnel almost half of the water there is to growing a stimulant drug that almost three quarters of Yemeni men chew constantly – no doubt partly to mitigate the existential crisis the whole society faces.
In some parts of Yemen, the Gat tree that supplies the Gat leaves that the men chew compulsively is the only green thing seen growing there now.
Gat makes you not feel thirst. But desperation and stimulant drugs make guns seem like the solution.