On the geopolitics of water scarcity in the Middle East

Welcome to Waternet

This website focuses on the challenge of politics and policies with regard to development and potential conflict in water scarce environments in the Middle East.
Information is organised on three main topics: the impact of water on politics in the Jordan river basin, a broader view on water issues in the Middle East and more general international aspects of water resources and policies.

Introduction: water, conflict and development

In March 2005, we entered the 'International Decade on Water and Development'.
This decade was proclaimed by the United Nations to focus international attention on the Millennium Development Goals. More specificly, it calls for special action on the goal for water: by 2015, the population which has no sustainable access to safe water resources must be halved.

In the Middle East, attention is not primarily focused on issues linking water and poverty. The region is more associated with 'water conflicts' and 'rivers of fire', images that popular media are eager to adopt. Put like this, it is suggested that the main problems with water in the Middle East are related to tensions among countries generated by water scarce environments.

On the face of it, violent interstate competition over water resources doesn't seem so strange in the context of ongoing political tensions in the Middle East. Why can water scarcity not spark the fire of the Israeli-Arab conflict, or the susicions towards Turkey, Saoudi Arabia or Iran? However, many observers tend to say that the likelyhood of water wars needs to be moderated.
Experiences in the past don't provide us with clear examples of the water wars, although we must be careful with predictions for the future.

Can we conclude that nothing is wrong? Nowhere near.
Water scarcity can present a clear and present danger to the internal stability of countries in the Middle East. When we think of scenarios described by the theories of ecological conflicts, where population growth and environmental change worsen the living conditions of a population that is aready affected by poverty and underdevelopment. This leads to an increasing competion for resources for development, like water. Different sections of the population claim their shares, the poorest and most vulnerable people are likely to loose most. Lack of alternatives can cause flows of refugees and violence, which in turn might trickle down to international tensions.

Content of the site

Jordan River Basin
The Jordan River basin is the focus area of this website.
We will look more closely into policy making (and problems rising from policy making) on shared water resources in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. As background, we present references policy documents, institutions and organisations working in the field of water policy, and a selection of articles or links to other websites on this subject.


The Middle East - North African region
On a wider scale, we offer a selection of interesting information on international water resources in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA-region): the Euphrates and Tigris basin with Turkey, Syria, Irak and Iran as its riparians, the Nile basin and its involvement of 10 different riparian states from Ethiopia and Central Africa in the south, to Sudan and Egypt in the north, among other cases.


International context of managing water scarcity
Finally, this web web site contains a section on the international legal and institutional context of water resources and water resources management, with refences to international water law, international organisations dealing with water issues, and important reports.

This site will be updated regularly. Updates will be announced on the Waternet-blog