Water In The Middle East Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

While on one hand, the Nile gets the highest discharge from rainfall on the highlands of Ethiopia and upland plateau of East Africa, located well outside the Middle East region; on the other hand, discharge points of the other two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, are positioned well within the Middle East region, prevailing mostly in Turkey, Syria along with Iraq. In other areas, recurrent river systems are restricted to the more northern upland areas of Iran and Turkey, in common with the coastline of Levant (Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake, J. And Malcolm Wagstaff, 1988).

The conflict in the Future

It is widely believed by many experts that those who control the waters in the Middle East; control the Middle East; and those who control the Middle East; control the oil supply of the world (David M. Hummel, 1995). From the above mentioned facts it is clear that the water resources in Middle East are limited and as a result, a race has been triggered to acquire control over the limited water reserves in the Middle East. This race of acquiring control over the limited water reserves has resulted in putting the countries involved in this race in a state of constant conflict. It is also worth noting that at present, no international basin-based agreements on using the river waters have been accorded as all the countries feel that they will be the losers in such a scenario and therefore have been reluctant to enter an accord. Furthermore, no individual state can create its water development plans as by doing so, it triggers other countries to perceive those plans as a threat to their national interest. Many experts believe that only an international agreement amongst the nations involved can solve the present crisis and end the threat of war. This is because the international rivers in this region cannot be fully utilized, unless all the countries in the Middle East reach an agreement and abide by it and because the only way to address the problem of water scarcity in the region is by fully utilizing the available water resources. Furthermore, many countries in the region do not realize that water is a limited commodity as they feel that their basic right to access water resources is being violated by other countries in the region. The population is the Middle East is also not standing still and the environment is also not very colorful. In fact, Middle East has one of the highest population growth rates and also has very dry and sunny weathers. While many countries have detested and ostracized the exploitation of their water resources, they have also, in the meantime, looked for alternatives sources of water. This is evident from the fact that many Middle East countries have installed desalinization plants so that they may fulfill the scarcity of water through these alternatives. However, it is worth noting here that desalinization plants are not a cheap alternative and they cannot fulfill the larger purposes of water, such as, use in irrigation and creating energy. This is because the technology is still in its infancy and the cost of operating such desalinization plants makes them unaffordable for those purposes. Furthermore, many countries have proposed the linking of the Red Sea with the Dead Sea (and calling it Red-Dead Canal) or the Mediterranean Sea with the Dead Sea (and calling it Med-Dead Sea). Experts believe that these proposals can turn out to be extremely costly and at the same time not yield effective results. Furthermore, implementation of such a proposal will also severely harm the ecology of the region (David M. Hummel, 1995).

The way of life in the larger part of Middle East is also not very humble and modest as the discovery of oil and the money earned through its export has led the people of this region to live an extremely luxurious life. This approach has added to the complexity of water scarcity as expensive way of life means excessive water consumption. Therefore, the present approach of using water cannot be and should not be allowed to continue and there is an urgent requirement to cut down the unnecessary utilization...
...However, it is worth noting that while a lot of time has been wasted in finger-pointing and a lot of resources have been wasted on expensive alternative sources of water, very little, in fact, nothing is being done to cut down the uncalled for usage of water.

Many analysts had predicted that war would eventually break out, if the scarcity of water and other issues related to it are not resolved. Furthermore, these theories had further been established when, in the 1980's, the American intelligence services predicted that no less than 10 regions will confront war situations due to the scarcity in the availability of fresh and clean water. Amongst the 10 places predicted, majority of them had been in the Middle East and North Africa (World resource Institute, 1991). While these predictions had been given almost 2 decades ago and the water wars have not yet taken place, the threat of these wars taking place in the near future is highly likely. This is because almost all the countries in this region, where water is scarce, depend on importing the surface water of internationally distributed river systems (Sharif S. Elmusa, 1996).

In the future, when the demand for fresh water will increase manifold, these river systems will turn out to be the front line zone of regional conflicts amongst the Middle East countries. Many of these future conflicts are already taking shape in the form of active resistance by the countries sharing the water of the river system. Therefore, an in depth study on the possibility of future water wars in the Middle East is imperative so that one can assess the stakes and interests of the countries involved and offer alternative solutions. Having understood the importance and significance of water in the Middle East and the complexities underlying the usage in a brief yet concise manner, we will now assess the reviews of other notable scholars on this subject.


Will the ever-increasing demand of water lead the Middle East countries to the brink of an all out war?

Will the limited water supplies and the decreasing sources of water pave way for future water wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa?

Since Middle East has one of the fastest growing population rates in the world. Will this population explosion coupled with the ever-increasing demand of water and the limited water supplies lead the countries of this region to future water war?

Will the present regional unrest, differences, decades old border disputes, minor conflicts and centuries of conflicts mellow down or will they serve as a catalyst in future water wars?

Will international laws and regional cooperation pave way for peace or will they escalate tension and lead the countries to war?

Can Middle East countries economically grow at a pace that will allow them to compensate for the water scarcity problem by providing its people alternative sources of livelihood? Or will the present economic growth stagnate due to the unavailability of water?

Will water pollution and newer water exploitation methods augment the already existing mistrust and hatred amongst the Middle East and North African countries?

Review of Related Literature

Many writers and scholars have shown fears regarding the scarcity of water in the Middle East asserting that if the present situation is allowed to continue then water wars are inevitable. Ehrlich (1972) and Gleick (2000) believe that scarcity of water resources will turn out to be a burden on the population and will also hinder economic growth and development. This burden and hindrance will pave way for social unrest, which will lead the nations to civil and possible regional wars. However, another school of thought argues in favor of water scarcity as being a catalyst for technological and political change. Wolf (2000) believes that the present water scarcity will lead the Middle East countries to look for better and cheaper alternatives, thereby encouraging them to invest in the Research and Development (R&D) of fresh water creation and water management systems. As a result, these countries will eventually embark upon a journey that will lead to creativity, more social awareness amongst its people and in doing so they will perhaps find better alternatives and better utilization of water resources (Wolf, 2000).

However, Lundqvist and Gleick (2000) differ with the theory of Wolf (2000), while agreeing with Ehrlich (1972). They too believe that if the basic needs are not fulfilled over a longer period of time so that they may live a reasonable life style, then environmental commotion and wide spread misery, anguish and pain will be the outcome; and if such a situation is allowed to continue then war will be the eventual consequence (Lundqvist and Gleick, 2000).

Gleick (2000) argues that the real reason behind the war between Israel and Lebanon…

Sources Used in Documents:


Anthony H. Cordesman. Peace is Not Enough: The Arab-Israeli Economic and Demographic Crises. Part Two. Population Growth, Fertility and Population Doubling Rates, Regional Trends, National Trends, and the "Youth Explosion" Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1998.

Adel Darwish. Troubled waters in rivers of blood. Water Issues. 3 December 1992. http://www.mideastnews.com/water004.html

Adel Darwish. Inadequacy of international law. Taken at http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm

Ashok Swain. A new challenge: water scarcity in the Arab world. Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ). January, 1998.

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