A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report warns that the Mediterranean is already a severely stressed environment, and climate change impacts will accordingly be amplified.
The dangers highlighted include drought, salinization, desertification, increasing forest fire, soil erosion as a result of loss of soil organic matter, the loss of freshwater resources, increasing difficulty of waste-water treatment, and health risks arising from a variety of sources.
It is likely that the first impacts of climate change will be felt in the Mediterranean water resource system. Reductions in water availability would hit southern Mediterranean countries the hardest. In Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Malta and the Lebanon, water availability already falls below, or approaches 1,000 m3 per person per year - the common benchmark for water scarcity.
Even countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy, could suffer ever-more frequent regional water shortages due to the twin problems of climate change and rising demand. Crete, for example, could experience serious water shortages in five out of six years by 2010.
Water supplies could become unusable due to the penetration of salt water into rivers and coastal aquifers as sea level rises. In fact, the ever increasing pumping of ground water from Maltaâ€™s aquifer has led to the intrusion of sea-water. This overexploitation, some of which is attributed to illegal extraction is hence affecting the water table by making it more prone to salinisation.
According to scientific studies, it is predicted that rainfall in the centralÂ Â Mediterranean could be down by as much as 30 per cent by 2080. This will decrease the level of replenishment of our groundwater system, which is already under stress