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Water Issues and Conflict in the Middle East


Water Issues and Conflict in the Middle East If we solve every other problem in the Middle East but do not satisfactorily resolve the water problem, our region ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Water Issues and Conflict in the Middle East

Water Issues and Conflict in the Middle East
  • If we solve every other problem in the Middle
    East but do not satisfactorily resolve the water
    problem, our region will explode. (Yitzhak Rabin
    in Klare 2001 141)

Water and War
  • The next war in the Middle East will be
    over water, not politics. (Boutros
    Boutros-Ghali, Secretary General, United Nations)
  • The only matter that could take Egypt to war
    again is water. (Anwar Sadat, President of
  • Water is the one issue that could drive nations
    of the region to war. (King Hussein, Jordan)
  • Many of the wars in this century were about oil,
    but wars of the next century will be about
    water.(Ismail Serageldin, Vice President, World

Water and Conflict
  • Water is not distributed uniformly around the
    globe, and has been a source of tension wherever
    water resources are shared by neighboring
  • Globally, there are more than 250 water bodies
    shared by more than one country.

  • Current Water Situation in Middle East Region

  • Water is critical for life, food production, and
    industrial processes.
  • 9 out of 14 Southwest Asian states face
    water-short conditions (the most concentrated
    region of scarcity in the world).

Water Supply
  • Southwest Asian countries often get into disputes
    over their policies on water rights and other
    natural resources.
  • Water rights are agreements about how countries
    can use the water in a region.
  • Water rights often cause political disputes.

Facts about water and water scarcity in the ME
  • According to the World Bank the amount one human
    needs in order to remain alive and healthy is 100
    to 200 litres per day!
  • Less than 3 percent of worlds overall water is
    fresh water, less than 1 percent of the fresh
    water supply is accessible to humans.
  • World Bank Eleven countries in the ME have
    annual per capita supplies at or less than 100
    cubic meters  
  • Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Morocco,
    Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab
    Emirates and Yemen

Water Issues in the Middle East
  • Only 3 countries in the Middle East do not need
    to depend on outside fresh water
  • Iran, Egypt, and Turkey
  • 2/3 of the Middle East depend on water from
    outside their borders
  • Jordan is one of the most water scarce countries
    in the world.

One of the 504 dams in Turkey
  • Water Issues in the Middle East
  • gt90 of population growth will be in developing
    countries where clean water supplies are low.
  • Nine countries in the Middle East use gt100 of
    their renewable water supply (depleting
  • Egypt depends entirely on the Nile to irrigate
    crops. Ethopia controls 80 of Niles flow
    upstream and plans to divert water for itself.
    Could be catastrophic for Egypt.

Water Situation
  • Saudi Arabia, have almost no water.
  • They are mostly made up of desert.
  • Iran has areas with access to rivers and areas
    that are made up of deserts.
  • Because water is in short supply in so many parts
    of Southwest Asia, irrigation has been necessary
    for those who want to farm and raise animals for
  • People must live where there is water.

North Africa / Middle East, Mean Annual
Precipitation (mm)
Fresh Groundwater Sources
  • Water Pollution

  • The process of refining oil also creates
  • Refining oil means making oil from the ground
    ready to use in machines.
  • Refining oil produces toxic chemicals.
  • This is an enormous problem for the environment
    in the Southwest Asia.

Water Pollution in the Middle East
  • There are many serious environmental problems in
    the Middle East.
  • The water supply is very limited and finding
    fresh water for farming or drinking is a struggle
    throughout the region.
  • Israel has very few fresh water sources and the
    Sea of Galilee provides its primary supply of
    drinking water.

Water Pollution in the Middle East
  • Water pollution caused by oil spills from
    drilling, refineries and shipping sometimes leak
    into rivers and water supplies.
  • This impact irrigation and drinking water because
    it causes health hazards.
  • Some countries are adjusting/adapting to the
    limited amount of water resources available by
    building desalination facilities to remove salt
    from salt water.

Examples of Conflicts over Water in the Middle
  • Overview

Water Conflicts of the Middle East in the Past
  • Destruction of Babylonian irrigation systems as
    retribution by Assyrians
  • Modern period
  •  Fashoda Crisis in southern Sudan in 1898 between
    France and Britain
  • Water conflicts during Cold War
  • Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (control over river
  • Syria and Iraq almost went to war in 1975 (Syria
    filled up Lake Assad, and reduced flow of
    Euphrates River)
  • 1990 Turkey blocked flow of Euphrates to fill up
    its own reservoirs

Hydropolitics and Geopolitics
Political negotiations centred on conflicts over
the shared use of water sources
  • The Nile is the worlds longest river , 6,500kms,
    2.9km2 catchment,10 of Africa, running through
    10 countries with 360 million people depending
    on it for survival.
  • Growing issues of desertification salination
    and increased evaporation linked to climate
  • About 85 water originates from Eritrea and
    Ethiopia, but 94 is used by Sudan and Egypt.
  • History of hydropolitics in Nile Basin
  • tensions due to the dominance of Egypt
  • civil wars in Sudan Ethiopia
  • tensions from Egypts treaties dating back to
    the 1929 and 1959 Nile Water Agreements.
  • Upstream states increasingly challenging Egypts
  • Ethiopia wants to use the Nile River for HEP
    plants and industrial development.
  • Evidence of more effective co-operation
  • The Nile Basin Initiative, system of cooperative
    management which started late 1990s
  • All countries except Eritrea working with The
    World Bank and bi-lateral aid donors .
  • Community level involvement .
  • Managers visited Colorado River recently to see
    how effectively the 1922 River Water Compact
    and its law of the river works

Tech Fix The megaprojects of dams like Aswan
are famous. Latest high tech is the 1990sproject
called Tecconile a joint GIS system to help
monitor and plan the basin
  • 1996 Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of
    International Rivers - regulating how
    transboundary rivers and groundwater are managed
  • The Nile Basin is an example that Water Wars
    may be averted

Water Issues in the Middle East
In the Northern region Turkey is in dispute with
Syria and Iraq over damming more of the Tigris
and Euphrates river
  • There are significant disputes over access to
    water already in this area
  • The combination of a growing population and low
    seasonal rainfall are the main causes.
  • Is the energy dependent technological fix of
    desalination the answer?
  • Photo of a plant in Dubai

The Aral Sea, on the boundary of the Middle East
and Asia is suffering from over abstraction and
In the Western Region Israelis,
Syrians, Jordanians and Lebanese are all in
dispute over shrinking water supplies A
contributory factor to the 1967 Arab-Israeli
war Water storage is in 3 huge aquifers under the
Israeli mountains and coastal strip and the R
Conflict over the Tigris and Euphrates River
Euphrates River
  • The Euphrates River flows through Turkey, Syria,
    and Iraq.
  • These countries all rely on the Euphrates for
    farming and for electricity.
  • The river begins in Turkey and flows to the
    Persian Gulf.
  • Turkey built two dams on the Euphrates in 1984 to
    harness its power for electricity.

Conflict over the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
  • The Euphrates and Tigris provides water for much
    of Syria and Iraq however, they begin in Turkey.
  • Turkey has been trying to build hydroelectric
    dams which would reduce the water supply to the
    other 2 countries.
  • Syria built its own dams in response cutting
    off even more water to Iraq.

Dam Buiding
  • These dams make the river less powerful. Syria
    also built a dam on the Euphrates.
  • By the time the river reaches Iraq, it is much
    smaller and less powerful than it was originally.
  • Water supply in Iraq is also diminished and
    farming is very difficult.
  • In 1975, a war almost broke out between Syria and
    Iraq over water rights.

  • Fresh water supplies are available only in small
  • Dams are very controversial in this region as
    they affect multiple countries at once.

Water Conflict between Israel and Jordan
Conflict Between Israel and Jordan over Water
  • The Jordan River is the major source of water for
    both Israel and Jordan
  • Early 1950sIsrael wanted to cultivate additional
    desert land -gt built a new pipeline to bring
    water from the Jordan River to the Negev Desert
  • Called the National Water Carrier, an integrated
    network of pumping stations, reservoirs, canals
    and pipelines
  • Pipelines became the central water supply for
    Israel but pipeline was a threat to Jordans
    water supply

Conflict Between Israel and Jordan over Water
  • Downstream users in Jordan could not get the
    water they needed
  • Border clashes between Jordan and Israel
  • 1967 Israeli Jordanian War
  • Israel won and occupied the Golan Heights Israel
  • Gained complete control of the Upper Jordan River
  • Jordan could not tap as much water from the
    Jordan River
  • Critical shortage of water in Jordan

Conflict Between Israel and Jordan over Water
  • Israel also
  • Destroyed a dam Jordan was constructing on the
    Yarmouk River during the war
  • Diverted large amounts of water from the Yarmouk
    River into Lake Tiberias
  • Obstructed all attempts by Jordan to build a
    water storage system to improve its water supply

Conflict Between Israel and Jordan over Water
Golan Heights
Yarmouk River
Lake Tiberias
Conflict Between Israel and Jordan over Water
  • Steps Taken and Results
  • Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty
  • Both agree to share the Jordan River and provide
    each other with water
  • Both agree to build dams and create storage
    facilities to hold excess rainwater

Water Issues Between the Israelis and Palestinians
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Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians
  • Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians on the West
    Bank, all depend on many of the same scarce water
  • Israel has the most power, so it has been most
    effective in claiming water.
  • Much Israeli water is also cleaned after it is
    used once, and is then reused.
  • Ways have to be found to make sure that everyone
    has access to enough water.

Equitable Distribution
  • River Jordan (Israel 100 Palestine 0)
  • Coastal Aquifer (Israel 82 Palestine 18)
  • 3. Mountain Aquifer (Israel 83 Palestine 17)
  • 4. Other Sources (Israel 100 Palestine
  • Per capita consumption (1994)
  • Israelis        344m3/yr
  • Palestinians     93m3/yr
  • Israelis consume (4 x more) per head

Water for Palestinian Israelis
  • In Israel itself 90,000 Palestinian Israeli
    citizens live in unrecognised villages.
  • Although these villages often pre-date the
    establishment of the state of Israel, Israel
    refuses to recognise their existence and
    consequently denies them all municipal services
    water, electricity, health care, education, etc.
  • In addition the land they are built on is zoned
    for Jewish only settlement so their homes are
    subject to demolition.

Permits for Wells
  • In 1967 - 140 Palestinian wells were destroyed.
  • As 227,500 Palestinians have no access to piped
    water and a further 190,000 have only limited
    access (BTselem) wells are frequently vital for
    communities survival.
  • Permits for new wells can go through up to 18
    stages of approval.
  • A permit is required to use your own well.
    Having a permit to use your well does not assure
    access to it
  • Between 1967 and 1996 a total of 13 permits were
    given to Palestinians. All were for domestic use
    only, not a single agricultural well!
  • "A pattern starts to emerge where it appears
    that the Israelis are deliberately trying to
    sabotage Palestinian efforts to both access and
    fully develop their water resources, (Oxfam).

Permits Wastewater
  • More than 90 of all West Bank wastewater is
    untreated, only 1 plant is operating.
  • Only one in five Palestinian families in West
    Bank are connected to sewage systems.
  • 69 use outdated septic tanks (often
    prohibitively expensive to maintain and empty).
    Several construction permits are required to
    build a new tank.
  • The German government has repeatedly offered to
    build fully funded sewage treatment facilities in
    the West Bank, only for Israel to block their
  • Palestines capacity to treat wastewater has
    been systematically retarded by Israel, (The
    World Bank).

West Bank Barrier and Water Issues
West Bank Water Pollution
  • 91 mcm of wastewater is discharged annually into
    the West Bank, 38 from Israeli sources.
  • Jerusalem pipes half of its 35 mcm to the east,
    creating the raw sewage nightmare of Wadi Kadrun.
  • 40 settlements east of the Green Line are not
    connected to any waste water facility. Others do
    not function and spill excrement onto the
    Palestinian villages below them.
  • There is no real life there - it is just waste
    water, Iyad Aburdeieneh, Palestinian Deputy
    Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Settler Water Use
  • Settlers consume 10 of all West Bank water
  • 95 of settler use is agricultural.
  • Palestinian private and domestic use totals
  • Recent figures suggest settlers use could be as
    much as 800m3/yr.

West Bank Settlements
  • All settlements are illegal under International
    Humanitarian Law.
  • Settlements are generally built on hills close
    to or upon the best wells and water supply.
    Lands settlements are built upon are
    re-designated as state lands allowing for new
    wells to be drilled. The impenetrable permit
    system only applies to Palestinians.

West Bank Aquifer aka Mountain Aquifer
  • largest and most abundant
  • lies in Israel and part of West Bank but it is
    recharged by precipitation that falls in West
  • historically used by Palestinians, then with
    Jewish migration into Palestine at end of 19th
    century, water became shared
  • 1920s/30s intensive exploitation of resources by
    Jewish settlers which was then promoted further
    by Israel between 1948 and 1967
  • This continued after Six Days War and now more
    than 90 of basin used by Israel

West Bank Aquifer
  • Also considered to be transboundary
  • Lies entirely within the West Bank
  • Used exclusively by Palestinian farmers and
    villagers until 1967

Mountain Aquifer Water Use
  • Israelis             73
  • Palestinians          17
  • Illegal Israeli settlers     10
  • The daily per capita consumption in Israel is
    242 liters in urban areas and 211 liters in rural
    communities (in 2007).
  • By comparison, the consumption in the West Bank
    is 73 liters per person (in 2008). In certain
    districts, consumption was as low as 37 liters
    (Tubas District), 44 (Jenin District), and 56
    (Hebron District). (BTselem (2010).
  • According to the Palestinian Hydrology Group,
    (2003) 7 of communities subsist on 30 litres/day
    or less and 36 of communities subsist on between
    30 and 50 litres/day.
  • The World Health Organisation recommended
    minimum is 100 litres/day
  • Similarly in Israel around 95 of irrigable land
    is irrigated. In the West Bank the figure is
    only 25-33. (Philip Mattar Encyclopedia of the

West Bank Aquifer
  • Hydrological matters additional dimension to
  • Water resources often coincide with disputed land
    and are transboundary in nature e.g Israel
    receives more than 50 its water from Arab
  • Emerged mainly since 1960s
  • After 1967 war (water one of issues to initiate
    war) Israeli policies and institutions extended
    to occupied territories

West Bank Aquifer
  • Now, Israel using nearly 80 of West Bank waters.
  • Palestinian plight further compounded by fact
    they are forced to pay higher rates for their
    water supply
  • Huge discrepancies between water allocated to
    Palestinians and Israelis
  • Also further tension due to Palestines claims to
    share of Jordan river

West Bank Aquifer
  • Water needed for domestic use but also vital for
  • 80 of water resources assigned to irrigation of
    crops in Israel and West Bank
  • Agriculture represents 25 of Palestinian GDP.
  • In Israel agriculture is 4
  • BUT per capita, Israel uses 4 times more water
    than Palestine annually

Water, Land Confiscation and the Wall
  • 80 of the illegal wall is built on Palestinian
    Land so far 25 wells and cisterns and 35,000
    meters of water pipes have been destroyed and
    many more wells and 200 cisterns have been
    isolated from their owners.
  • The Wall will also put much of the Western
    Aquifer and on the Israeli side.
  • In addition around 45 of the West Bank is
    designated as closed military zones, state lands
    or nature reserves. These lands often correlate
    with the major water resources and thereby put
    these reserves beyond use for Palestinians.

Water and the Wall
  • Dr Alan MacDonald British Geological Survey

Water and the Wall
  • A 1999 study examining the economic viability of
    drilling in the West Bank found that the most
    productive sites were along the 1949 armistice
    line. It reported
  • 1. Groundwater development from both the Upper
    and Lower Aquifers is most economical in a narrow
    zone around the 1949 Armistice Line in the
    northern part of the West Bank. Costs
    significantly increase with distance from the
    Armistice Line. This is a fact not lost on those
    developing the aquiferthis is where most of the
    operational boreholes are located
  • 2. There are areas of the Upper Aquifer that
    cannot be properly developed. In fact, only a
    small area around Qalqilya and Tulkarem can be
    developed economically. Any slight eastern
    migration of the Palestinian border will have a
    serious effect on the ability of the Palestinians
    to develop this aquifer. The separation wall,
    which is being built to the east of the Armistice
    Line in Palestinian territory, will therefore
    significantly reduce the ability of the
    Palestinians to develop groundwater resources in
    the Western Aquifer Basin
  • 3. Pumping costs significantly increase with
    distance from the Armistice Line, (Calow et al.

The Wall and Drainage
  • The wall deeply affects the hydrology of the
    watersheds, representing a barrier to the storm
    water causing serious flooding in adjacent
  • In some locations the wall blocks the passage of
    sewage along traditional drainage channels. The
    backed up sewage can flood homes, shops or lands.
  • In Qalqilya following heavy rains in 2005
    Israeli soldiers refused to open drainage pipes.
    The area flooded damaging a poultry farm, several
    houses and a girls elementary school.

Attempted Agreements in Palestinian-Israeli Water
  • Johnston Plan 1953
  • The signing of the Declaration of Principles
    September 1993
  • Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty of October 1994
  • Oslo Accords

Gaza Strip Water Issues
The Coastal Aquifer Gaza
  • The Coastal Aquifer is Gazas only water supply.
  • Water consumption is 140 litres per person per
  • The coastal aquifer is over-exploited and is
    becoming contaminated by sea water and raw
  • According to Amnesty International the water
    situation in Gaza has reached crisis point with
    between 90 and 95 of water unfit for human
  • UN scientists estimate that within 15 years Gaza
    will have no drinkable water.

Gaza Water and Health
  • The Palestinian Water Authority estimates that
    almost 40 of the incidence of disease in Gaza is
    related to polluted drinking water.
  • According to international NGOs 20 of Gazan
    families have at least one child under five who
    suffers from diarrhoea as a result of polluted
  • B'Tselem reports "A UN study published in 2009
    estimates that diarrhea is the cause of 12 of
    children's deaths in Gaza. The lack of potable
    drinking water is liable to cause malnutrition in
    children and affect their physical and cognitive
  • In 2007 current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
    suggested that Israel could cut off all water to

Gaza War Damage
  • The 2009 Damage Assessment Report, CMWU speaks
    of 5.97 million damage to Gazas water and
    wastewater treatment facilities and
  • In central Gaza the largest wastewater treatment
    plant in the Gaza Strip was shelled causing
    pipelines to rupture and raw sewage to flood more
    than a square kilometre of agricultural and
    residential land.
  • Much of the damage was to pipelines torn up by
    Israeli tanks and bulldozers. Pipes are among the
    items Israeli authorities bar from entering Gaza.
  • Palestinian Government sources say that more
    than 800 of Gazas 2,000 water wells were
    destroyed or rendered un-useable.

Gaza and the Siege
  • "Since the beginning of the siege Israel has
    prohibited the entry of equipment and materials
    that can be used to improve water quality and
    taste, and to develop and rehabilitate the water
    infrastructure and the wastewater treatment
    facilities in Gaza The equipment needed includes
    water pumps, pipes, generators, computers,
    building cement and chloride, BTselem.
  • In 2007 sewage deluged northern Gaza when the
    treatment facility was shelled 5 drowned.
  • More than two-thirds of Gaza's 4,000
    agricultural water wells rely on fuel powered
    pumps and shortages of fuel are leaving crops to

  • Issues of quantity, quality and distribution
  • Water important factor in conflict in region and
    as demand outweighs supply, multi-lateral
    agreements are only way forward
  • Water scarcity increasing year by year due to
    population growth, over-exploitation and
  • Although water scarcity and distribution causes
    conflict, maybe, the severity of the water crisis
    could breed cooperation between Palestine and

  • Resolving the water conflict will not bring
    peace to the region. However, peace is not
    attainable without a solution to the water
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