Given water scarcity, the high costs of desalinisation and other unconventional methods of supplying water, and the pollution of surface and ground waters, Israel sought other natural supplies of water from the Litani" (Dolatyar, 2002). The Israeli then invaded Lebanon, but were met with extreme resistance.
1990 - Present - Period of return to bargaining tactic
The fall of the Soviet Union, the Gulf War (1990-1991) and the interference of the United States led to more amiable relationships between the countries of the Middle Eats, which were committed to creating the "New Middle East." Several treaties were signed which were aimed to increase the collaboration and lead to the resolution of impending problems, such as environmental concerns and water resources. "For example, the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, signed on October 26, 1994, includes five annexes, two of which address water and environmental issues. Negotiations between Israel and Syria have been very sluggish, mostly because of the importance of the Golan Heights' water supplies for both parties" (Dolatyar, 2002).
5. Israel and Palestine
Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon are currently the most affected by the water shortage and within these countries, the demand for water is far more larger than the actual supply. In Israel for example, "more than two-thirds of all available fresh water comes from the neighbouring countries." (Pamukcu, 2003)
Source: Water in the Middle East Conflict, Middle East Web, 2008
Israel and Palestine have a long history of disputes and conflicts, both verbal as well as military, for various reasons such as scarcity of water resources, threatening of one's national security and most importantly, land occupation. The amounts of consumed water by the inhabitants of each country have been a major reason of conflict. In this particular sense, the Israeli consume far more water than the Palestinians and irrigate 50% of their entire land. On a more individual scale, an Israeli consumes four times the amount of water consumed by a Palestinian. "Three million West Bank Palestinians use only 250 million cubic meters per year (83 cubic meters per Palestinian per year) while six million Israelis enjoy the use of 1,954 million cubic meters (333 cubic meters per Israeli per year), which means that each Israeli consumes as much water as four Palestinians" (if Americans Knew)
The water source map of the region is depicted in the image below and the one next to it presents the disputed regions.
Source: Israel - Palestine Water Issues: Mountain and Coastal Aquifers, Map Something, 2008
In both regions, the natural resources of water are limited and this highly restricts their capabilities for further development. As such, they often engage in disputes over the same sources. The basic problem is that they have to share the same resources to retrieve the necessary water, but have not reached a favorable agreement on this sharing. "The land has always had a scarcity of water. The Israel National Water Carrier has made possible a high population density and standard of living. The carrier pumps water from the Sea of Galilee and carries it to areas in the center and south of Israel as well as for Palestinian areas. In one day it delivers the volume of water used in all of 1948, but it is not enough. The aquifers that supply Israel's central area lie in the West Bank. The Jordan River flows through territory that would be part of Palestine. Both sides need water for survival and development and want to ensure an adequate water supply from the limited resources available. Israel has reserved for its own use a large percentage of the water in West Bank aquifers" (Middle East Web, 2008).
It has already been stated that increased immigration to Israel caused massive increase in demand. The situation could repeat itself if Palestine is declared an official country. In such a situation, 2.2 million Palestinians living across the globe could return to their homeland, deepening even more the gap between supply and demand for water. "Immigrations has also been a significant part of the problem, particularly in the Jordan-Yarmuk watershed area, as hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the world have moved to Israel since its establishment in 1948 and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have relocated to Jordan from Kuwait in the wake of the Gulf War. If an independent Palestinian state comes into being, water shortages could be compounded by up to 2.2 million Palestinians currently registered worldwide as refugees who could return and settle there" (Drake, 2000). The Israeli have imposed a wide series of restrictions for the Palestinians, such as the interdiction to build new wells or search for alternative resources of water. However the Palestinian state is not officially declared, the Declaration of Principles and the formation of the Palestinian Water Authority have allowed the Palestinians and the Israeli to consider one another equal and legitimate political entities (Drake, 2000).
The latest developments in the Israeli-Palestinian relationships reveal a strong collaboration on the matter of water resources. The Israeli have developed a plan to distribute desalinized water to the Palestinians and in return alleviate the pressure of having to offer them access to the land's water resources. The idea has been received with both pleasure as well as dissatisfaction, but fact remains that the relationships are starting to improve "Water supply is one of the few areas where cooperation between Israel and Palestine has survived the current intifada. Every day on the West Bank, Palestinian engineers help repair and maintain Israeli water pipes, and vice versa" (Pearce, 2004). Nevertheless, the problems in the region are far from being over, and the current improvement could only be the apparent calm before the storm.
6. Conclusions and Possible Solutions
Due to land occupation disputes, changes in the climacteric conditions and the naturally arid clime in the Middle East, water scarcity is growing into an extremely serious problem. The people in this region have sufficient natural oil resources, but are expected to go into battles for lack of water. The gravity of the lacking water is given by the population's incapability to conduct current operations but also by the countries' incapability to further develop. And this matter is not one estranged from the globe, where already one out of five individuals no longer has access to a source of clean and drinkable water.
The future of the water problem in the Middle East is yet to be actually indicated. But given the international context which forwards somber predictions, it is likely that the matter is far from finding a resolution. Foremost, it is likely for its gravity to increase as the water resources continue to decrease against the continually increasing demand. A possible viable solution would reside in the development of superior technologies that improve the desalinization process. In this particular instance, the amount of drinkable water would significantly increase and it could also support the preservation of the natural resources. To better explain, water would be extracted from seas and oceans, which are more resistant and which will regain the lost water through natural phenomena, such as rains or the overflowing of rivers. This water would then be desalinized and it would serve the population's needs.
Another possible alternative would be that of recycling the water. This has at least two implications: social and financial. The social ones revolve around creating a culture based on the need to preserve the natural environment and the financial ones refer to the increased costs generated by a dual pipeline system: one for potable water and one for water destined for other activities, such as irrigation or car washing. "The Israelis have already made much progress in reusing water. Sixty-five percent of the water used to irrigate crops there is reclaimed waste water. But people can use waste water more effectively than they do today for many other purposes such as toilet flushing, car washing and lawn sprinkling. The supply of water can be almost doubled by reclaiming it" (Dale, 2001). The most suitable solution however would probably be a combination of technological advancements and social education to teach the population how to reduce water waste.
Amery, H.A., Water Wars in the Middle East: A Looming Threat, the Geographical Journal, Volume 168, 2002
Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, Hussein a. Amery holds a BA, an MA and a PhD in geography. Water Wars in the Middle East: A Looming Threat is based on extensive research of the previous works on water issues in the Middle East. It debates on issues such as causes for conflicts and the characteristics of the water shortage in Palestine and Israel.
Dale, W.N., Middle East Water Problems, American Diplomacy, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/2001_07-09/dale_water/dale_water.htmllastaccessed on April 7, 2008
William N. Dale was a minister-counselor in Tel-Aviv, Israel during 1946-1968, when he got the opportunity to first hand analyze the problems…