Background to this Book
The idea for this book originated when its editors decided on the need for an edited volume that would have the Jordan River basin as its focal point, a geographical perspective as its analytical approach, and the promise of a Middle East at peace as its planning horizon. It is the inexorable movement toward a Middle East at peace which is the foundation for this work.
We recognize that the peace process proceeds by fits and starts, and has periods of exuberance and mourning. It is just as hard to see the dangers that lie ahead when documents of agreement are being signed as it is to remember the positive possibilities when rocks and bullets fly. Yet just as the Jordan flows unceasingly toward its destination both in times of plenty and times of drought, so, too, we believe the peace process will and must continue to move forward. We must remember how far the peace process has advanced in the short years since negotiations began.
This collaboration between the coeditors, each of whose backgrounds mirrors the other's, was born at a meeting on Middle Eastern water in Waterloo, Ontario, in 1992. Participants, including Israelis and Arabs, had come from around the world. Suspicions were rampant and the rhetoric thick. Each presentation included nine parts of political posturing for each part of water. And yet, a glimmer of hope for peace emerged at that time.
In the relative blink of an eye, given the length of time the two sides have been at odds, attitudes have changed as each side has begun to dedemonize, then listen to, and finally understand the other. Today, Jordan and Israel are developing joint management of the Yarmuk and the Jordan Rivers; Israelis and Palestinians cooperate in joint patrols to police illicit pumping and both sides have recognized the other's water rights.
We come to our task as coeditors from backgrounds representing different sides of the conflict. While our respective conditioning and education in the United States and Canada lead us occasionally to differing interpretations (notice in our chapters, for example, our very different conclusions regarding the relationship between the Litani and Jordan Rivers), we share a fervent belief in the overwhelming potential of a Middle East at peace. We argue, however, that the obstacles in its way not only can be overcome, but will be. Since the people of the region cannot turn back history, they must move forward; they can only do so together.
Water and People
Nearly three hundred major river basins and as many groundwater resources cross national boundaries. Globally, water availability and quality vary from region to region. The Middle East is of particular concern because of the convergence of volatile factors: conflicting territorial claims, ethnic and historical antagonisms, rapid population expansion through natural growth, immigration and refugee flows, combined with limited surface and subsurface water.
Because political boundaries often ignore this critical resource, and because water flows vary in space and time, disputes are bound to arise, perhaps nowhere more intensely than along the Jordan River. Questions of water ownership and management have exacerbated tensions between Arabs and Israelis, but also have been incentives to dialogue, even when the litigants were legally in a state of war. Currently, all of the riparians of the Jordan basin—Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria—share the common dilemma of inexorably declining per capita shares of water.
The Global Setting
This book, while focusing upon Middle East water, may also be a harbinger of future water negotiations and settlements throughout the world. World water use has increased sixfold between 1990 and 1995 (Commission on Sustainable Development 1997). This is more than double the rate of population growth. The report cited notes that by the year 2025 two-thirds of the world's population will suffer from moderate to severe water stress resulting from overdemand and pollution (see inset on water scarcity). Moreover, the minimal needs of an additional five billion people will have to be met in order to provide them with safe drinking water and to support water-borne sanitation systems. High water stress already affects 460 million people (8 percent of world population), and current water shortages and pollution cause widespread public health problems. Parallel negative effects on agriculture and economic development, as well as on a variety of ecosystems, will severely impact food supplies.
Water stress is due in large part to the expansion of irrigated agriculture, which contributes nearly 40 percent of world food production from 17 percent of all cultivated land. Thus, despite irrigation's profligate use of water, it has often made it possible to alleviate food shortages brought about by rapid increases in population.
The growing concern over the availability of global water resources has been the impetus for a series of international conferences, such as the International Conference on Water and the Environment, held in Dublin early in 11992. This meeting adopted guiding principles for the management and planning of water resources at the local, national, and international levels (for the Dublin Water Principles, see Kay and Mitchell in this volume).
The U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, held in mid-1992 in Rio de Janeiro, concurred with the Dublin Conference. It called for holistic management of freshwater supplies and the integration of sectoral water plans and programs within the framework of national economies and social policies. This encompassing approach to water resources management recognizes that water is a vital part of the global ecosystem and global socioeconomic activities.
The Middle East Setting
The protracted state of war between the Arab nations and Israel is fading and peace is gradually dawning. The Camp David peace accord between Egypt and Israel broke the cycle of war between the two states. More than a decade later another Arab-Israeli peace process was initiated. This latest process was started in Madrid in 1991 and resulted in a framework for a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians (the Oslo Accord, also known as the Declaration of Principles 1993). This was followed in 1994 by a peace treaty and normalization of relations between Israel and Jordan (see Appendix I for text of the treaty). The emerging atmosphere of cooperation, although slowed since 1996, will make it easier to tackle transnational environmental problems, the most prominent of which is water scarcity in the Jordan River basin.
Every state in the Jordan River basin is well below the global average of water availability (Engelman and LeRoy 1993; Commission on Sustainable Development 1997). As indicated by several chapters in this book, Jordan and Palestine are the most stressed riparians on the Jordan River. It has been argued that water stress of this nature will inevitably lead to "water wars." However, water shortages within Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, along with the transboundary nature of some of the sources involved (e.g., the West Bank Mountain Aquifer and the Jordan River), have led to proposed cooperative projects, designed to alleviate the resulting stress, which may emerge as testimonies to the benefits of cooperation and its contribution to greater water security, serving to move the peace process steadily forward.
It is natural to anticipate and experience triumphs and defeats on the road to Middle East peace. As we write this, the initial enthusiasm about the environmental and economic dividends of peace is waning. This is partly due to changes in the political landscape and the varying interpretations of such changes by the various actors. These recent developments contribute to the erosion of trust between Arabs and Israelis and make any cooperation, including that involving water sharing, extremely difficult. Currently, negotiations between Israel and Palestine have slowed, and those among Israel, Syria, and Lebanon remain frozen. Yet major documents of agreement have been signed and political precedents have been set. It can be argued that the tangible rewards of peace, the new global realities, and the repeated commitments of all parties to nonviolent resolution of the conflict make the peace process irreversible.
Water in the Middle East at Peace: Geographical Perspectives
"Why another book on Middle East water?" The editors are well aware of the wide variety of works on water resources of the Middle East in general and particularly on issues relating to the waters of the Jordan River. Nevertheless, we feel there are contributions yet to be made in three areas: (1) water resource studies from a geographical point of view, (2) forward-looking analyses of water resources management in light of the ongoing Middle East peace process, and (3) examination of the question, what will the changing management of scarce water resources in the Middle East look like as peace among the longtime antagonists is slowly established? These three areas define the approach, structure, and conceptual framework of this work.
The Geographical Framework
Geographical inquiry is a way of organizing knowledge about the human and physical environment in a systematic and ordered manner. Geographical investigation strives to provide accurate, orderly, and rational description and interpretation of the variable character of the Earth's surface (Hartshorne 1959) A variety of geographic frameworks are used in this book depending on the specific question at hand in each chapter. However, all are united by a geographic point of view which incorporates "inter-professional, inter-sectoral, and interdisciplinary dialogues needed to integrate land and water management" (Falkenmark and Lindh 1993, 88). Humans live and are part of the landscape, a landscape which is sustained by precipitation. People in turn access the natural resources by draining wetlands, irrigating fields, and building dams, canals, and pipelines, to name but a few of their activities. Interactions between natural elements and human actions may result in negative or positive impacts on environmental resources. Consequently, the sustainable management of the landscape is
equivalent to a careful management of our interactions with it so as to meet three basic criteria for ecological security:
- Groundwater must remain drinkable, land productive, and fish edible,
- Biological diversity should be conserved,
- Long-term overdraft of renewable resources should be avoided. (Falkenmark and Lindh 1993, 89)
This framework may be expanded by superimposing a political landscape on the environmental one. This superimposition demonstrates the effects of human jurisdiction and sovereignties on the environment. In the case of this book's subject matter, it emphasizes upstream/downstream geostrategic relations between riparians.
An upstream state may use its geostrategic position as leverage to advance its national or regional policy objectives. For example, it may unilaterally use a disproportionate share of water from an international river. This may be done with relative impunity if it is militarily and/or economically stronger than its downstream neighbors. Such an upstream state may also threaten to limit the flow of water in order to advance its foreign policy objectives. This deliberate manipulation of water flow in response to the political climate between the involved riparians is known as the "water weapon." Similarly, the export of water, particularly through permanent infrastructures, to a disadvantaged downstream state may create a situation where that state becomes dependent upon and hegemonically influenced by the upstream one.
In other words, power politics usually favors advantaged upstream states which may implicitly or explicitly dictate the terms of water management in the basin. Similarly, a disadvantaged water exporting state may be intimidated by an advantaged importing state. Therefore, water importers and exporters who are unable to maintain control over their water resources (e.g., the rate and duration of flow) may lose the necessary flexibility for sustainable water management at the national level, and as well find that their sovereignty is diminished. We refer to this more complex construct as a "hydrostrategic landscape model."
Managing Water Scarcity: Challenges and Opportunities
Countries in arid regions have many common challenges (see inset "Challenges of Water Management in Arid Regions"). The distribution of water resources varies spatially and seasonally within and between states. A state may have abundant or sufficient water resources for its needs at the aggregate national level, and at the same time have localities that are water deficient. This spatial disparity between population con\centrations and water availability necessitates expenditures in infrastructure, energy, and maintenance in order to reliably deliver water to population centers. For example, the Israeli National Water Carrier channels fresh water from the Sea of Galilee to water-deficient coastal cities.
Countries that are barely subsistent in water resources are vulnerable to the vagaries of drought and climatic change. Another common feature in water resources management is that the agricultural sector, on a world scale, consumes 87 percent of the fresh water withdrawn from the environment (Postel 1992).
Geography of Middle East Water: The Potential for Peace
It must be recognized that the location of and spatial variation in the physical environments of the Middle East affect the availability, consumption, and management of water resources. The location of political boundaries also results in the fragmented management of river systems.
The physical geography of the Jordan River riparian states is varied. Lebanon's northern mountains have precipitation levels that exceed 1,000 millimeters (mm) per year and receive large amounts of snow during the winter. On the other hand, over 50 percent of the land areas of Jordan, Israel, and Syria consist of hot, dry lands with precipitation levels below 250 mm per year. The eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea is backed by a mountain range which declines in elevation from north to south. This creates an orographic effect making the coastline and the west-facing foothills relatively well watered and the interior dry. This spatial distribution of precipitation is most pronounced in Lebanon and Syria. In Israel and the West Bank, where the topography is reduced to rolling hills, the hydrological effects of orographic lifting are less evident. Overall, precipitation levels are highest along the western slopes of the mountain ranges that are parallel to the coastline, and decline in a north-to-south direction.
The human geography of the Jordan River basin, like that of the entire Middle East, is one of diversity. The overwhelming majority of the Israeli population is Jewish, that of Jordan and Syria, Muslim Arabs. While Muslims constitute a majority in Lebanon, Christians remain a significant minority.
On the other hand, there are important physical and human elements which serve to unify the core of this area. Lebanon and Israel are similar in that they both traditionally have had a Western orientation, relatively high incomes, very high levels of literacy, and low natural population growth rates. The Jordan Rift Valley (Ghor) is a physical feature that unites in a climatic, environmental, and physiographic way the people of Palestine, Jordan, and Israel. The latter two countries and Lebanon are similar in that they have substantial Palestinian populations, many occupying refugee camps. (Over 50 percent of Jordan's population is estimated to be of Palestinian Arab origin; about 20 percent of Israel's population, within its pre-1967 borders, is Arab.) Even linguistically there is similarity, with the population of the basin speaking variants of Semitic languages: thus, the resemblance between many of the words their languages share. "Peace," for example, is shalom in Hebrew and salaam in Arabic. Names of some geographical features are shown in Table 1.1.
Furthermore, as alternative and more felicitous political spatial patterns emerge with the unfolding of the peace process, many traditional and intervening obstacles will be erased (e.g., borders impermeable to trade and people, which have resulted in an absence of Israeli-Arab commerce). This will make it easier to deal with the approaching challenges of population growth, settlement of Palestinian refugees, and increasing water stress. Opportunities that can be realized only in a Middle East at peace will also be revealed. An example of this might be a large cooperative desalination plant capitalizing on economies of scale to reduce the unit cost of water, thereby alleviating water stress in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Similarly, any long-distance movement of water from countries such as Turkey will likely involve "have-not" Jordan River basin states. The more countries that benefit from such movements, the more the per-unit (or per-state) costs will be reduced. Greater participation may also encourage the financial assistance from, among others, oil-wealthy Arab nations. Therefore, broader regional spatial and financial linkages could be realized, thereby positively affecting the management and redistribution of water in the Middle East.
The similarity of physical and human features mentioned above will make it easier to understand and manage fluctuations in climate and resource flows within the region's ecosystem. Moreover, members of the Palestinian Arab minority in the Jewish state of Israel are uniquely positioned to play a key role in mediation between the Arab states and Israel, or as interpreters of Arab culture and tradition to Israelis, as well as Jewish culture to the Arab world at large. This could well break down existing barriers and expedite cultural and economic interactions. Cooperative projects in the areas of research and development—some of which are already under way—are among the first joint ventures between potential peace partners. This will help with the gradual diversification of the economy away from water-intensive crops. By the same token, low population birth rates in Lebanon and Israel may provide models for other riparians.
Adding to the potential for regional cooperation, countries in the Jordan River basin are gradually supplanting wasteful supply-based management practices with conservationist demand-based use of water (see inset "Opportunities for Water Management in Arid Regions"). At the same time, in a Middle East at peace, it will be easier to identify and minimize the effects of point and area sources of pollution.
The Format of this Book
Our chapters recognize the inevitable path toward peace and are organized chronologically from the past to the future. Lonergan and Beaumont each provide an overview of the Jordan basin and its riparians, while Wolf gives the historical setting of water and conflict on the Jordan River, as does Amery for the Litani. We then look toward the immediate future—Hof describes what the water issues may be when Syria and Israel begin negotiating, and Kay and Mitchell describe the "hydrosecurity" needs of each riparian and the difficulty of planning for uncertainty. Kliot provides details of a cooperative framework for sharing water resources, while Rowley describes the political constraints on such a framework. Finally, Kolars reminds us of the needs of one party so rarely represented at the negotiating table, the river itself.
While each chapter describes various aspects of hydrology, history, and political needs, the questions and approaches to answers are essentially geographical: What is the relationship between people and their natural resources? How are geopolitical needs manifested in the landscape? Can generalizations be made about watershed management when each basin's hydrology, politics, and culture make, as Gilbert White pointed out more than forty years ago, each river unique?
Each chapter adds its author's (or authors') perspective in answering these questions. Peter Beaumont and Stephen Lonergan provide an overview of the Jordan River watershed and the historic and future needs of its riparians. The former's emphasis is on the needs of Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank Palestinians. Beaumont argues that the greatest threat to cooperative water management will be population growth and the subsequent increase in demand. He describes Israel's neglect of water infrastructure during decades of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The economic value of water in Israel is then described, as well as technological advances, particularly in wastewater reclamation. He leaves the reader with a question for the future: conflict or cooperation?
Lonergan analyzes the links between water scarcity and security. He points out that three interconnected crises indicate the complexity of water security issues: water supply and demand, deteriorating water quality, and geopolitics. He then applies Gleick's typology of resource-related conflicts to Middle East hydropolitics, linking issues of global change—population growth, urbanization, and climate change—to growing difficulties in water management. Like Beaumont, Lonergan looks to water marketing as a possible solution, but warns that market forces cannot be implemented until water rights are clearly allocated.
Wolf turns to historical geography, seeking to mitigate popular charges that much of the Arab-Israeli conflict was fueled by "water wars." He assesses historic boundary development, warfare, and negotiations and concludes that, while water has influenced the shape of boundaries, particularly between the British and French Mandates, no territory was ever explicitly targeted, captured, or retained because of its access to water resources. Furthermore, in ongoing negotiations, water has not been used as an excuse for retaining territory. Joint management, rather, has been favored over territorial sovereignty.
Amery examines the claims of Israeli-initiated water diversions from the Litani River of Lebanon. He argues that historical factors, militarily and politically reconfigured space, and the creation of off-limit areas have all contributed to the development and permanence of the popular hypothesis that the Litani River has been diverted, in part, into the headwaters of the Jordan. Decades of Israeli occupation and of tensions in southern Lebanon make it very difficult to independently gather conclusive evidence about the possible existence or nonexistence of such a diversion. The sometimes contradictory and vague evidence provided by supporters and detractors of the hypothesis, Amery argues, makes it difficult for anyone to make conclusive assertions about the issue. Given this uncertainty, he believes that the weight of the evidence rejects the existence of large diversions, but leaves open the possibility of smallscale transfers. Amery's conclusion is that irrespective of whether water diversion actually exists, it certainly exists in the minds and discourse of local inhabitants, and must therefore be addressed. Consequently he suggests that when the Middle East is finally at peace, public participation in environmental planning can help build confidence between the two peoples.
Fred Hof focuses on the immediate future and describes what the water dimensions will be when Israel and Syria negotiate a settlement of the sovereignty of the Golan Heights. He suggests that four geographical issues will be particularly sensitive—the Banias Springs, Golan surface water, the upper Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee. After a summary of how past negotiations have influenced current positions, Hof outlines his view of what a settlement of the Golan negotiations might look like for each of the four water-related issues, and suggests that each side might be able to achieve its hydrostrategic goals in such an agreement.
Kay and Mitchell also look to the future and broaden the discussion by linking the interests of each riparian, as expressed through the concept of water security, with performance criteria and attention to existing uncertainties. They lay out in their conceptual framework performance criteria used to evaluate sustainability, including the reliability, resiliency, and vulnerability of the system. They then apply these criteria to a performance evaluation of Israel's water system and describe water's role in national management policies, and in the peace instruments which have been signed. They conclude that traditional management of water resources in the Jordan basin is precarious and unsustainable and suggest alternatives through adaptive management criteria.
Nurit Kliot takes a more institutional approach to the geopolitical interests of the Jordan riparians, offering a cooperative framework for sharing water among Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. She presents a brief overview of the institutional history of the riparians, including a description of each of the peace documents signed to date. She then describes institutional frameworks which have been used to manage shared water resources, citing legal doctrines, the recent experience of the International Law Commission, and other basin accords. She suggests that the Jordan River Accords go beyond simple coordination to include the implementation of some cooperative projects, but fall short of true integrated watershed management. Kliot concludes that, as in other basins, water wars can be avoided, provided the political will exists to continuously seek creative solutions.
Of the contributors, Gwyn Rowley is the most critical of the peace process, and his chapter offers a note of skepticism regarding the road toward peace. He wonders whether the necessary and difficult compromises are actually feasible, given historical intransigence. He begins in the past, describing water as a strategic resource, particularly as it pertains to the historic tensions between Arabs and Israelis. He then describes ongoing attempts at the creation of international water law, and suggests that such law, still in its infancy, is not sophisticated enough to offer the specific guidelines necessary for resolution of the Jordan River dispute. This lack of legal guidelines, he argues, is compounded by Israeli territorial and hydrological aspirations in the region which threaten the possible benefits of cooperation between riparians.
Finally, John Kolars speaks for the one party to the dispute without a voice—the river itself. Kolars reminds us that, even as negotiators strive to bargain away the entire flow of a river, instream ecology has its own demands and needs. He argues, moreover, that the river holds critical lessons for us, that the relationship between people and the water they use is truly symbiotic. Kolars translates a need for river advocacy into the realpolitik world of Middle East hydropolitics and offers applications for both the Jordan and the Tigris-Euphrates systems.
Our focus on the Jordan necessarily precludes detailed discussion of many topics of import in the region, such as the intertwined hydropolitical, legal, cultural, and historical aspects of other nearby watersheds—the Tigris-Euphrates, the Nile, and the Orontes. Likewise, the most critical scarcity of water in the region, that in the Gaza Strip, along with the attendant health hazards, is not included.
A note on usage: Language, like most issues in the Middle East, is highly charged. The term one uses for a simple place name can connote intricate and varying political viewpoints. West Bank, Occupied Territories, and Administered Areas all refer to the same geographic entity, as do Lake Tiberias, Sea of Galilee, and Lake Kinneret. Given such a setting, we, as editors, simply did not feel comfortable mandating a unified format to the authors. The reader may note, then, some inconsistencies from chapter to chapter in usage.
Finally, we note that one of the first documented water disputes in history—that between Isaac and the herdsmen of Gerar (Genesis 26: 19-22)—was resolved when Isaac dug his well elsewhere. The Middle East is out of "elsewheres." While population growth and rising standards of living are driving water demand inexorably upward, the natural supply is roughly what it was in Isaac's day. While Malthusian doomsday scenarios continue to be pushed back with advances in technology and social organization, the fact remains that unilateral development of international rivers has reached its limits. The only rational solutions are cooperative ones; the only boundaries which belong on the planning map at this stage are those of the watersheds themselves.
When asked, "What will the water issues of the Middle East at peace look like?" we in this book answer from the perspective of geography. We believe that the spatial and integrative nature of geography sheds a much-needed light on the social, economic, geophysical, political, and environmental variables that affect the management of limited water resources.
We also seek full recognition of the difficult history which led to this point, and the dangers which lie ahead. The chapters in this work do not ignore the difficulties in achieving truly integrated watershed management—they agree only on its inevitability.