The Euphrates River is drying up, just as the Bible predicted. However, unlike supernatural interpretations such as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, this situation is being driven by a very real environmental phenomenon: severe droughts and climate change.
The Euphrates River flows alongside the Tigris River, through modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, before emptying into the Persian Gulf. It is Western Asia’s largest river system, having a basin that extends into Iran.
The terrain around these two rivers was historically part of the Fertile Crescent, which gave excellent circumstances for established farming to grow, eventually giving rise to some of the world’s first urban civilizations, including Mesopotamia.
The Tigris-Euphrates river system, which was formerly abundant, is now drying up at an alarming rate. The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources issued a government report in 2021 warning that due to diminishing water levels and droughts caused by climate change, the rivers could run dry by 2040.
The flow in the Euphrates-Tigris River system has plummeted to nearly half of the average annual flow during dry years in just a few decades. Satellite photos show that the Tigris and Euphrates River basins lost 144 cubic kilometers (34 cubic miles) of freshwater between 2003 and 2013, resulting in some of the lowest water levels ever recorded.
Much of this is inextricably tied to the global climate catastrophe. The Middle East is regarded as one of the most sensitive regions to climate change, which is expected to exacerbate the region’s water scarcity concerns.
People suffer when there is negative news about the environment. Water from the Euphrates-Tigris River system sustains the lives of around 60 million people, primarily in Turkey and Iraq. Since the 2000s, international collaboration on Tigris-Euphrates Basin management has reportedly halted, fanning the flames of both local rivalries and geopolitical tensions among river system stakeholders.
This century may see a number of “water wars” in which states and militia groups compete for access to water supplies. Is anyone for Mad Max?
Because of the number of people who reside in the region and the ongoing political instability, the Tigris-Euphrates complex is one of the most high-stakes places in the world where these wars are likely to occur.
Disease is a major issue, in addition to the danger of conflict and violence. An report published in the British Medical Journal in March 2023 analyzed how a slew of health crises are brewing in Iraq as a result of people’s inability to obtain safe drinking water. This includes cholera and other water-borne infectious diseases, as well as chicken pox, measles, and typhoid.
Since Biblical times, people have been concerned about the Tigris-Euphrates River drying up. Thousands of years later, perhaps their concerns will come true.