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The Jordan River Basin: Water, Conflict, Cooperation And Technology

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Megan Boehnke (Missoula, USA)

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 12: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers,
AbstractThe Jordan River Basin: Water, Conflict, Cooperation and Technology Megan M Boehnke GMA Consultant, Boehnke Water Consulting 7233 Uncle Robert Lane Apt 3 Missoula, MT 59803 USA 1 406 529 3260 The scarcity of water in the Middle East is creating political and security issues. Specifically, in the Jordon River Basin the competing claims, water usage and water rights, have affected all of the riparian's resources. This in turn has increased the strategic importance of water. For the Middle Eastern states, already involved in conflict or on the edge of one, water has become a catalyst for confrontation. To date, controversies between states concerning water rights remain unresolved despite formulating agreements in an effort to come to peace over this precious resource. In fact, there is no multilateral international treaty in force dealing with the allocation of the water resources of international drainage basins. Water scarcity has become an issue of national security since the remapping of the Middle East. Basin-wide cooperation will be required to come to a resolution and the use of technology will be integral to the solution. Cooperation and technology were the methods that I studied to help resolve the security issue in the Jordon River Basin. These methods have the potential to help provide relief for these water scare states and eliminate conflict over this resource. Cooperation was studied by going through water proposals, plans, and agreements beginning with Abraham Burkart's proposals for water resources in 1901. Because of the tense relationships, the states have come up with other means to provide water to the populations that does not involve the other riparian's. Desalinization and water harvesting are the two major technological methods looked at. Use of desalinization has been relatively limited by states in the basin. However, other states in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, have utilized this method extensively. My research revealed that water harvesting has been used for over 2000 years in deserts communities to provide water for agriculture. In studying, the political relations between states in the river basin, it was observed that a major factor of the political tension is the issue of water management. Over the years the states, which recognize Israel have created agreements that have set up guidelines for regulating and preserving the Jordon River Basin. In review of those documents there are certain trends that can be found. Most of the plans and agreements that have been created are exclusive to the states involved. Each of these agreements has identified issues that need to be address. The problem is that with each agreement and plan, states have acted unilaterally or bilaterally, which has resulted in none of plans being fully embraced. Even with these agreements, the states are experiencing a growing water deficiency. States that do not recognize Israel, such as Lebanon and Syria, have an extremely complex and tense relationship as riparian neighbors. These two different relationships with Israel reveal vastly different approaches to water management. Neither approach to addressing water scarcity has led these riparian's to a peaceful resolution. Instead of collaborating, states are finding their own way to provide water for their populations by using technology. Desalinization is becoming increasingly important in the basin, which is supplied by a number of aquifers. The aquifers are supplied by ground and surface water sources that are losing volume. As the aquifers are drained at an accelerated rate, they either dry up or pull in seawater. This increases the salinity of the water and renders it relatively useless for human purposes without treatment. Investments are being made in treatment plants for the desalination of brackish water thereby restoring it to a useful state. Water harvesting is the other method that is important in the region. Water harvesting is the collection of rainfall over a relatively geographic large area that can be utilized for agriculture. It is a much less expensive way to increase the water supply than desalinization and is something the people can do themselves without significant investment in infrastructure. Either of these methods would help provide relief while reliving pressure in the geo-political conflict that plagues the region. In summary, states have acted in their own interest and this has led to conflicts in the past over water and continues to do so today, thus posing a security threat in the region. The conflicts in the Jordon River Basin will continue to escalate as the water scarcity grows unless there is a change in approach. With booming populations and the scarcity of water, it is incumbent upon each state to come up with ways to form alliances and a system of rules to protect the water resources, so as to provide for the future. Technology is providing states with the means to provide water for their populations. These states must use technology and political cooperation to effectively implement agreements amongst on another, which address the sharing and use of water. This will provide for an increased supply and decrease the risk of major conflict over this precious resource in the Jordon River Basin. 1. Al-Atrush, Samer (May 12, 2010) "Egypt won't give up one drop of Nile water rights." AFP. 2. Allan , J. A. (2002) The Middle East Water Question: Hydropolitics and the Global Economy, London: I.B. Tauris & Co. 3. Arab Republic of Egypt, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Planning Sector. January 2005. National Water Resources Plan for Egypt – 2017. 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