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Water And War In The Middle East
SUBJECT AREA - Topical Issues
CSC 95
                    A MILITARY ISSUES PAPER
                   MAJOR AL-ZAGAIBEH HEEDIER
                     QUANTICO, VIRGINIA
                        APRIL 1995
                       TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION                                               1
THE WATER RESOURCES OF THE REGION                          2
       Yarmuk River                                        6
       West Bank Ground Water Aquifers                     7
       The Tigris, Euphrates River Basin and Shatt
            Al-Arab                                        8
       The Nile River Basin                               12
       The Litani and Orontes River Basins                14
       Conflicts over Other Middle East Water
           Resources                                      15
REDUCING CONFLICTS OVER WATER                             19
       Reallocation of Current Supplies                   20
       Effective Joint Interbasin Management              21
       Increased Efficiency of Use                        22
       New Supplies                                       23
       Politics and International Law                     24
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?                                27
END NOTES                                                 28                                        
     As we approach the 21st century, population pressures,
irrigation demands and growing resource needs throughout the
world are increasing competition for fresh water.  Nowhere
is this more evident than in the arid Middle East, where the
scarcity of water has played a central role in defining the
political relationships in the region for thousands of
years.  In the Middle East, ideological, religious, and
geographical disputes go hand in hand with water-related
tensions, and even those parts of the Middle East with
relatively extensive water resources, such as the Nile,
Tigris, and Euphrates river valleys are coming under
political pressure.  Competition for the limited water
resources of the area is not new--people have been fighting
over, and for, water since ancient times.  The problem has
become especially urgent in recent years because of the
growing demands for water, the limited options for improving
overall supply and management, and the intense political
conflicts in the region.  At the same time, the need to
jointly manage the shared water resources of the region may
provide an unprecedented opportunity to move toward an era
of cooperation and peace.  The problem of water conflicts in
the region is considered sufficiently important to merit
separate explicit discussion in both the multilateral and
bilateral Middle East Peace Talks now underway.
     The water resources of the Middle East are unevenly
distributed and used, and every major river in the region
crosses international borders.  The extent to which major
rivers and ground water basins are shared by two or more
nations makes allocation and sharing of water a striking
political problem.  In northeast Africa and the Middle East,
more than 50 percent of the total population relies upon
river water that flows across a political border.
     The major shared surface water supplies in the Middle
East are the Jordan, Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers.
The watershed of the Litani River in Lebanon is not shared
by any other country, though control and allocation of its
waters remains controversial.  Several ground water aquifers
are also heavily used, and in the occupied territories,
heavily contested.  Table 1 identifies the major river
basins in the region and the countries that are part of
those basins.
Click here to view image
The Jordan River Basin
     Despite its small size, the Jordan River is one of the
most important in the region, and the locus of intense
international competition.  Shared by Syria, Jordan, Israel,
and Lebanon, the Jordan drains an area of slightly under
20,000 square kilometers and flows 360 kilometers from its
headwaters to the Dead Sea.  Annual precipitation ranges
from less than 50 mm per year to over 1,000 mm per year, and
averages less than 200 mm per year, insufficient for most
rainfed agriculture.  The upper Jordan is fed by three major
springs, the Hasbani (in Lebanon), the Banias (in Syria),
and the Dan (in Israel).  The major tributary of the Jordan,
the Yarmuk River, originates in Syria and Jordan and
comprises part of the border between these countries and
Israel before flowing into the Jordan River.  The quality of
Jordan River water is very good up to the point where it
enters Lake Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee); by
the time it enters the Dead Sea, the water remaining in the
Jordan has become too salty to use.
     Israel normally uses about 1,600 to 1,800 million cubic
meters of water per year from all sources, including ground
water, reuse, and the Jordan Basin.  Jordan has usually
derived between 700 and 900 MCM/year of usable water from
all sources, including ground water and the Yarmuk.  Israel
depends on fresh water resources originating in the occupied
territories for about one-third of its total supply.
     Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, this basin
has been the center of intense interstate conflict, and the
dispute over the waters of the Jordan River is an integral
part of this conflict.  When Syria tried to stop Israel in
the 1950s from building its National Water Carrier--a system
to provide water to southern Israel--fighting broke out
across the demilitarized zone.  When Syria tried to divert
the headwaters of the Jordan away from Israel in the mid-
1960s, Israel used force, including air strikes against the
diversion facilities.  These military actions contributed to
the tensions that led to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which in
turn led to the occupation of much of the headwaters of the
Jordan River by Israel.
     Tensions also exist in the Jordan Basin between Syria
and Jordan over the construction and operation of a number
of Syrian dams on the Yariuk River, and among all the
riparians over water quality.
Yarmuk River
     The Yarmuk river originates on the eastern margin of
the rift in a complex of wadis developed in quaternary
volcanic rock overlying late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic
carbonate rocks.  Of the 7,252 sq km of the Yarmuk basin,
1,424 lie within Jordan and 5,828 within Syria.  Flow of the
Yarmuk is derived from winter precipitation that averages
364 mm per year over the basin.  Flow of the Yarmuk is
supplemented by spring discharge where surface water is
briefly abstracted under ground in highly permeable zones in
the lavas; some further spring discharge may be channeled to
the surface or wadi floors via solution parkways in the
underlying limestones.  Salinity of the Yarmuk does not
exceed 15 ppm.  The main trunk of the Yarmuk forms the
present boundary between Syria and Jordan for 40 km before
it becomes the border between Jordan and Israel; where it
enters the Jordan 10 km below Lake Tiberias.  The Yarmuk
contributes about 500 MCM per year, none of which is
contributed from the part of the valley where Israel is
West Bank Ground Water Aquifers
     In addition to the surface waters of the Jordan Basin,
water for Israelis and Palestinians living on the West Bank
of the Jordan comes in large part from three ground water
aquifers that underlie the region.  The occupation of this
area by Israel in 1967 has deprived residents of the West
Bank of the control of a significant fraction of their
available water supply.  By some estimates, 40 percent of
the ground water upon which Israel is now dependent--and
more than a third its sustainable annual water yield--
originates in the occupied territories.  Indeed, almost the
entire increase in Israeli water use since 1967 derives from
the waters of the West Bank and the Upper Jordan River.
     Though no accurate studies have been published, it is
estimated that the long-term potential yield of these
aquifers is just under 700 million cubic meters per year, of
which about 180 MCM/year is brackish water.  These aquifers
are replenished almost entirely by rainfall on the West
Bank.  The largest of the aquifers, the Western (called the
Yarkon-Taninim aquifer in Israel) flows toward the
Mediterranean Sea.  This ground water supply is tapped
extensively by Israel, primarily from within the boundaries
of pre-1967 Israel.  The other aquifers are also largely
controlled and used heavily by Israel, both within Israel
proper and in the settlements in the occupied territories.
     The control of the waters from these aquifers is one of
the major sources of conflict between the Palestinians and
the Israelis.  Among the unresolved questions are the extent
to which these three aquifers are used, disputes over their
control and management, uncertainties about the effects on
water quality of large withdrawals, and arguments over the
yields that can be provided safely.
The Tigris, Euphrates River Basin and Shatt Al-Arab
     The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are among the largest
in the region.  Both rivers originate in the mountains of
Turkey, flow south through Syria and Iraq, and drain through
the Shatt Al-Arab waterway into the Persian Gulf.  Several
tributaries of the Tigris drain the Zagros mountains between
Iran and Iraq, and 15 percent of the Euphrates Basin is in
Saudi Arabia, though essentially none of its flow is
generated there.  Ninety percent of the water in the
Euphrates River originates in Turkey, though Turkey only has
28 percent of the area of the Euphrates Basin.  Almost all
of the remainder of the flow originates in Syria.
     Turkey, Syria, and Iraq have long been at odds with
each other in constantly changing combinations.  All three
nations have large and rapidly growing populations;
ambitious irrigation plans requiring significant expansion
of water withdrawals, and no explicit agreement has ever
been reached about water allocations, water quality
controls, and joint watershed management.  While Syria has
other water resources, these are largely tapped, or like the
Yarmuk, contested, and the Euphrates is the only major river
crossing its territory with reliable annual flows.  Iraq is
the most heavily dependent upon the Euphrates at present,
but it has an alternative source of water in the Tigris
system, which is lightly used at present.  Recent
developments in Turkey on the upper portion of the
Euphrates, particularly the completion of the massive
Ataturk Dam, are viewed with mixed feelings.  Such
developments could help to reduce the extreme variations in
flow and ensure predictable supplies in downstream
countries, but they could also reduce overall flows to the
two downstream countries by 50 percent or more, especially
during low-flow years.  No formal agreement has yet been
reached on minimum releases by either Turkey to Syria, or by
Syria to Iraq.  Iraq believes that full development of the
Turkish Southeast Anatolia Development Project, and the more
modest irrigation plans in Syria, would deprive Iraq of
sufficient water for its own irrigation plans.
     Water quantity is not the only concern facing Euphrates
basin countries.  The quality of Euphrates river water is
also increasingly being affected by withdrawals and
irrigation return flows.  A large portion of the water
entering Iraq already consists of agricultural return flows
containing both agricultural chemicals and high salinity.
Attempts to establish joint management of the basin have not
yet succeeded, in part because of the constantly shifting
political situation and in part because of the complexity of
the hydrologic regime.
     For thirty years, negotiations among the three
riparians have been unavailing.  Water-related disputes
first arose in the basin in the 1960s after both Turkey and
Syria began to draw up plans for large-scale irrigation
withdrawals.  In 1965, tri-partite talks were held in which
each of the three countries put forth demands that,
together, exceeded the natural yield of the river.  Also in
the mid-1960s, Syria and Iraq began bilateral negotiations
over formal water allocations, but by the end of the decade,
no formal agreement had been reached.  In the 1970s, an
agreement was reached that allocated portions of the overall
flow to both Iraq and Syria, but this agreement was never
signed.  In mid 70s, dams at Keban, Turkey and Tabqa, Syria
were completed and their reservoirs had begun to fill,
reducing flows to Iraq.
     In 1974, Iraq threatened to bomb the Al-Thawra dam in
Syria and massed troops along the border, alleging that the
flow of water to Iraq had been reduced by the dam.  In
spring of 1975, the tensions between Iraq and Syria reached
a peak as Iraq claimed that Syria was intentionally reducing
flows to intolerably low levels.  The angry confrontation
ended just short of military action with mediation by Saudi
     In the last few years, Turkey's new water-supply
projects have been the focus of new political concerns in
the basin.  Tensions arose in early 1990 when Turkey
completed construction of the Ataturk Dam and closed the dam
to begin filling the reservoir, interrupting the flow of the
Euphrates for a month. Despite advance warning from Turkey
of the temporary cutoff, Syria and Iraq both protested that
Turkey now had a water weapon that could be used against
them.  Indeed, in October 1989, Turkish Prime Minister Ozal
threatened to restrict water flow to Syria to force it to
withdraw support for Kurdish rebels operating in southern
Turkey.  Then, in January 1990, downstream releases of the
river were stopped for 27 days to fill the dam.  While
Turkish politicians claimed that this shutoff was entirely
for technical, not political reasons, Syrian officials argue
that Turkey has already used its power over the headwaters
of the Euphrates for political goals and could do so again.
When the Turkish projects are complete, the flow of the
Euphrates River to Syria could be reduced by as much as 40
percent, and to Iraq by up to 80 percent.
     The ability of Turkey to shut off the flow of the
Euphrates, even temporarily, was noted by political and
military strategists at the beginning of the Persian Gulf
conflict.  In the early days of the war, there were behind-
the-scenes discussions at the United Nations about using
Turkish dams on the Euphrates River to deprive Iraq of a
significant fraction of its fresh water supply in response
to its invasion of Kuwait.  While no such action was ever
taken, the threat of the "water weapon" was again clear.
The Nile River Basin
     The Nile River is the longest river in the world,
flowing over 6800 kilometers from the highlands of central
Africa and Ethiopia through nine nations to the
Mediterranean.  The watershed covers nearly 10 percent of
the African continent.  The nations that share the Nile are
Egypt, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire, Uganda,
Rwanda, and Burundi.  Although the principal water users are
Egypt and the Sudan, Nile River runoff is generated almost
entirely in the other seven countries.  Two major
tributaries form the Nile, the White Nile, which starts in
central Africa's Lake Plateau region, and the Blue Nile,
originating in the highlands of Ethiopia.  More than 80
percent of the Nile's flow comes from the torrential
seasonal flows of the Blue Nile.
     The Nile River is of tremendous regional importance,
vital for agriculture in Egypt and Sudan.  Ninety-seven
percent of Egypt's water from the Nile River, and more than
95 percent of the Nile's runoff originates outside of Egypt,
in the other eight nations of the basin.  The Nile valley
sustained civilizations for over 5 millennia, but historical
evidence suggests that the populations of ancient Egypt
never exceeded 1.5 to 2.5 million people.  Today, Egypt
struggles to sustain a populations rapidly approaching 60
million, on the same limited base of natural resources.
Additionally, Egypt's population grows by another million
people every 9 months.  Additional water development in
other nations of the Nile Basin, particularly Ethiopia,
could greatly increase tensions over water in this arid
region.  Concern over the security of Egypt's water supplies
led President Anwar Sadat to say in 1979, "The only matter
that could take Egypt to war again is water."  More
recently, Egypt's Foreign Minister, Boutrous Boutrous Ghali,
now Secretary General of the United Nations, was quoted as
saying "The next war in our region will be over the waters
of the Nile, not politics."  While these statements partly
reflect political rhetoric, they indicate the importance of
the Nile to Egypt.
The Litani and Orontes River Basins
     Two other important rivers flow through parts of the
basin -- the Orontes and the Litani.  The Litani River is
the only important regional river entirely within one
country--Lebanon, while the Orontes is shared by Lebanon,
Syria, and Turkey.  More over, the Litani is the only major
river that has not been tapped to its limit, and total
current use is considerably less than total supply.  The
Litani River rises in the mountains surrounding the Bekaa
Valley and flows 145 kilometers south and west into the
Mediterranean Sea.  The waters of the Litani River provide
approximately 40 percent of Lebanon's total electricity
supply and are very high quality, although the effect of
current agricultural water use in the lower Litani has not
been documented.
     The Orontes originates in central Lebanon and flows
north through Syria and Turkey before emptying into the
Mediterranean Sea.  Three-quarters of the basin is in Syria
and the major use of Orontes River water is for irrigation
in Syria's Ghab Valley.  Although there may be some surplus
water in the basin, additional developments in Syria and
contamination of the water by sewage and industrial
effluents limit any significant shared use of Orontes water.
Conflicts over Other Middle East Water Resources
     The 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War underscores many other
connections between water and conflict.  During this war,
water and water-supply systems were targets of attack,
shared water supplies were used as instruments of politics,
and water conveyance systems of both sides were targeted for
destruction.  Most of Kuwait's extensive desalination
capacity was destroyed by the retreating Iraqis.  Oil
spilled into the Gulf threatened to contaminate desalination
plants throughout the region.  And the intentional
destruction of Baghdad's modern water supply and sanitation
system was so complete that the Iraqis were still suffering
severe problems rebuilding them in 1993.
     While water resources are only one source of tension in
the Middle East, pressures over water are likely to grow in
the future because of demographic trends, changing patters
of water use, and the possibility of changes in supply posed
by global climatic change, the so-called "greenhouse
effect."  Few of the countries in the region believe that
they have adequate water for their current populations;
almost none believes that they can continue to provide
adequate water as their populations continue to grow and as
industrial and agricultural activities increase their demand
for fresh water.  In some of the most water-short regions of
the Middle East, most notably Israel, the occupied
territories and Jordan, populations are expected to grow
extremely rapidly, (See Table 2).  At the same time, new
demands for water are putting pressure on existing supplies.
In Israel and Jordan, projected population growth could
require the severe restriction or complete elimination of
irrigated agriculture over the next several decades, just to
free up sufficient water to provide a reasonable minimum
amount to their populations.
Click here to view image
     At the same time, all debates about regional water
supplies assume that natural water availability in the
future will not change, and will be subject only to natural
variations in flow.  In fact, this assumption may no longer
be true because of possible changes in the global climate.
Global climatic change will affect water availability in
many ways, though the precise nature of such changes is
still obscure.  Climatic changes could both increase and
decrease overall water availability in different times and
in different places.  Despite the limited ability of the
current models to accurately project future conditions, even
slight decreases in long-term water availability will place
severe political strains on the region, as seen during the
period 1979 to 1988, when a drought reduced the average
runoff in the Nile by only 10 percent.  While we cannot
predict with confidence the nature of future climate changes
in the region, there are indications that long-term
decreases in flow exceeding 10 percent are possible.  Some
preliminary detailed modeling of the Nile Basin suggests
that Nile runoff could decrease by as much as 25 percent
under some plausible conditions, with even more significant
changes in seasonal flows.  Ironically, the possibility of
increases in runoff during the snowmelt season raises the
specter of increased frequency of severe floods, as
experienced in the Sudan in 1988.  Our challenge is to
identify where climatic changes may worsen the likelihood of
water-related tensions and to work to reduce the probability
and consequences of those conflicts.
     There is no single solution to Middle East water
problems, and ultimately, there will have to be a
combination of efforts and innovative ideas applied.  Formal
political agreements will have to be negotiated on how to
apportion and manage the shared surface and ground water in
the region, particularly in the Jordan and Euphrates river
basins, and in the occupied territories.  Unless all
riparians are included in these agreements, conflicts will
remain.  In particular, definitions of "equitable
utilization" of the existing water resources will have to be
negotiated and applied.  Difficult decisions will also have
to be made about priorities of water use within each
country.  Israel is wrestling with the conflicts between
urban and rural water demands, and between the agricultural
and domestic sectors while Jordan is trying to improve its
water-use efficiency.  And all parties are exploring ways of
increasing supply within serious economic and environmental
constraints.  Sharing of expertise, hydrologic data, and
exploring joint activities offers the best opportunity for
reducing the risks of future tensions over water in the
Middle East.
Reallocation of Current Supplies
     The conflicts over water in the Middle East are not
only about overall water availability, they also have their
roots in the control of existing water.  In the Jordan
Basin, control over shared ground water resources underlying
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are at the heart of the
tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.  In 1967, Israel
issued Military Order 92, which prohibited the drilling of
new wells without permission from the military authorities,
the fixing of quotas for the pumping from existing wells,
limitations on maintaining wells, and the expropriation of
wells in all expropriated Arab lands.  The Palestinians
claim that these restrictions have effectively frozen
Palestinian utilization of water in the occupied
territories, and has resulted in insufficient water for
urban and industrial use, and no new development for
increased agricultural development.  At the same time,
Israel has permitted new water to be developed for new
Jewish settlements in the areas.  The perception that much
of this water goes to wasteful irrigation of lawns and the
construction of swimming pools has not helped.
     While many Israelis, therefore, argue that a larger
water supply would help reduce tensions, Palestinians insist
that a discussion of reallocation of water rights and
control over the existing supply must precede any major
efforts to enhance total availability.  Unless these issues
are dealt with directly, the chances of resolving other
water problems in the region are limited.
Effective Joint Interbasin Management
     For all of the countries of the Middle East, long-term
sustainable economic development will depend in large part
upon access to clean and dependable fresh water.  Access to
water, in turn, will depend upon region wide comprehensive
management of the shared major rivers and ground water
basins of the Middle East.  Although new sources of water
supplies may eventually be developed, cooperation over the
existing water resources is essential; unless current water
supplies are equitably and efficiently allocated and used,
agreements to increase the overall pie will be stymied.
     Successful basin-wide agreements depend upon the
willingness of the parties to talk and upon the availability
of complete data on water availability and use.  Up until
now, such data has routinely been withheld by all sides
complicating negotiations.  We are rapidly approaching a
point, however, where withholding should be perceived as a
political liability, rather than a political advantage.
Making hydrologic remote-sensing, and other geographical
data freely available to all parties should be a major
priority and could be done using electronic data-handling
systems and exchanges, such as is now occurring on Internet
and related systems throughout the world.  This point is a
major focus of discussion in the ongoing multilateral peace
Increased Efficiency of Use
     Even modest increases in the efficiency of agricultural
water use and decreases in consumptive use could
dramatically increase overall availability in other sectors.
Increasing the efficiency in the region appears to be the
most economical and perhaps least controversial of all
proposals.  Despite the fact that Israel is the most water-
efficient country in the world, continued improvements are
both possible and absolutely necessary.  Israel has
pioneered many improvements in agricultural irrigation
efficiency and the recycling and reuse of wast water for
certain uses.  Jordan is now implementing similar measures
to cope with their increasing water problems.  In Jordan,
the overall efficiency of water use in the agricultural
sector is about 40 percent, and evaporation rates from open
irrigation canals in the Jordan Valley and seepage losses
from those canals are high, mainly to farmers.  A major area
for increasing the efficiency is wastewater reuse and water
reclamation.  In Israel, substantial advances have been made
in water reclamation and reuse -- Tel Aviv, is reusing 36
percent of its wastewater for purposes other than drinking
water and overall 5 percent of Israel's entire use is
recycled wastewater.  By 2000, the Jordan Water Authority
expects that one-quarter of east Jordan Valley irrigation
water will be recycled sewage water.  While this water will
be limited by religious, health and environmental concerns,
the technology exists to adequately clean and recycle
wastewater for many purposes.
New Supplies
     The traditional reaction to resource pressures has long
been focused on how to increase supplies, and this is true
in the Middle East as well.  There are two principal ways to
do this:  bring in outside sources of water, and capture
unused portions of the currently supply by building
reservoirs to store flows during wet periods for use during
dry periods.  Many ideas for developing new sources in the
Middle East have been proposed, including building
desalination plants, constructing enormous pipelines to
divert underused rivers in Turkey or Pakistan to the parched
Middle East and Persian Gulf region, tankering or towing
enormous bags of fresh water to coastal areas, laying
aqueducts from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea to
generate electricity and desalinate salt water, and putting
new reservoirs on all major rivers to increase storage for
dry periods.
     All of these proposals are controversial.  Uncertain
economic and environmental costs, coupled with the intense
political disputes over control of water, make the
construction of new facilities extremely unlikely in the
absence of a lasting political settlement.  on the other
hand, it is likely that some new sources of supply will
eventually be developed as the economic value of water
Politics and International Law
     International water law and institutions have important
roles to play despite the fact that no satisfactory water
law has been developed that is acceptable to all nations.
Developing such agreements is difficult because of the many
intricacies of interstate politics, national practices, and
other complicating political and social factors.  For
nations sharing river basins, factors affecting the
successful negotiation and implementation of international
agreements include whether a nation is upstream, downstream,
or sharing a river as a border, the relative military and
economic strength of the nations, and the availability of
other sources of water supply.
     In the last few decades, however, international
organizations have attempted to derive more general
principles and new concepts governing shared fresh water
resources.  The International Law Association's Helsinki
Rules of 1966 (since modified) and the work of the
International Law Commission of the United Nations are among
the most important examples.  In 1991, the International Law
Commission (ILC) completed the drafting and provisional
adoption of 32 articles out he Law of the Non-Navigational
Uses of International Watercourses.  Among the general
principles set forth are those of equitable utilization, the
obligation not to cause harm to other riparian states, and
the obligation to exchange hydrologic and other relevant
data and information on a regular basis.  Questions still
remain, however, about their relative importance and means
of enforcement.  In particular, defining and quantifying
"equitable utilization" of a shared water supply remains one
of the most important and difficult problems facing many
     Until now, individual water treaties covering river
basins have been more effective, albeit on a far more
limited regional basis, than the broader principles
described by the ILC.  Such treaties have helped reduce the
risks of water conflicts in many areas, but some of them are
beginning to fail as changing levels of development alter
the water needs of regions and nations.  The 1959 Nile River
Treaty and some limited bilateral agreements on the
Euphrates between Iraq and Syria, and Iraq and Turkey, are
good examples of treaties now under pressure because of
changes in the political and resource conditions of the
     To make both regional treaties and broader
International agreements over water more flexible, detailed
mechanisms for conflict resolution and negotiations need to
be developed, basic hydrologic data needs to be acquired and
completely shared with all parties, flexible rather than
fixed water allocations are needed, and strategies for
sharing shortages and apportioning responsibilities for
floods need to be developed before shortages become an
important factor.  For example, the 1959 treaty between
Egypt and the Sudan allocates fixed quantities of water,
based on assumptions about the total average flows of each
river.  Mistaken estimates of average flows, or future
climatic changes that could alter flows, make this type of
allocation rigid and prone to disputes.  Proportional
sharing agreements, if they include agreements for openly
sharing all hydrologic data, can help to reduce the risk of
conflicts over water, and modifications to these treaties
should be undertaken by their signatories now, before such
changes become evident.
     In summary, existing institutions appear sufficient to
design and implement the kinds of conflict resolution
mechanisms designed above, but some major improvements in
them are needed.  The UN has played an important role,
through the International Law Commission, in developing
guidelines and principles for internationally shared
watercourses, but it should continue to press for the
adoption and application of the principles in water-tense
regions such as the Jordan and Euphrates river basins.
     Similarly, bilateral or multilateral river treaties
have been effective in the past, but they need to
consistently include all affected parties, they must include
a joint management committee empowered to negotiate
disputes, and they should be flexible enough to adapt to
long-term changes in hydrologic conditions, such as those
that may result from global climatic change.  Finally,
disputes over shared ground water resources are particularly
important in the Middle East, yet international ground water
law and principles are poorly developed.
                WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
     Enormous difference remain among the parties.  Jordan
still has a serious dispute with Syria over the damming of
and withdrawals of water from the Yarmuk River; no formal
agreements on water rights have been worked out between the
Palestinians and Israel; Turkey, Syria, and Iraq have no
formal treaty allocating the waters of the Euphrates; and
rapidly growing populations throughout the region are
competing for an inadequate overall water supply, raising
unanswered questions about the costs of alternative water
     At the broadest level, the Middle East needs a
comprehensive framework for planning and managing shared
water resources.  Such a framework could be convened by
third-party nations and institutions, and would include
regional and national studies on water supply and demand,
the development of standards for the collection and
dissemination of data, the establishment of Jordan and
Euphrates river basin authorities that include all
riparians, the establishment of Jordan and Euphrates river
basin authorities that include all riparians, and the
identification of mechanisms for implementing joint
projects.  Some of the goals of a framework water convention
would include identifying water-use efficiency capabilities
and goals, means for shifting water use within and among
sectors, and objectives for providing new supplies.
     The opportunity for conflict over water in the Middle
East is high, but the opportunity for cooperation also
exists, if we can see how to reach it.
                          END NOTES
1.   Thomas Naff and Ruth C. Maston, Water in the Middle
     East:  Conflict or Cooperation.
2.   T. Naff, The Jordan River Basin; Politics &
3.   M. Lowi, The Politics of Water Under Conditions of
     Scarcity and Conflict.
4.   P.H. Gleick, The Implications of Global Climatic
     Changes for International Security.
5.   G. Baskin, The West Bank and Israel's Water Crisis.
6.   Nader Al-Khalib, Palestine Water Rights.
7.   M.F. Abu-Taleb, E. Salameh, Water Resources Planning
     and Development in Jordan.
8.   U.N. International Law Commission.
9.   Stephen McCaffrey, Water, Politics and International
10.  Peter Gleick, Water and War in the Middle East.
11.  Leslie Schmida, Keys to Control Israel's Pursuit of
     Arab Water Resources.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias