Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 Background: Hydropolitics of the...
 Technical and policy options
 Water and the peace process
 Measuring equity in water resource...
 Cooperative watershed developm...
 Conclusions and observations
 Back Matter
 Back Cover

Group Title: Food, agriculture, and the environment discussion paper
Title: Middle East water conflicts and directions for conflict resolution
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00085387/00001
 Material Information
Title: Middle East water conflicts and directions for conflict resolution
Series Title: Food, agriculture, and the environment discussion paper ; 12
Physical Description: vi, 28 p. : maps ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wolf, Aaron T
Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: March, 1996
Copyright Date: 1996
Subject: Water-supply -- Political aspects -- Middle East   ( lcsh )
Water rights -- Middle East   ( lcsh )
Dispute resolution (Law) -- Middle East   ( lcsh )
Politics and government -- Middle East -- 1979-   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jordan
Statement of Responsibility: Aaron T. Wolf.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 25-28).
General Note: "A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment"--P. 2 of cover.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00085387
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Resource Identifier: oclc - 34956446

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
    List of Tables
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Background: Hydropolitics of the Middle East
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Technical and policy options
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Water and the peace process
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
    Measuring equity in water resource disputes
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    Cooperative watershed development
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Conclusions and observations
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
    Back Matter
        Back Matter 1
        Back Matter 2
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text

Middle East Water Conflicts
and Directions for
Conflict Resolution

Aaron T Wolf

V IS I 0 N

"A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment" is an initiative of
the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to develop a shared
vision and a consensus for action on how to meet future world food needs
while reducing poverty and protecting the environment. It grew out of a
concern that the international community is setting priorities for add'Jrssing
these problems based on incomplete information. Through the 202n Vision
initiative, IFPRI is bringing together divergent schools of thought on these
issues, generating research, and identifying recommendations.

This discussion paper series presents technical research results that encom-
pass a wide range of subjects drawn from research on policy-relevant aspects
of agriculture, poverty, nutrition, and the environment. The discussion papers
contain material that IFPRI believes is of key interest to those involved in
addressing emerging Third World food and development problems. These
discussion papers undergo review but typically do not present final research
results and should be considered as works in progress.

Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 12

Middle East Water Conflicts

and Directions for

Conflict Resolution

Aaron T. Wolf

International Food Policy Research Institute
1200 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-3006 U.S.A.
March 1996


Foreword v
Acknowledgments vi
Background: Hydropolitics of the Middle East 1
Technical and Policy Options 9
Water and the Peace Process 13
Measuring Equity in Water Resource Disputes 16
Cooperative Watershed Development 20
Conclusions and Observations 22
References 25


1. Water allocations from Nile negotiations 3

2. Water allocations from Johnston negotiations 6

3. Water management options to increase supply or decrease demand 9

4. Meetings of the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources 13


1. The Nile Basin 3

2. Border proposals, 1919-47 5

3. International borders, 1967-present 7

4. The Tigris-Euphrates Basin 8


In looking toward 2020, one of the most severe problems to be faced in many parts of the world
is an impending shortage of adequate supplies of fresh water. Clean water for drinking is of
course critical for survival, but more effective use of water for crops is also necessary to
produce enough food to feed rapidly expanding populations in the coming decades. Issues
connected with equitable distribution of dwindling world water supplies could become a major
source of both local and international strife unless more is done to assure fair access to water
and more efficient water allocation and use.
The Middle East, where a few great waterways are the major source of water for a large
area of dry lands spanning a number of national borders, is the place where such strife could
erupt first. This 2020 discussion paper by geographer Aaron Wolf not only examines the
past-how water in the Middle East came to be divided as it is today-but also looks at
possible solutions for alleviating a water crisis and the political tensions it arouses.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen
Director General, IFPRI


The author would like to thank Mark Rosegrant and the IFPRI initiative for the opportunity to
share in this work and Alain de Janvry for helpful comments.

In 1978 the Dead Sea turned over for the first time
in centuries. For millennia, this terminal lake at
the lowest point on the earth's surface had been
receiving the sweet waters of the Jordan River, los-
ing pure water to relentless evaporation, and collect-
ing the salts left behind. The result was an inhospita-
bly briny lake eight times saltier than the sea, topped
by a thin layer of the Jordan's less dense fresh water.
The two salinity levels of the river and the lake kept
the Dead Sea in a perpetually layered state even
while the lake level remained fairly constant (evapo-
ration from the lake surface occurs at roughly the
rate of the natural flow of the Jordan and other
tributaries and springs).
This delicate equilibrium was disrupted as mod-
ern nations-with all of their human and economic
needs tied to the local supply of fresh water-built
along the shores of the Jordan. In this century, as
both Jewish and Arab nationalism focused on this
historic strip of land, the two peoples became locked
in a demographic race for numerical superiority. As
more and more of the Jordan was diverted for the
needs of these new nations, the lake's level began to
drop, most recently by about one-half meter per year
(Steinhorn and Gat 1983). As it dropped, more
shoreline was exposed, the lake was cut in half by the
Lisan Straits, the shallow southern half all but dried
up, and the potash works and health spas built to take
advantage of the lake's unique waters stood ever
farther from the shore.
Along with the drop in lake level came a relative
rise in the pycnocline, the dividing line between the
less-saline surface water and its hypersaline fossil
base. The division between the two layers was fi-
nally eradicated briefly in the winter of 1978/79, and
the Dead Sea turned over, effectively rolling in its
grave-a hydrologic protest against the loss of the
Jordan. The turnover brought water to the surface
that had not seen the light of day for 300 years
(Stiller and Chung 1984). Although it sterilized the

lake, this turnover was not counted as an ecological
disaster-except for bacteria and one type of alga,
the Dead Sea is appropriately named-but the
event was a symptom of a wider crisis of history-
influencing proportions.
The fact is, the region is running out of water.
And the people who have built their lives and liveli-
hoods on a reliable source of fresh water are seeing
the shortage of this vital resource impinge on all
aspects of the tenuous relations that have developed
over the years between nations, between economic
sectors, and between individuals and their environ-
ment. This water crisis is not limited to the Jordan
basin, but extends throughout the Middle East, en-
compassing also the watersheds of the Nile and the
This paper explores how this critical water short-
age came about, the political tensions that are inter-
twined with the scarcity of water, and what the nations
of the parched and volatile Middle East can do to help
alleviate both the water crisis and the attending politi-
cal pressures. The following sections describe
a brief hydropolitical history of the Nile, Jordan,
and Tigris-Euphrates basins;
some technical and policy options for increasing
water supply and decreasing water demand;
an update of the role of water resources in
current multilateral peace negotiations;
a description of the paradigms used to define
equity in sharing water resources; and
a summary of principles for cooperative
regional water management.

Background: Hydropolitics of
the Middle East
Because of water's preeminent role in survival-
from an individual's biology to a nation's econ-

omy-political conflicts over international water re-
sources tend to be particularly contentious. The in-
tensity of a water conflict can be exacerbated by a
number of factors, including a region's geographic,
geopolitic, or hydropolitic landscape. Water con-
flicts are especially bitter, for example, where the
climate is arid, where the riparians of regional water-
ways are otherwise engaged in political confronta-
tion, or where the population's annual water demand
is already approaching or surpassing supply.
The watersheds of the arid and volatile Middle
East provide settings for water conflicts of extreme
intensity in that each of the three major waterways-
the Nile, the Jordan, and the Tigris-Euphrates-have
elements of all of these exacerbating factors. In fact,
as will be discussed below, scarce water resources
have already been at the heart of much of the bitter,
occasionally armed, conflict endemic to the region.
It is of little wonder that Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
currently Secretary-General of the United Nations,
in the past suggested that a future war in the Middle
East may be fought over water (Starr 1991, 64).
One can find room for optimism, however, in the
fact that the same characteristics of water resources
that fuel conflict can, if managed carefully, induce
cooperation in a hostile environment. According to
Frey and Naff (1985, 67), "precisely because it is
essential to life and so highly charged, water can-
perhaps even tends to-produce cooperation even in
the absence of trust between concerned actors."
Living in a transition zone between Mediterra-
nean subtropical and arid climates, the people in and
around the major watersheds of the Middle East have
always been aware of the limits imposed by scarce
water resources. Settlements sprang up in fertile val-
leys or near large, permanent wells, and trade routes
were established from oasis to oasis. In ancient
times, cycles of weather patterns had occasionally
profound effects on the course of history. For exam-
ple, recent research suggests that climatic changes
10,000 years ago, which caused the average weather
patterns around the Dead Sea to become warmer and
drier, may have been an important factor in the birth
of agriculture in the region (Hole and McCorriston
cited in Stevens 1991).
The fluctuating waters of the ancient Middle
East have given rise to legend, extensive water law,
and the roots of modern hydrology: the flood experi-
enced by Noah is thought to have centered its devas-
tation around the Babylonian city ofUr, submerging
the southern part of the Euphrates for about 150

days, while the code of King Hammurabi contains as
many as 300 sections dealing with irrigation. The
practice of field surveying was invented to help har-
ness the flooding Nile (El-Yussif 1983). In addition,
the waters of the region were occasionally inter-
twined with military strategy. For instance, in the
Bible (Joshua 4), Joshua directed his priests to stem
the Jordan's flow with the power of the Ark of the
Covenant while he and his army marched across the
dry riverbed to attack Jericho.
In the centuries since, the inhabitants of the re-
gion and the conquering nations that came and went
have lived mostly within the limits of their water
resources, using combinations of surface water and
well water for survival and livelihood (Beaumont
1991, 1). It was in the beginning of this century, as
the competing nationalisms of the region's inhabi-
tants began to re-emerge on the ruins of first the
Ottoman then the British empire that the quest for
resources took on a new and vital dimension.

The Nile Basin
In the early 1900s, a relative shortage of cotton on
the world market put pressure on Egypt and the
Sudan, then under a British-Egyptian condominium,
to turn to this summer crop, requiring perennial irri-
gation over the traditional flood-fed methods. The
need for summer water and flood control drove an
intensive period of water development along the
Nile, with proponents of Egyptian and Sudanese
interests occasionally clashing within the British for-
eign office over whether the emphasis for develop-
ment ought to be further upstream or down.
With the end of World War I, it became clear
that any regional development plans for the Nile
basin would have to be preceded by some sort of
formal agreement on water allocations. In 1920, the
Nile Projects Commission was formed, with repre-
sentatives from India, the United Kingdom, and the
United States. The Commission estimated that, of
the river's average flow of 84 billion cubic meters
(BCM) per year, Egyptian needs were 58 BCM per
year. Sudan, it was thought, would be able to meet
irrigation needs from the Blue Nile alone. Recogniz-
ing that the Nile flow fluctuates greatly, with a
standard deviation of about 25 percent, the Commis-
sion appended its report with the suggestion that any
gain or shortfall from the average be divided evenly
between Egypt and Sudan. The Commission's find-
ings were not acted upon.

The same year saw publication of the most com-
prehensive scheme for water development along the
Nile (Figure 1). Now known as the Century Storage
Scheme, the British plan included
a storage facility on the Uganda-Sudan bor-
a dam at Sennar, Sudan, to irrigate the Gezira
region south of Khartoum, and
a dam on the White Nile to hold summer flood
water for Egypt.
The plan worried some Egyptians and was criti-
cized by nationalists because all the major control
structures would have been beyond Egyptian terri-
tory and authority. Some Egyptians saw the plan as a

Figure 1-The Nile Basin

British means of controlling Egypt in the event of
Egyptian independence.
As the Nile riparians gained independence from
colonial powers, riparian disputes became interna-
tional and consequently more contentious, particu-
larly between Egypt and Sudan. The core question of
historic versus sovereign water rights is complicated
by the technical question of where the river ought
best be controlled--upstream or down.
In 1925, a new water commission made recom-
mendations, based on the 1920 estimates, that led to
the Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and Su-
dan on May 7, 1929. Sudan was allocated 4 BCM per
year, but the entire flow from January 20 to July 15
and 48 BCM per year were reserved for Egypt.
The Aswan High Dam, with a projected storage
capacity of 156 BCM per year, was proposed in 1952
by the new Egyptian government, but debate over
whether the dam was to be built as a unilateral Egyp-
tian project or as a cooperative project with Sudan
kept Sudan out of negotiations until 1954. Ensuing
negotiations, carried out with Sudan's struggle for
independence as a backdrop, focused not only on
each country's legitimate allocation, but on whether
the dam was the most efficient method of harnessing
the waters of the Nile.
The first round of negotiations between Egypt
and Sudan took place between September and De-
cember 1954, as Sudan was preparing for its inde-
pendence, scheduled for 1956. The positions of the
two sides are summarized in Table 1.
Negotiations broke off inconclusively, then
briefly resumed in April 1955. Results were again
inconclusive, and relations threatened to deteriorate
into military confrontation in 1958 when Egypt sent
an unsuccessful expedition into territory in dispute

Table 1-Water allocations from Nile
Position Egypt Sudan
Egyptiana 62.0 8.0
Sudaneseb 59.0 15.0
Nile Waters Treaty (1959)C 55.5 18.5
Source: Waterbury 1979.
aThe Egyptian position assumed an average flow of 80 billion cubic
meters (BCM) per year and equally divided approximately 10 BCM per
year in evaporation losses.
The Sudanese position assumed an average flow of 84 BCM per year and
deducted evaporation from the Egyptian allocations.
The Treaty allowed for an average flow of 84 BCM per year and divided
evaporation losses equally.

between the two countries. In the summer of 1959,
Sudan unilaterally raised the Sennar Dam, effec-
tively repudiating the 1929 agreement.
Sudan attained independence on January 1,
1956, but it was under the military regime that
gained power in 1958 that Egypt adopted a more
conciliatory tone in the negotiations, which resumed
in early 1959. Progress was speeded in part because
funding for the High Dam depended on a riparian
agreement. On November 8, 1959, the Agreement
for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters (Nile
Waters Treaty) was signed (Whittington and Haynes
1995; Krishna 1988).
The Nile Waters Treaty had the following provi-
The average flow of the river was considered
to be 84 BCM per year. Evaporation and seep-
age were considered to be 10 BCM per year,
leaving 74 BCM per year to be divided.
Of this total, acquired rights had precedence,
and were described as being 48 BCM for Egypt
and 4 BCM for Sudan. The remaining benefits
of approximately 22 BCM were divided by a
ratio of 7.5 for Egypt (about 7.5 BCM per year)
and 14.5 for Sudan (about 14.5 BCM per year).
These allocations totaled 55.5 BCM per year
for Egypt and 18.5 BCM per year for Sudan.
If the average yield increased from these fig-
ures, the increase would be divided equally.
Significant decreases would be taken up by a
technical committee, described below.
Since Sudan could not absorb that much water
at the time, the treaty also provided for a
Sudanese water "loan" to Egypt of up to 1.5
BCM per year through 1977.
Funding for any project that increased Nile
flow (after the High Dam) would be provided
evenly, and the resulting additional water
would be split evenly.
A Permanent Joint Technical Committee to
resolve disputes and jointly review claims by
any other riparian would be established. The
Committee would also determine allocations
in the event of exceptionally low flows.
Egypt agreed to pay Sudan E 15 million in
compensation for flooding and relocations.

1 For a more complete account of the Jordan Basin, see Wolf 1995.

Egypt and Sudan agreed that the combined
needs of other riparians would not exceed 1 to 2.
BCM per year, and that any claims would be met
with one unified Egyptian-Sudanese position. The
allocations of the Treaty have been adhered to until
the present.
Ethiopia, which had not been a major player in
Nile hydropolitics, served notice in 1957 that it
would pursue unilateral development of the Nile
water resources within its territory, estimated at 75
to 85 percent of the annual flow, and it has been
suggested recently that Ethiopia may eventually
claim up to 40 BCM per year for its irrigation needs
both within and outside the Nile watershed
(Jovanovic 1985, 85). No other state riparian to the
Nile has ever exercised a legal claim to the waters
allocated in the 1959 treaty (Whittington and
McClelland 1992).

The Jordan Basin
In the years that followed World War I, the location
of water resources influenced the boundaries first
between the British and French mandate powers that
acquired control over the region, then between the
states that developed subsequently.' The Zionist bor-
der formulation for a "national home" presented at
the Paris Peace Talks in 1919, for example, was
determined by three criteria: historic, strategic, and
economic. Economic considerations were defined
almost entirely by water resources. The entire Zion-
ist program of immigration and settlement required
water for large-scale irrigation and, in a land with no
fossil fuels, for hydropower. The development plans
and the boundaries required were "completely de-
pendent" on the acquisition of the "headwaters of
the Jordan, the Litani River, the snows of Hermon,
the Yarmuk and its tributaries, and the Jabbok"
(Ra'anan 1955, 87) (Figure 2).
Between the world wars, water became the focus
of an even greater political argument over how to
develop the budding states around the Jordan water-
shed, particularly Israel and Jordan, and what the
"economic absorptive capacity" would be for immi-
gration. Development plans included the lonides
Plan (1939), a British study, which suggested that

Figure 2-Border proposals, 1919-47

water would be a limiting factor for any additional
immigration to Palestine, and the Lowdermilk Plan
(1944), which suggested in contrast that, with proper
water management, resources would be generated
for 4 million refugees in addition to the 1.8 million
Arabs and Jews living in Palestine at the time. Brit-
ish policymakers came down on the side of the
lonides Plan, invoking "economic absorptive capac-
ity" to limit Jewish immigration and land transfers
for the duration of World War II.
As the borders of the new states were defined,
sometimes by warfare, in the 1950s and 1960s, each
country began to develop its own water resources
unilaterally. For the Jordan River, the legacy of the
mandates and the 1948 war, was a river divided so

that conflict over water resource development was
inevitable. By the early 1950s, Arab states were
discussing organized exploitation of two northern
sources of the Jordan, the Hasbani and the Banias
(Stevens 1965, 38). The Israelis also made public
their All Israel Plan, which included the draining of
Huleh Lake and swamps, diversion of the northern
Jordan River, and construction of a carrier to the
coastal plain and Negev Desert-the first out-of-
basin transfer for the watershed (Naff and Matson
1984, 35).
Jordan, in 1951, announced a plan to irrigate the
East Ghor of the Jordan Valley by tapping the Yar-
muk. At Jordan's announcement, Israel closed the
gates of an existing dam south of the Sea of Galilee
and began draining the Huleh swamps, which lay
within the demilitarized zone with Syria. These ac-
tions led to a series of border skirmishes between
Israel and Syria, which escalated over the summer of
1951 (Stevens 1965, 39). In July 1953, Israel began
construction on the intake of its National Water Car-
rier at the Daughters of Jacob Bridge north of the Sea
of Galilee and in the demilitarized zone. Syria de-
ployed its armed forces along the border and artillery
units opened fire on the construction and engineer-
ing sites (Cooley 1984, 3, 10). Syria also protested to
the United Nations and, though a 1954 resolution for
the resumption of work by Israel carried a majority,
the Soviet Union vetoed the resolution. The Israelis
then moved the intake to its current site at Eshed
Kinrot on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Gali-
lee (Garbell 1965, 30).
Against this tense background, U.S. President
Dwight Eisenhower sent his special envoy, Eric
Johnston, to the Middle East in October 1953 to try
to mediate a comprehensive settlement of the Jordan
River system allocations. Johnston's initial propos-
als were based on a study carried out by Charles
Main and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) at
the request of the United Nations to develop the
area's water resources and to provide for refugee
resettlement. The proposal, known as the Main Plan,
allocated 393 million cubic meters (MCM) per year
to Israel, 774 MCM per year to Jordan, and 45 MCM
per year to Syria.
Both Israel and a United Arab League technical
committee responded with their own counterpro-
posals. The Israeli "Cotton" Plan included integra-
tion of the Litani River's flow into the Jordan basin,
with a subsequent increase in allocations to Israel.
The Arab Plan rejected integration of the Litani and

substantially reduced Israel's share, as compared
with the Main Plan. Johnston worked until the end of
1955 to reconcile these proposals in a Unified Plan
amenable to all of the states involved. In the Unified
Plan, Johnston accomplished no small degree of
compromise (Table 2). Though they had not met
face to face for these negotiations, all states agreed
on the need for a regional approach. Israel gave up
on integration of the Litani and the Arabs agreed to
allow out-of-basin transfer. The Arabs objected but
finally agreed to storage at both the Maqarin Dam
and the Sea of Galilee so long as neither side would
have physical control over the share available to the
other. Israel objected but finally agreed to interna-
tional supervision of withdrawals and construction.
Allocations under the Unified Plan, later known as
the Johnston Plan, included 400 MCM per year to
Israel, 720 MCM per year to Jordan, 35 MCM per
year to Lebanon, and 132 MCM per year to Syria
(U.S. Department of State 1955, 1956).
The technical committees from both sides ac-
cepted the Unified Plan but momentum died in the
political realm, and the Plan was never ratified. Nev-
ertheless, Israel and Jordan have generally adhered
to the Johnston allocations and technical repre-
sentatives from both countries have met from that
time until the present two or three times a year to
discuss flow rates and allocations at "Picnic Table
Talks," named for the site at the confluence of the
Yarmuk and Jordan Rivers where the meetings are
As each state developed its water resources uni-
laterally, their plans began to overlap. By 1964, for
instance, Israel had completed enough of its Na-

Table 2-Water allocations from Johnston
Plan Israel Jordan Lebanon Syria
Main 393 774 0 45
Cotton (Israeli)' 1,290 575 450 30
Arab 182 698 35 132
Unified 400b 720c 35 132
Source: Naff and Matson 1984.
aThe Cotton Plan included integration of the Litani River into the Jordan
bThe Unified Plan allocated Israel the "residue" flow, what remained
after the Arab States withdrew their allocations, estimated at an average
409 million cubic meters (MCM) per year.
cTwo different summaries were distributed after the negotiations, with a
difference of 15 MCM per year on allocations between Israel and Jordan
on the Yarmuk River. This difference was never resolved, and was the
focus of Yarmuk negotiations in the late 1980s.

tional Water Carrier system (designed to carry water
from the headwaters in the north to the Israeli popu-
lation along the Mediterranean coast, that actual di-
versions from the Jordan River basin to the coastal
plain and the Negev were imminent. Although Jor-
dan was also about to begin extracting Yarmuk water
for its East Ghor Canal, it was the Israeli diversion
that prompted Egyptian President Nasser to call for
the First Arab Summit in January 1964, including
heads of state from the region and North Africa,
specifically to discuss a joint strategy on water.
The options presented at the Summit were to
complain to the United Nations; divert the upper
Jordan tributaries into Arab states, as had been dis-
cussed by Syria and Jordan since 1953; or to go to
war (Schmida 1983, 19). The decision to divert the
rivers prevailed at a second summit in September
1964, and the Arab states agreed to finance a Head-
water Diversion project in Lebanon and Syria and to
help Jordan build a dam on the Yarmuk. They also
made tentative military plans to defend the diversion
project (Shemesh 1988, 38).
In 1964, Israel began withdrawing 320 MCM
per year of Jordan water for its National Water Car-
rier and Jordan completed a major phase of its East
Ghor Canal (Inbar and Maos 1984b, 21). In 1965, the
Arab states began constructing their Headwater Di-
version Plan to prevent the Jordan headwaters from
reaching Israel. The plan was to divert the Hasbani
into the Litani in Lebanon and the Banias into the
Yarmuk where it would be impounded for Jordan
and Syria by a dam at Mukheiba. The plan would
divert up to 125 MCM per year, cut by 35 percent the
installed capacity of the Israeli carrier, and increase
the salinity in the Sea of Galilee by 60 parts per
million (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency 1962;
Inbar and Maos 1984a; Naff and Matson 1984). In
March, May, and August 1965, the Israeli army at-
tacked the diversion works in Syria.
These events set off what has been called "a
prolonged chain reaction of border violence that
linked directly to the events that led to the (June
1967) war" (Cooley 1984, 16). Border incidents
continued between Israel and Syria, triggering air
battles in July 1966 and April 1967, and culminating
in all-out war in June 1967.
By gaining territory and improving its
geostrategic position, Israel also improved its "hy-
drostrategic" position (Figure 3). With the Golan
Heights, Israel now held all of the headwaters of the
Jordan, with the exception of a section of the Hasbani,

Figure 3-International borders, 1967-present

and an overlook over much of the Yarmuk, together
making the Headwaters Diversion Plan impossible.
The West Bank not only provided riparian access to
the entire length of the Jordan River, but it overlay
three major aquifers, two of which Israel had been
tapping into from its side of the Green Line since 1955
(Garbell 1965, 30). Jordan had planned to transport
70-150 MCM per year from the Yarmuk River to the
West Bank. These plans, too, were abandoned.
In the years since, increased integration of the
West Bank and Gaza into the economic and hydro-

logic networks of Israel has led to increasing hydro-
political tensions. As mentioned above, when Israel
took control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the
territory captured included the recharge areas for
aquifers that follow west and northwest from the
West Bank into Israel, and east to the Jordan Valley
(Kahan 1987, 21). The entire renewable recharge of
these first two aquifers is already being exploited
and the recharge of the third is nearly depleted.
In the years of Israeli occupation, a growing
West Bank and Gaza population, along with bur-
geoning Jewish settlements, has increased the bur-
den on the limited groundwater supply, exacerbating
already tense political relations. Palestinians have
objected strenuously to Israeli control of local water
resources and to settlement development, which they
see as being at their territorial and hydrologic ex-
pense.2 Israeli authorities view hydrologic control in
the West Bank as defensive. With about 30 percent
of Israeli water originating on the West Bank, the
Israelis perceive the necessity to limit groundwater
exploitation in these territories in order to protect the
resources themselves and their own wells from salt-
water intrusion (Gruen 1991).

The Tigris-Euphrates Basin
Hydropolitical tensions have not been limited to the
Nile and the Jordan basins. In 1975, unilateral water
developments almost led to warfare along the
Euphrates. The three riparians to the river-Turkey,
Syria, and Iraq- had been coexisting with varying
degrees of hydropolitical tension through the 1960s.
At that time, population pressures drove unilateral
developments, particularly in southern Anatolia with
the Keban Dam (1965-73) and in Syria with the
Tabqa Dam (1968-73) (Lowi 1993, 108) (Figure 4).
Bilateral and tripartite meetings, occasionally
with Soviet involvement, had been carried out
among the three riparians since the mid-1960s, al-
though no formal agreements had been reached by
the time the Keban and Tabqa dams began to fill in
late 1973, resulting in decreased flow downstream.
In mid-1974, at Iraq's request, Syria agreed to allow
an additional flow of 200 MCM per year from
Tabqa. The following year, however, the Iraqis
claimed that the flow had dropped from the normal

2See, for example, Davis, Maks, and Richardson 1980; Dillman 1989; and Zarour and Isaac 1993.

Figure 4-The Tigris-Euphrates Basin


/- ._.rT3 -

L'MBAN'." Da.cu. s

------ \ S A D R
Oin.AOO -


-"_ -:



c .' SEA


4 ~.- s. -r..
V PPl~

Source: Based on Kolars and Mitchell 1991.

920 cubic meters per second to an "intolerable" 197
cubic meters per second and asked that the Arab
League intervene. The Syrians claimed that less than
half the river's normal flow had reached their bor-
ders that year and, after a barrage of mutually hostile
statements, pulled out of an Arab League technical
committee formed to mediate the conflict. In May
1975, Syria closed its airspace to Iraqi flights, and
both Syria and Iraq reportedly transferred troops to
their mutual border. Only Saudi Arabia's mediation
was able to break the increasing tension, and on
June 3, the parties arrived at an agreement that
averted the impending violence. Although the terms
were not made public, Naff and Matson (1984, 94)
cite Iraqi sources as privately stating that the agree-
ment called for Syria to keep 40 percent of the flow
of the Euphrates within its borders, and to allow the
remaining 60 percent through to Iraq.
The Turkish GAP project has given a sense of
urgency to resolving allocation issues concerning
the Euphrates. The Southeast Anatolia Development
Project (GAP is the Turkish acronym) is a massive
undertaking for energy and agricultural develop-
ment, which, when completed, will include the con-
struction of 21 dams and 19 hydroelectric plants on
both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. According
to the plan, 1.65 million hectares of land will be
irrigated and 26 billion kilowatt-hours will be gener-

ated annually, with an installed capacity of 7,500
A 1987 visit to Damascus by Turkish Prime
Minister Turgut Ozal reportedly resulted in a signed
agreement for the Turks to guarantee a minimum
flow of 500 cubic meters per second across the bor-
der with Syria. According to Kolars and Mitchell
(1991), this total of 16 BCM per year is in accord-
ance with prior Syrian requests. However, according
to Naff and Matson (1984), this is also the amount
that Iraq insisted on in 1967, leaving a potential
shortfall. A tripartite meeting of Turkish, Syrian, and
Iraqi ministers was held in November 1986, but
yielded few results (Kolars and Mitchell 1991).
Talks between the three countries were held
again in January 1990, when Turkey closed the gates
to the reservoir on the Ataturk Dam, the largest of
the GAP dams, essentially shutting off the flow of
the Euphrates for 30 days. At this meeting, Iraq
again insisted that a flow of 500 cubic meters per
second cross the Syrian-Iraqi border. The Turkish
representatives responded that this was a technical
rather than political issue and the meetings stalled.
The Gulf War, which broke out later that month,
precluded additional negotiations (Kalors and
Mitchell 1991).
In their first meeting after the war, Turkish, Syr-
ian, and Iraqi water officials convened in Damascus
in September 1992, but broke up after Turkey re-
jected an Iraqi request that flow crossing the Turkish
border be increased from 500 cubic meters per sec-
ond to 700 cubic meters per second (Gruen 1993). In
bilateral talks in January 1993, however, Turkish
Prime Minister Demirel and Syrian President Assad
discussed a range of issues intended to improve rela-
tions between the two countries. Regarding the
water conflict, the two agreed to resolve the issue of
allocations by the end of 1993. Although this has not
been done to date, Prime Minister Demirel declared
at a press conference closing the summit that "there
is no need for Syria to be anxious about the water
issue. The waters of the Euphrates will flow to that
country whether there is an agreement or not"
(Gruen 1993).
The waters of the Middle East have been the
focus both of bitter conflict over a scarce and vital
resource and of cooperation between otherwise hos-
tile neighbors. From the Nile to the Jordan to the
Tigris-Euphrates, armies have been mobilized and
treaties signed over this precious commodity. In re-
cent years, the needs of ever-increasing populations

and burgeoning national development have begun to
approach and sometimes exceed local hydrologic
limits. As shortages become more acute, unilateral
plans increasingly impose on riparians, physically
driving home the potential hazards of resource con-
flict and the benefits of regional cooperation.
Along these international waterways, two issues
are intertwined. The first is a water crisis. A problem
found in water basins around the world, this aspect
might simply be described as too little water for too
many people. The aim of all possible approaches,
whether technical or policy oriented, is to make the
basin's water supply meet the demand. The other
issue might be referred to as a water conflict. This
site-specific aspect describes the political tensions
attending a lack of water in a particular basin. In the
following sections, both aspects of the waters of the
Middle East are addressed. Some technical and pol-
icy options that may help ameliorate the water crisis
are described below.

Technical and Policy Options
There is an array of solutions to water resource limits
ranging from agricultural to technological to eco-
nomic and public policy, but, as for any resource
shortage, they all fall under two basic categories:
increase supply or decrease demand (Table 3). Al-
lowances must also be made for anticipated shifts in
climate and demographics.

Increasing Supply
New natural sources. No new "rivers" will be dis-
covered in the Middle East, but increased catchment
of winter floodwater anywhere along the existing
river system can also add to the water budget. This
applies to small wadis as well as to large storage
projects. When it is possible to store water under-
ground through artificial groundwater recharge,
even more water is saved--that not lost to evapora-
tion in a surface reservoir. Less evaporation also
means less of a salinity problem in the remaining
Underground is the only place to look for any
real new water supplies. In 1985, Israel confirmed
the discovery of a large fossil aquifer in the Nubian
sandstone underlying the Sinai and Negev deserts.
Israel is already exploiting 25 MCM per year from
this source and is investigating the possibility of

Table 3-Water management options to
increase supply or decrease demand

Unilateral options
Decrease demand
Population control
Public awareness
Allow price of water to reflect true costs (including national water
Efficient agriculture, including:
Drip irrigation
Greenhouse technology
Genetic engineering for drought and salinity resistance
Increase supply
Wastewater reclamation
Increase catchment and storage (including artificial groundwater
Cloud seeding
Fossil aquifer development
Cooperative options
Shared information and technology
International water markets to increase distributive efficiency
Interbasin water transfers
Joint regional planning

pumping 300 MCM per year in the coming century
(Issar 1985, 104, 110). Jordan has also been carrying
out a systematic groundwater evaluation project
(Starr and Stoll 1988, 32).
Any other source would come at the expense of
another watershed. Despite this, at one time or an-
other, Israel has eyed the Litani and the Nile, Jordan
has looked to the Euphrates, and all of the countries
in the area have been intrigued by the "peace pipe-
line" proposed by Turkey in 1987. The western line
of this project would deliver 1.2 BCM per year from
the Seyhan and Ceyhan rivers to Syria, Jordan, and
Saudi Arabia (Duna 1988, 119). Despite Turkish
Prime Minister Ozal's belief that, "by pooling re-
gional resources, the political tensions in the area
can be diffused," at a cost of $20 billion, the idea did
not rapidly gain popularity (Duna 1988, 121). With
the recent passing of Prime Minister Ozal, enthusi-
asm for the plan seems to have passed on as well.

New sources through technology. Projects like ice-
berg towing and cloud seeding, though appealing to
the imagination, do not seem to be the most likely
direction for future technology. The former involves
great expense and the latter can be, at best, a small
part of a local solution. Although a representative of

Israel's water authority claims that 15 percent of
Israeli annual rainfall is due to their cloud-seeding
program, this has been documented only within the
northern Galilee catchment and results seem not to
have the consistency necessary for reliable planning
(Siegal 1989, 12).
The two most likely technologies to increase
water supply are desalination and wastewater recla-
mation. The Middle East has already spent more on
desalting plants than any other part of the world. The
region has 35 percent of the world's plants with 65
percent of the total desalting capacity, mostly along
the Arabian peninsula (Anderson 1988, 4).
High costs make desalinated water expensive for
most applications. Although drinking water is a com-
pletely inelastic good-that is, people will pay al-
most any price for it-water for agriculture, by far
the largest use in the Middle East, has to be cost-
effective enough so that the agricultural end-product
remains competitive in the marketplace. The present
costs of about $0.80 to $1.50 per cubic meter to
desalt seawater and about $0.30 per cubic meter to
treat brackish water do not make this technology an
economic water source for most uses (Awerbuch
1988, 59). Efforts are being made, however, to lower
these costs through multiple-use plants (getting de-
salted water as a byproduct in a plant designed pri-
marily for energy generation), through increased en-
ergy efficiency in plant design, and by augmenting
conventional plant power with solar or other energy
One additional use of salt water is to mix it with
fresh water in just the quantity to leave it useful for
agricultural or industrial purposes, effectively add-
ing to the freshwater supply. This method was used
in the 1975/76 season to add 141 MCM per year to
the water budget of the Jordan basin (Kahhaleh 1981).
The other promising technology to increase sup-
ply is wastewater reclamation. Two plants in Israel
currently treat 110 MCM per year or 40 percent of
the country's sewage for re-use, and projections call
for treating 80 percent by the end of the decade
(Israel, Environmental Protection Service 1988,
147). The treated water is currently used to irrigate
some 15,000 hectares-mostly cotton. It is antici-
pated that full exploitation of purified wastewater

will eventually constitute 45 percent of domestic
water needs. This type of project could be developed
throughout the region. The obvious limit of this tech-
nology is the amount of wastewater generated by a
population in a year.

Decreasing Demand
The guiding principle to decrease demand for any
scarce resource should be, "Can it be used more
efficiently?" This does not always work, however,
especially when there is an emotional value associ-
ated either with the resource itself or with the pro-
posed solution. Unfortunately, when dealing with
water, emotions usually charge both aspects of the
issue. For example, the most direct way to cut de-
mand for Middle East water is to limit population
growth in the region. However, in an area where
national groups and religious and ethnic subgroups
all seem to be locked in some demographic race for
numerical superiority, this is not likely to occur.
Many of the sectors most susceptible to efficient
restructuring are also those most laden with emotion.

Agriculture sector. Some aspects of decreasing agri-
cultural water demand are noncontroversial and
have made the region a showcase for arid-agriculture
water conservation. Technological advances like
drip-irrigation and micro-sprinklers, which reduce
water loss by evaporation, are about 20 to 50 percent
more efficient than standard sprinklers and tremen-
dously more so than the open-ditch flood method
used in the region for centuries (Israel, Environ-
mental Protection Service 1988, 144). Computerized
control systems, working in conjunction with direct
soil moisture measurements, can add even more pre-
cision to crop irrigation.
Other water savings have come through bioengi-
neered crops that exist on a minimal amount of fresh
water, on brackish water, or even on the direct appli-
cation of salt water.4
Using a combination of these conservation
methods, Israel's irrigated area increased from
172,000 hectares in 1973 to 220,000 hectares in
1988, with total production increasing by 100 per-
cent, while water consumption for agriculture

3For information on nonconventional desalination projects, see Murakami 1995.
4For interesting examples of direct seawater irrigation, see Hodges, Collins, and Riley 1988, 109-118.

remained nearly constant (Israel, Environmental
Protection Service 1988, 144). Observers have spec-
ulated that the irrigated area on the West Bank could
likewise be doubled without increasing the demand
for water (Heller 1983, 130). Meanwhile, these tech-
niques have been spreading throughout the region,
and it is reasonable to assume that increased water
efficiency will continue to be an important aspect of
Middle East agriculture.
Emotional charge enters into the water debate
only when economists or planners suggest that
greater hydrologic efficiency might be gained if less
water were used in agriculture.

Economic water efficiency. Water distribution in
the Middle East is so riddled with economic ineffi-
ciency that an economist approaching it must feel
very much like a designer of drip irrigation watching
a field being flood-irrigated. The main problem is
that the cost of water to the user is highly subsidized,
especially water earmarked for agriculture. The true
cost of water would reflect all of the pumping, treat-
ment, and delivery costs, most of which are not
passed on to the farmers.
Economic theory argues that only when the price
paid for a commodity reasonably reflects the true
price can market forces work for efficient distribu-
tion.5 In other words, subsidized water leads to waste
in agricultural practices, little incentive for research
and development of conservation techniques and prac-
tice, and too much water allocated to the agriculture
sector as opposed to industry. Remove subsidies and
allow the price to rise, it is argued, and market incen-
tives are created for both greater efficiency on the
farm and a natural shift of water resources from the
agriculture sector to industry, where contribution to
GNP per unit of water is often much higher (Wishart
1989, 49). Since, in each of the areas discussed,
between 75 and 95 percent of water use is allocated
for agriculture, the savings could be substantial.
Economic analysis may also create a framework
for easing regional water tensions. "Put simply, con-
flicts over water rights are easier to resolve if trans-
action costs of resolution are lower, and if opportu-
nities exist for improving the efficiency of water use
and discovery," according to Wishart (1989, 50). If

it is cheaper for people to cooperate and save water
than to fight, they would rather cooperate.
There are, however, problems inherent in using
economic theory as the tool for water conflict analy-
sis-problems that can lead to weaknesses in the
economic solutions prescribed. First, water is not a
pure economic good. Options to consumers of most
goods include migrating to where the item is cheaper
or abstaining from it altogether if the price is too
high. Given small countries with tightly controlled
borders, the former is not a viable alternative for
water consumers, nor, for more obvious biological
reasons, is the latter. Presumably, though, the analy-
sis is restricted to water for agriculture where there is
ample room for reducing demand before running
into such dangers.
The second problem is more serious because it
has to do with a force much more fundamental than
economic theory-the emotions of a nation. All of
the countries in the area were built from the farm up
and the agriculturalist, whether the fellah or the kib-
butznik, holds a special mystique along the banks of
all of the region's rivers. Arabic, Hebrew, and Turk-
ish ideologies are rife with slogans of "making the
desert bloom" and "nations rooted in their land." In
this context, water invariably becomes the lifeblood
of a nation. One result of this has been a certain
leeway, both political and financial, granted to agri-
Overlooking this fundamental aspect of a na-
tional water ethic can confound an economist, espe-
cially one from outside of the region. Even while
recognizing its limits, though, one can still use eco-
nomic analysis to provide guidelines to increase hy-
drological efficiency. And following these guide-
lines can be crucial, particularly as water limits
begin to be reached. As Galnoor (1978, 360) has
pointed out:

Whereas diseconomies dictated by ideology
could be tolerated under conditions of con-
ventional water sufficiency, they cannot
continue indefinitely, especially with regard
to investments under conditions of a sys-
tem's shortage.

5For an economic analysis of Jordan River water, see Wishart 1989, 45-53.

Public policy. Where the "invisible hand" of eco-
nomic forces fails to guide a more efficient water
use, the more authoritative guidelines of public pol-
icy can take over. Government agencies could sim-
ply implement one analyst's prescription of cutting
water to agriculture by 35 percent, if they wished
(Naff 1990). The "if they wished" is the problem.
The same national water ethics that give agriculture
great economic clout in the region also give it great
political clout. The Water Commission in Israel, for
example, is the ultimate authority for all water plan-
ning and operations in the country. It, in turn, is
controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture. Clearly
there is room for improvement even in national pub-
lic policy. But the real opportunities come from the
international policy sector.
Water policy in this region is presently drawn up
within the boundaries of a nation, rather than a wa-
tershed. Because the flow of water does not respect
political boundaries, it should be clear that regional
management, at the watershed level at least, would
be a much more efficient approach. In fact, the only
point on which the water policy analyses surveyed
here agree is on the need for planned water sharing
and joint water development, as Eisenhower's envoy
Eric Johnston envisioned 35 years ago.
Regional cooperation would open the door to a
host of new water distribution alternatives.6 For ex-
ample, surface water from the Yarmuk or the upper
Jordan could be provided to the West Bank, allowing
increased development in that area while alleviating
Israeli fears of overdrafted Palestinian wells. Or,
Israel and Jordan might cooperatively develop both
banks of the Jordan, eliminating the current redun-
dant costs of separate delivery systems within each
country. The larger the region cooperating, the more
efficient the regional plan that can be developed. It is
cheaper, for example, to bring water from the Nile to
the Negev than it is to pump it from the Sea of
Galilee, the current practice (Kally 1989b, 305).
A word of caution: despite one author's conten-
tion (Kally 1989a, 325) that "the successful imple-
mentation of cooperative projects... will strengthen
and stabilize peace," this does not necessarily seem
to be the case. It seems at this point inconclusive
whether greater interdependence is actually an impe-

tus to greater cooperation or greater conflict. Many
of the hostilities over water that have occurred in the
region seem to have come about precisely because
the water destined for a downstream user was con-
trolled by an upstream party. Many "cooperative"
projects might only provide additional opportunity
for suspicion and potential for contention. Lowi
(1993) suggests that issues of regional water-sharing
cannot be successfully broached until the larger po-
litical issues of territory and refugees are resolved.
However, the concept should not be abandoned
because projects would have to be weighed in terms
of the conflict-alleviating tendencies of more effi-
cient water distribution as opposed to the possible
conflict-heightening of greater hydrologic interde-
pendence. Nor should the concept of a regional plan-
ning approach be tarnished because of uncertainty
about specific projects.
Even were the riparians of the rivers of the Mid-
dle East to agree to implement many or all of the
above steps in a rational fashion, only the regional
water crisis, that is, the lack of water in the basin for
anticipated needs, would be addressed.7 The water
conflict-the political tensions attendant to the lack
of water-would remain. Fortunately, recent hydro-
political events have allowed for a forum for airing
issues of water scarcity and water politics. Eventu-
ally, perhaps, these issues will be resolved.
By 1991, several events had combined to shift
the emphasis on the potential for "hydro-conflict" in
the Middle East to the potential for "hydro-coopera-
tion." The first event was natural, but limited to the
Jordan basin. Three years of below-average rainfall
dramatically tightened the water management prac-
tices of each of the riparians, including rationing,
cutbacks to agriculture by as much as 30 percent, and
restructuring of water pricing and allocations. Al-
though these steps imposed short-term hardships,
they also showed that, for years of normal rainfall,
there was still some flexibility in the system. Most
water decisionmakers agree that these steps, particu-
larly regarding pricing and allocations to agriculture,
were long overdue.
The next series of events were geopolitical and
regionwide. The Gulf War in 1990 and the collapse
of the Soviet Union realigned political alliances in

6Many cooperative water projects are described in detail in Kally 1989b (in Hebrew).
7Much work has been done to try to prioritize these steps for regional development, mostly for the Jordan basin. See, for example,
Wolf and Murakami 1995.

the Middle East and finally made possible the first
public face-to-face peace talks between Arabs and
Israelis, in Madrid on October 30, 1991. During the
bilateral negotiations between Israel and each of its
neighbors, it was agreed that a second track be estab-
lished for multilateral negotiations on five regional
subjects, including water resources.

Water and the Peace Process

The First Four Meetings of
the Working Group
Since the opening session of the multilateral talks in
Moscow in January 1992, the Working Group on
Water Resources, with the United States as "gavel
holder," has been the venue by which problems of
water supply, demand, and institutions are raised
among three of the five parties to the bilateral nego-
tiations. Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians partici-
pate in the Working Group; Lebanon and Syria do
not. Many Arab states from the Gulf and the
Maghreb also participate, as do nonregional delega-
tions, including representatives from governments
and donor organizations.8
The bilateral and multilateral tracks of the nego-
tiations are designed not only to close the gap be-
tween issues of politics and regional development,
but perhaps to use progress on each to help catalyze
the pace of the other, toward a just and lasting peace
in the Middle East. The multilateral working groups
provide forums for relatively free dialogue on the
future of the region and, in the process, allow for
personal icebreaking and confidence building, help-
ing to smooth the way for progress in the bilateral
talks. Additionally, while political considerations
are clearly important factors in the multilateral talks,
innovative, creative ideas can be exchanged and dis-
cussed more openly outside the heavy political con-
straints of the more formal bilateral negotiations.

The objectives thus far have been more in the
nature of fact-finding and workshops, rather than
tackling the difficult hydropolitical issues of water
rights and allocations or developing specific proj-
ects. Decisions are made through consensus only.
The Working Group on Water Resources has met
five times (rounds 2 through 6), as illustrated in
Table 4.
The pace of success has varied but, in general,
has been increasing. The second round, the first
meeting of the water group alone, has been charac-
terized as "contentious," with initial posturing and
venting on all sides.9 Palestinians and Jordanians,
then part of joint delegation, first raised the issue of
water rights, claiming that no progress can be made
on any other issue until past grievances are ad-
dressed. In sharp contrast, the Israeli position has
been that water rights is a bilateral issue, and that the
multilateral water working group should focus on
joint management and development of new re-
sources. Since decisions are by consensus, little pro-
gress was made on either issue. Nevertheless, plans
were made to continue the talks-an achievement in
The third round, in Washington, D. C., in Sep-
tember 1992, made somewhat more progress. Con-
sensus was reached on a general emphasis for future

Table 4-Meetings of the Multilateral
Working Group on Water Resources

Meeting Dates Location
Multilateral January 28-29, 1992 Moscow
organizational meeting
Water talks, round 2 May 14-15, 1992 Vienna
Water talks, round 3 September 16-17, 1992 Washington, D.C.
Water talks, round 4 April 27-29, 1993 Geneva
Water talks, round 5 October 26-28, 1993 Beijing
Water talks, round 6 April 17-19, 1994 Muscat

8The complete list of parties invited to each round includes representatives from Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium,
Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan,
Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, the Palestinians, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Nations, United States, the
World Bank, and Yemen.
9After some confusion in numbering, it was officially decided that the multilateral organizational meeting in Moscow represented the
first round of the multilateral working groups. Subsequent meetings are therefore numbered correspondingly, beginning with round 2.

talks that the U.S. State Department had proposed in
May, focusing on four subjects:
enhancement of water data,
water management practices,
enhancement of water supply, and
concepts for regional cooperation and
Progress was also made on the definition of the
relationship between the multilateral and bilateral
tracks. By this third meeting, it became clear that
regional water-sharing agreements, or any political
agreements surrounding water resources, would not
be dealt with in the multilaterals, but that the role of
these talks was to address nonpolitical issues of mu-
tual concern, thereby strengthening the bilateral
track. The goal in the Working Group on Water
Resources became to plan for a future region at
peace, and to leave the pace of implementation to the
bilaterals. This distinction between planning and im-
plementation has become crucial, with progress only
being made as the boundary between the two is
continuously pushed and blurred by the mediators.
The fourth round, in Geneva in April 1993,
proved particularly contentious, threatening at
points to halt the process. Initially, the meeting was
to be somewhat innocuous. A series ofintersessional
activities surrounding the four subjects agreed to at
the previous meeting was proposed. These activities,
including study tours and water-related courses,
would help capacity-building while fostering better
personal and professional relations.
The issue of water rights was raised again, how-
ever, with the Palestinians threatening to boycott the
intersessional activities. The Jordanians, who had
already agreed to discuss water rights with the Is-
raelis, helped work out a similar arrangement on
behalf of the Palestinians, and both sides agreed to
the terms after quiet negotiations in May, before the
meeting in Oslo of the working group on refugees.
The agreement called for three Israeli-Palestinian
working groups within the bilateral negotiations, one
of which would deal with water rights. The agree-
ment, in which the Palestinians consented to partici-
pate in the intersessional activities, also called for
U.S. representatives of the water working group to
visit the region. While some may have expected the
U.S. representatives to use the opportunity to take a
strong proactive position on the issue of water rights,
the delegates held that any specific initiatives have

to come from the parties themselves, and that agree-
ment must be by consensus.
By July 1993, the intersessional activities had
begun, with about 20 activities as diverse as a study
tour of the Colorado River basin and a series of
seminars on semi-arid lands. Recent emphasis has
been on capacity-building in the region. A series of
14 courses has recently been designed with and for
participants from the region by the United States and
the European Union, to range in length from 2 weeks
to 12 months, and to cover subjects as broad as
concepts of integrated water management and as
detailed as groundwater flow modeling. The donor
community pledged to fund these courses.

The Israeli-Palestinian Declaration
of Principles
On September 15, 1993, the Declaration of Princi-
ples on Interim Self-Government Arrangements,
which called for Palestinian autonomy in and the
removal of Israeli military forces from Gaza and
Jericho, was signed between Palestinians and Is-
raelis. Among other issues, this bilateral agreement
called for the creation of a Palestinian Water Ad-
ministration Authority. Moreover, the first item in
Annex III, on cooperation in economic and develop-
ment programs, included a focus on
cooperation in the field of water, including a
Water Development Program prepared by
experts from both sides, which will also
specify the mode of cooperation in the man-
agement of water resources in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, and will include pro-
posals for studies and plans on water rights
of each party, as well as on the equitable
utilization of joint water resources for imple-
mentation in and beyond the interim period.
Although the declaration was generally seen as a
positive development by most parties, the Jordanians
raised concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian agree-
ment to investigate a possible Med-Dead Canal-a
project to link the Mediterranean and Dead Seas,
taking advantage of the 400-meter drop in elevation
to generate hydropower. In the working group on
regional economic development, the Italians had
pledged $2.5 million toward a study of a Red-Dead
Canal, a similar project using the same elevation
difference between the Red and Dead Seas, as ajoint

Israeli-Jordanian project; building both would be in-
feasible. The Israelis pointed out in private conversa-
tions with the Jordanians that all possible projects
should be investigated, and only then could rational
decisions on implementation be made.
Although it is a bilateral agreement, the Declara-
tion of Principles helped streamline logistically awk-
ward aspects of the multilaterals, as the PLO became
openly responsible for the talks and the Palestinian
delegation separated from the Jordanians.

The Fifth and Sixth Meetings

By the fifth round of water talks in Beijing in Octo-
ber 1993, a routine seemed to be setting in. Reports
were presented on each of the four topics agreed to
at the second meeting in Vienna-increasing data
availability, enhancing water supply, water manage-
ment and conservation, and regional cooperation and
management-and a new series of intersessional ac-
tivities was announced.
The sixth and most recent round of water talks
was held in Muscat, Oman, in April 1994, the first to
be held in an Arab country and the first meeting of
any working group to be held in the Gulf. Tensions
mounted immediately before the talks as it became
clear that the Palestinians would use the occasion as
a platform to announce the appointment of a Pales-
tinian National Water Authority. While such an
authority was called for in the Declaration of Princi-
ples, possible responses to both the unilateral nature
of the announcement and the appropriateness of the
water working group as the vehicle for the an-
nouncement were unclear. Only a flurry of activity
prior to the talks guaranteed that the announcement
would be welcomed by all parties. This agreement
set the stage for a particularly productive meeting. In
two days, the working group endorsed

an Omani proposal to establish a Muscat de-
salination research and technology center that
would support regional cooperation among all
interested parties (this marked the first Arab
proposal to reach consensus in the working
an Israeli proposal to rehabilitate and improve
water systems in small communities in the
region (this was the first Israeli proposal to be
accepted by any working group);

a German proposal to study the water supply
and demand development among interested
core parties in the region;
a U.S. proposal to develop wastewater treat-
ment and re-use facilities for small communi-
ties at several sites in the region (the proposal
was jointly sponsored by the water and envi-
ronmental working groups); and
implementation of the U.S./EU regional train-
ing program, as described earlier.
As mentioned above, the working group offi-
cially welcomed the announcement of the creation of
the Palestinian Water Authority, and pledged to
work with the Authority on multilateral water issues.

The Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace
Recent progress has been notable in bilateral nego-
tiations between Jordan and Israel. On June 7, 1994,
the two states announced an agreement on a
subagenda for cooperation, building on an agenda
for peace talks agreed to September 14, 1993, which
would lead eventually to a peace treaty. This
subagenda included several water-related items, no-
tably in the first heading listed, ahead of security
issues and border and territorial matters.
These principles were formalized on October 26,
1994, when Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty,
ending more than four decades of a legal, when not
actual, state of war. The peace treaty was only signed
after resolving the last and most contentious issue-
shared water resources.
For the first time since the states came into be-
ing, the treaty legally spells out mutually recognized
water allocations. Acknowledging that "water issues
along their entire boundary must be dealt with in
their totality," the treaty spells out allocations for
both the Yarmuk and Jordan Rivers, as well as re-
garding Arava/Araba groundwater, and calls for
joint efforts to prevent water pollution. Also, "[rec-
ognizing] that their water resources are not sufficient
to meet their needs," the treaty calls for ways of
alleviating the water shortage through cooperative
projects, both regional and international.
According to Annex II of the accord:
Israel will limit its withdrawals from the Yar-
muk to 25 MCM per year. Jordan has rights to
the rest of the normal flow of the river plus 10
MCM per year of desalinated brackish spring

water (out of a total of 20 MCM per year to be
Jordan will effectively store 20 MCM per year
of winter floodwater in Israel by allowing Israel
to pump it from the Yarmuk in the winter and
having it returned from the Jordan in the sum-
mer. Floodwater in addition to current uses will
be split between the two countries.
Two dams will be constructed-one each on the
Yarmuk and the Jordan (Israel can use up to 3
MCM per year of increased storage capacity).
Israel can expand by 10 MCM per year pump-
ing of groundwater wells in the Arava/Araba
area, which according to the redefined border
now falls within Jordanian territory.
An additional 50 MCM per year will be devel-
oped through joint projects to be determined
by a Joint Water Committee.
The Joint Water Committee, comprised of
three members from each country, will also
collect relevant data on water resources, spec-
ify work procedures and details, and form
specialized subcommittees, as needed.
Although the pace of the peace talks has been at
times arduously slow, a venue does finally exist
where grievances can be aired and the issue of water-
sharing equity can be tackled. This, in itself, may
help prevent pressures that historically have led to
some of the most bitter water conflicts in the world.
Before determining whether the future will take
the shape of increasing riparian disputes and perhaps
armed hostilities or, alternatively, of greater coop-
eration and regionwide planning, some observations
are in order about the crux of most water conflicts-
equity in allocating water resources.

Measuring Equity in Water
Resource Disputes
At the heart of water conflict management is the
question of "equity."10 Criteria for equity, a vague

and relative term in any event, are particularly diffi-
cult to determine in water conflicts, where interna-
tional water law is ambiguous and often contradic-
tory, and no mechanism exists to enforce
agreed-upon principles. However, application of an
equitable water-sharing agreement along the volatile
waterways of the Middle East is a prerequisite to
hydropolitical stability, which finally could help
propel political forces away from conflict in favor of
cooperation. This section describes some existing
measures of water-sharing equity, their strengths,
and their weaknesses in the context of Middle East

International Water Law
According to Cano (1989), international water law
did not substantially begin to be formulated until
after World War I. Since that time, organs of interna-
tional law have tried to provide a framework for
increasingly intensive water use. The concept of a
"drainage basin," for example, was accepted by the
International Law Association in the Helsinki Rules
of 1966, which also provides guidelines for "reason-
able and equitable" sharing of a common waterway
(Caponera 1985). Article IV of the Helsinki Rules
describes the overriding principle:
Each basin State is entitled, within its terri-
tory, to a reasonable and equitable share in
the beneficial uses of the waters of an inter-
national drainage basin.

Article V lists no fewer than 11 factors that must
be taken into account in defining what is "reason-
able and equitable."" There is no hierarchy to these
components of "reasonable use"; rather they are to
be considered as a whole. One important shift in
legal thinking in the Helsinki Rules is that they
address the right to "beneficial use" of water, rather
than to water per se (Housen-Couriel 1992, 5).
The International Law Commission, a U.N.
body, was directed by the General Assembly in 1970
to study "Codification of the Law on Water Courses

l'Some of the following discussion is drawn from Wolf and Dinar 1994.
"The factors include a basin's geography, hydrology, climate, past and existing water utilization, economic and social needs of the
riparians, population, comparative costs of alternative sources, availability of other sources, avoidance of waste, practicability of
compensation as a means of adjusting conflicts, and the degree to which a state's needs may be satisfied without causing substantial
injury to a co-basin state.

for Purposes Other than Navigation." The general
principles being codified include (Caponera 1985)
1. Common water resources are to be shared
equitably between the states entitled to use
them, with related corollaries of
limited sovereignty,
duty to cooperate in development, and
protection of common resources.
2. States are responsible for substantial trans-
boundary injury originating in their respec-
tive territories.

The problems arise when attempts are made to
apply this reasonable but vague language to specific
water conflicts. In the Middle East, for example,
riparian positions and consequent legal rights shift
with changing borders, many of which are still not
recognized by the world community. Furthermore,
international law only concerns itself with the rights
and responsibilities of states. Some political entities
who might claim water rights, therefore, would not
be represented, such as the Palestinians along the
Jordan or the Kurds along the Euphrates.
International law seeks to develop general prin-
ciples that can then be applied to specific problems.
It is testimony to the difficulty of marrying legal and
hydrologic intricacies that the International Law
Commission, despite an additional call for codifica-
tion at the U.N. Water Conference at Mar de Plata in
1977, has not yet completed its task. After 20 years
and nine reports, only several articles have been
provisionally approved. Once the details are worked
through, the principles would not have the force of
law until approved by the U.N. General Assembly
(Solanes 1987). Even then, cases are heard by the
International Court of Justice only with the consent
of the parties involved, and no practical enforcement
mechanism exists to back up the Court's findings,
except in the most extreme cases. A state with press-
ing national interests can therefore disclaim entirely
the court's jurisdiction or findings (Caponera 1985;
Cano 1989).

Needs-Based Equity

Many of the common claims for water rights are
based either on geography, that is, from where a river
or aquifer originates and how much of that territory
falls within a certain state, or on chronology, who
has been using the water the longest. Their extreme
positions have been referred to as "the doctrine of
absolute sovereignty," meaning that a state has abso-
lute rights to water flowing through its territory, and
"prior appropriation," that is, "first in time, first in
right" (Roger 1991).
These conflicting doctrines of geography and
chronology clash along all of the rivers of the Middle
East, with positions usually defined by riparian posi-
tions. Downstream riparians, such as Iraq and Egypt,
often receive less rainfall than their upstream neigh-
bors and therefore have depended on river water for
much longer. As a consequence, modern rights-
based disputes often take the form of upstream ri-
parians such as Ethiopia and Turkey arguing for the
doctrine of absolute sovereignty, with downstream
riparians taking the position of prior appropriation.12
In many of the Middle East water disputes that
have been resolved, however, the paradigms used for
negotiations have not been rights-based, either on
geography or chronology, but rather needs-based. In
agreements between Egypt and Sudan signed in
1929 and in 1959, for example, allocations were
based on local needs, primarily of agriculture. Egypt
argued for a greater share of the Nile because of its
larger population and extensive irrigation works.
Current allocations of 55.5 BCM per year for Egypt
and 18.5 BCM per year for Sudan reflect these
Likewise, along the Jordan River, the only water
agreement ever negotiated (although not ratified),
the Johnston Plan, emphasized the needs rather than
the inherent rights of the riparians. Johnston's ap-
proach, based on a report prepared for the TVA, was
to estimate, without regard to political boundaries,
the water needs for all irrigable land within the Jor-
dan Valley basin that could be irrigated by gravity
flow (Main 1953). National allocations were then

12For examples of these respective positions, see the exchange about the Nile between Jovanovic 1985, 1986 and Shahin 1986 in Water
International and the description of political claims along the Euphrates in Kolars and Mitchell 1991.
13For descriptions of negotiations between Egypt and Sudan in 1929 and 1959, see Naff and Matson 1984 and Krishna 1988.

based on these in-basin agricultural needs, with the
understanding that each country could use the water
as it wished, including diverting it out-of-basin. This
was not only an acceptable formula to the parties, but
it allowed for a breakthrough in negotiations when a
land survey of Jordan concluded that its future water
needs were lower than previously thought.
Because of its relative success, needs-based al-
location has been advocated for the region in recent
disputes as well, notably in and around the Jordan
River watershed where riparian disputes exist not
only along the river itself, but also over several
shared groundwater aquifers. Shuval (1992), for ex-
ample, argues for a minimum baseline allocation
between Israel, West Bank Palestinians, and Jordan,
based on a per capital allotment of 100 cubic meters
per year for domestic and industrial use plus 25
cubic meters per year for agriculture. Adding 65
percent of urban uses for recycled wastewater,
Shuval arrives at a hypothetical 2022 allocation as
950 MCM per year for Palestinians, 1,330 MCM per
year for Jordan, and 1,900 MCM per year for Israel.
Since the regional freshwater supply is only about
2,500 MCM per year, Shuval also advocates a series
of water import schemes and desalination plants to
provide the difference between regional supply and
future demand.
Wolf (1993) likewise advocates a needs-based
approach, but considers new sources such as recy-
cled wastewater separate issues. By planning for
total urban needs of 100 cubic meters per year per
person, and extrapolating to the point in the future
where all of the basin's 2,500 MCM per year has to
be allocated first to these needs-in other words,
when the regional population reaches 25 million,
expected early in the next century-Wolf arrives at
annual allocations of 1,000 MCM per year for Israel,
1,000 MCM per year for Jordan, 300 MCM for the
Palestinians on the West Bank, and 200 MCM for
those in Gaza.
Although needs-based negotiations have been
more successful in practice in the Middle East than
rights-based claims, this is not to say agreement has
been absolute. As noted above, agreement along the
Nile has included only two of the nine riparian states,
Egypt and Sudan, both minor contributors to the
river's flow. No other state riparian to the Nile has
ever exercised a legal claim to the water allocated in
the 1959 treaty (Whittington and McClelland 1992,
145). The notable exception to the treaty, and the
country that might argue most adamantly for greater

sovereignty, is Ethiopia, which contributes 75 to 85
percent of the Nile's flow. Political complexities
have likewise hindered ratification of water-sharing
agreements along both the Jordan and the Euphrates
Rivers, with upstream versus first-user arguments
still prevalent. Success has often depended on how
well the negotiating strategy coincided with the po-
litical complexities of the region.

Economic Equity
One lately emerging principle incorporated into
water conflict resolution is the allocation of water
resources according to their economic value. Here
we distinguish between efficiency-the reallocation
of water to its highest value use-and equity--the
psychological satisfaction of a fair allocation. The
idea is that different uses and users of the water
along a given waterway may value the resource dif-
ferently. Therefore, equitable water-sharing should
take into consideration the possibility of increasing
the overall efficiency of water utilization by reallo-
cating the water according to these values. This prin-
ciple alone may not be accepted as equitable by the
parties involved. However, inclusion of economic
aspects in water resource allocation may enhance
cooperation and future collaboration.

Central planning versus market approaches. Allo-
cation according to the economic value of water has
usually been demonstrated using two approaches.
The long-standing approach assumes a central plan-
ning authority who knows what is best for society-
a social planner who views the region as one plan-
ning unit. The social planner maximizes regional
welfare subject to all available water resources in the
region and given all possible water-utilizing sectors.
In some instances the social planner (government)
also includes preferences (policy). A second ap-
proach is the water market approach, which employs
the market mechanism to achieve an efficient alloca-
tion of scarce water resources among competing users.
Examples of these approaches can be found in
several studies that consider institutional and eco-
nomic aspects of international cooperation for inter-
basin development. Goslin (1977) examined the eco-
nomic, legal, and technological aspects of the
Colorado River basin allocation between the U.S.
riparian states and Mexico. Krutilla (1969) analyzed
the economics of the Columbia River Agreement
between the United States and Canada. LeMarquand

(1976) developed a framework to analyze economic
and political aspects of water basin development.
And Haynes and Whittington (1981) suggested a
social planner solution for the entire Nile basin.
Recent studies14 have questioned the equity
and justice associated with market allocations.
These studies conclude that economic considera-
tions alone may not provide an acceptable solution
to water allocation problems, especially allocation
disputes between nations. While the social planner
and the market approaches may provide solutions
to regional water allocation, they suffer several
drawbacks that may affect the efficiency and the
acceptability of the proposed solution. The social
planner approach assumes that all social prefer-
ences are known and incorporated into the regional
objective function. This of course might not be the
case, especially when dealing with regional water
allocations that involve many countries with cul-
tural differences and preferences.
The market approach assumes the existence of
many parties in the region, each acting inde-
pendently, so that the market price for water reflects
its true value for each party. If, in that market, one
party's decision does not affect the outcome for
other individuals, then the self-interest of the parties
leads to an efficient outcome for the whole region. In
the case of water, one party's decision may affect
another party's outcome, creating what is called an
externality, or third-party effect. If the externality
effect (cost) is not included in the supply curve of
water, the market mechanism collapses. This intro-
duces inefficiency into the system and results in
what economists call market failure. In the case of
water (in a water basin), the externality effects might
be multidirectional. This is particularly true for
water basins shared by more than one country, and
for water used for more than one purpose. Also,
water allocation problems are not exactly similar to
familiar market setups (for example, the market for
cars), because they are characterized by a relatively
small number of agents with different objectives and

Game theory. Game theory is an approach that al-
lows the incorporation of economic and political

aspects into a regional water-sharing analysis with a
small number of participants, each with different
objectives and perspectives. The principles of game
theory are not discussed here in detail, but can be
found elsewhere.15
For the game theorist, the dichotomy of whether
two riparian states or political entities work unilater-
ally in pursuit of only their own goals or coopera-
tively in pursuit of regional goals is recognizable as
a familiar two-player, two-strategy game. In the lan-
guage of the theory, unilateral water resources devel-
opment might be referred to as a "defection" strat-
egy, while working together is referred to as a
"cooperation" strategy. Each player chooses a strat-
egy depending on such factors as regional geopoliti-
cal relations, relative levels of economic develop-
ment, and riparian position.
For two water basins within the same political
entity, with clear water rights and a strong govern-
ment interest, the game may resemble what is known
as a "stag hunt," where mutual cooperation is the
rational strategy. Between somewhat hostile players,
either within a state or more often internationally,
the game becomes a "prisoner's dilemma," where,
in the absence of strong incentives to cooperate, each
player's individual self-interest suggests defection
as the rational approach. One example of this might
be the Nile basin. In cases of high levels of hostility,
a game of "chicken" can develop, with players com-
peting to divert or degrade the greatest amount of
water. The southernmost part of the Jordan River
might be used as an example of riparians playing a
game of "chicken," with Syrian, Jordanian, and Is-
raeli unilateral diversions all impeding basin-wide
To cooperatively solve the problem of water
allocations within the water basin, the parties in-
volved should realize some mutual benefit that can
be achieved only through cooperation. In cases of
cooperation, each party needs to voluntarily partici-
pate, and accept the joint outcome from the coopera-
tive project. Once a cooperative interest exists, the
only problem to be solved is the allocation of the
associated joint costs or benefits. For a cooperative
solution to be accepted by all parties, it is required
that (1) the joint cost or benefit is partitioned such

14See, for example, Margat 1989; London and Miley, Jr. 1990; Yaakov and Easter 1994; and Frohlich and Oppenheimer 1994.
15See, for example, Shubik 1984.

that each participant is better off compared with a
noncooperative outcome, (2) the partitioned cost or
benefit to participants is preferred in the cooperative
solution compared with subcoalitions that include
part of the potential participants, and (3) all the cost
or benefit is allocated.
The economic literature dealing with application
of game theory solutions does not provide many
examples of regional-international water-sharing
problems. Rogers (1969) applied a game theory ap-
proach to the disputed Ganges-Brahmaputra sub-
basin that involves different uses of the water by
India and Pakistan. The results suggest a range of
strategies for cooperation between the two riparian
nations that will result in significant benefits to each.
In a recent paper, Rogers (1991) further discusses
cooperative game theory approaches applied to
water-sharing in the Columbia basin between the
United States and Canada; the Ganges-Brahmaputra
basin among Nepal, India, and Bangladesh; and the
Nile basin between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. In-
depth analysis is conducted for the Ganges-
Brahmaputra case where a joint solution in which
each country's welfare is better off is compared with
any noncooperative solution (Rogers 1993).
Dinar and Wolf (1994), using a game theory
approach, evaluate the idea of trading hydrotechnol-
ogy for interbasin water transfers among neighbor-
ing nations. They attempt to develop a broader, more
realistic approach that addresses both the economic
and political problems of the process. A conceptual
framework for efficient allocation of water and hy-
drotechnology between two potential cooperators
provides the basis for trade of water against water-
saving technology. A game-theory model is then
applied to a potential water trade in the western
Middle East, involving Egypt, Israel, the West Bank,
and the Gaza Strip. The model allocates potential
benefits from trade between the cooperators. Main
findings are that economic merits exist for water
transfer in the region, but political considerations
may harm, if not block, the process. Part of the
objection to regional water transfer might be due to
unbalanced allocations of the regional gains, and
part is due to other regional considerations.
The major barrier to water's role as an agent of
peaceful relations is the lack of a widely accepted
measure for equitably dividing shared water re-
sources. Many disciplines offer tentative or partial
guidelines, including legal, needs-based, and eco-
nomic equity. Each measure alone, however, cannot

incorporate all of the physical, political, and eco-
nomic characteristics unique to each of the world's
international waterways. To supplement this ap-
proach, the following section offers a process for
cooperative watershed development, based on the
guidelines of dispute systems design.

Cooperative Watershed
Just as there are difficulties inherent in water re-
source conflicts brought on by the qualities particu-
lar to the resource, so too does water resource plan-
ning and development offer specific aspects that can
encourage cooperation between riparians. And,
given the vital need for a regional water develop-
ment plan that incorporates the political realities of
the region as well as the limitations imposed by
economics and hydrology, possible steps that might
be taken are described below.
A recently developed subfield of Alternative
Dispute Resolution (ADR), dispute systems design
is a process of integrating the potential for ADR into
public institutions and other organizations that deal
with conflict. Described by Ury, Brett, and Goldberg
(1988), dispute systems design may offer lessons
about enhancing cooperation in water systems as
well. Although most of the work in this field de-
scribes the incorporation of cooperation-inducement
into organizations, some of the same lessons for
"enhancing cooperation capacity" (Kolb and Silbey
1990), or "design considerations" (O'Connor 1992),
or "design guidelines" (McKinney 1992), might be
applicable to technical or policy systems as well. A
water-sharing agreement, or even a regional water
development project, for example, might be de-
signed from the beginning specifically to induce
ever-increasing cooperation, as the project incorpo-
rates ever-increasing integration.
The preceding survey of history suggests that
cooperation-inducing strategies might be incorpo-
rated into the process of implementation as well.
This section offers examples of cooperation-inducing
implementation. General guidelines include the fol-

1. Disintegrating the control of water resources
to address past and present grievances. Many
plans for water development in the Jordan
River watershed incorporate the premise that

increased integration of institutions or water
projects encourages greater political stabil-
ity.16 While the advisability of striving toward
ever-increasing integration is recognized, as
is the fact that "lasting peace among nations
is characterized by a broadly based network
of relations," in the words of Ben-Shahar
(1989,1), it is nevertheless suggested that, for
resource conflicts in general and for water
conflicts in particular, it should first be en-
sured that each entity has adequate control of
an equitable portion of its primary resource.
Past and present grievances need to be ad-
dressed before embarking on projects of co-
operation or integration.
Because much of the past conflict over
water has concerned ambiguous water rights,
any attempt at cooperative projects preceding
the clarification of these rights would be
building on years of accumulated ill will. The
clear establishment of property rights is also a
prerequisite for any market solutions, such as
water banks or markets, that might be applied.
Furthermore, as mentioned previously, the
political viability of international planning or
projects depends on each entity agreeing on
the equity of the project (who gets how much)
and on control of the resource (who exercises
control, and from where). The necessary steps
negotiating property rights to existing re-
guaranteeing control of a water source ade-
quate to meet future needs, and
addressing the issue of equity within the
design of any cooperative project.
Since these steps involve a separation of
control as a precondition to integration, this
process might be referred to as disintegration.
2. Examining the details of initial positions for
options to induce cooperation. Each party to
negotiations usually has its own interests
foremost in mind. The initial claims, or

"starting points" in the language of ADR,
often seek to maximize those interests. By
closely examining the assumptions and be-
liefs behind the starting points, one might be
able to glean clues about how to induce some
movement within the bargaining mix, or
range within which bargaining can take place,
for each party. These underlying assumptions
and beliefs may also indicate the creative so-
lutions needed to move from distributive bar-
gaining (win-lose) over the amount of water
each entity should receive to integrative bar-
gaining (win-win), that is, inventing options
for mutual gain.
3. Designing a plan or project, starting with
small-scale implicit cooperation and building
toward ever-increasing integration, always
helping to facilitate political relations. Build-
ing on the first two steps, riparians of a water-
shed who have clear water rights and control
of enough water for their immediate needs
might begin to work slowly toward increasing
cooperation on projects or planning. Even
hostile riparians, it has been shown, can coop-
erate if the scale is small and the cooperation
is secret. Building on that small-scale coop-
eration, and mindful of the concerns of equity
and control, projects might be developed to
increase integration within the watershed, or
even between watersheds over time.
Along with these three principles, a viable
agreement should also incorporate mechanisms for
resolving any future misunderstandings. The cir-
cumstances that bring about a conflict are seldom
static, and neither are the conditions of agreement.
This is particularly true for hydrologic conflicts,
where supply, demand, and understanding of exist-
ing conditions all change from season to season and
from year to year. Finally, crisis management for
droughts, floods, and technical (for example, dam or
sewage facility) failures must also be addressed.
The design of a plan or project can incorporate a
feedback loop to allow for greater cooperation as
political relations develop, encouraging the project

16See, for example, the proposals of Kally 1989a. As noted earlier, Kally contends that "the successful implementation of cooperative
projects ... will strengthen and stabilize peace" (p. 325). This concept of inducing increasing integration even between actors with
hostility toward each other is also a strategy employed in the United States by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and recommended
for international settings by Corps representatives.

to remain on the cutting edge. A process for ongoing
conflict resolution would also help relieve tensions
that might arise due to fluctuations in the natural
system. This process of cooperation-inducing design
can be applied to water rights negotiations, to water-
shed planning, or to cooperative projects for water-
shed development.
The cooperation-inducing design process de-
scribed here-moving from small and doable proj-
ects to ever-increasing cooperation and integration
and remaining on the cutting edge of political rela-
tions-has been applied to water rights negotiations,
as is currently the case between Palestinians and
Israelis; to watershed planning, such as the incre-
mental steps leading to the Israel-Jordan Peace
Treaty; and to cooperative projects for watershed
development, such as the Middle East multilateral
working group on water.
Ironically, many of the same aspects of water
resources that make them conducive to conflict also
allow their management to induce cooperation.
These characteristics include
Physical parameters. The fluctuations inher-
ent in the hydrologic cycle result in countries
having surpluses and shortages at different
times, allowing options for trade.
"Wheeling." Water resources, like energy re-
sources, can be traded stepwise over great
distances. Any addition to the water budget in
the Jordan watershed, for example, can be
"wheeled" anywhere else. Litani or Turkish
water diverted into the Jordan headwaters in
Israel can be credited for Yarmuk water to
Jordan, which in turn might allow more water
in the lower Jordan for the West Bank, which
might result in surplus West Bank groundwa-
ter being diverted to Gaza, and so on. This
cost-saving practice of "wheeling" can only
be achieved, however, when infrastructure is
designed from the beginning for future coop-
Structural considerations. Not only can water
resources infrastructure be designed for future
cooperation, but topographic and hydro-
graphic differences between countries can
also be taken advantage of for trade between
countries. Upstream riparians like Turkey and
Ethiopia might have better access to good
dam sites, for example, which might be devel-
oped cooperatively with downstream ripari-

ans. The Sea of Galilee has likewise been
suggested as a storage facility for the Jordan
riparians in absence of a Unity Dam.
Economic factors. Water is worth different
things to different people, allowing incentives
for trade once property rights to the resource
have been established.
Training of water managers. Perhaps more
than managers of any other resource, water
managers think regionally, beyond their bor-
ders, by training and practice. It is not surpris-
ing, therefore, that water managers have been
able to reach agreements often well in ad-
vance of their political counterparts.
Water science. Countries within a watershed
develop different levels of water technology,
often with different emphases. While Israel has
emphasized drip irrigation and genetic engi-
neering, Gulf states have invested heavily in
desalination. Trade of existing technologies and
joint research and development projects provide
ideal venues to enhance regional cooperation.
Many aspects particular to water resources can
both provoke conflict and induce cooperation. The
water conflicts presented here suggest that, with early
planning, one can help guide riparians along the
latter path. To do so, however, takes foresight and
awareness of the options throughout the negotiating

Conclusions and Observations
Given the years that the Middle East has been en-
meshed in bitter conflict, the pace of the peace proc-
ess has been impressive, and no less so in the area of
water resources. This may be due in part to the
structure of the peace talks, with the two comple-
mentary and mutually reinforcing tracks-bilateral
and multilateral. As noted earlier, past attempts at
resolving water issues separately from their political
framework, from the early 1950s through 1991, have
all failed. It has been clear that regional water issues
could not be solved in advance of high political
issues. Yet the pace of the talks also argues that high
and low political issues may best be dealt with si-
multaneously-that, just as there could be no water-
sharing agreements without peace, there may not be
real peace without water-sharing agreements.
Despite the relative success of the multilateral
working group on water and its stated objective to

deal with nonpolitical issues of mutual concern, one
might wonder where the process goes from here. The
working group on water has performed admirably in
the crucial early stages of negotiations as a vehicle
for venting past grievances, presenting various
views of the future, and, perhaps most important,
allowing for personal "de-demonization" and confi-
dence-building on which the future peace of the
region will be built. Currently, however, many of the
participants in the working group are frustrated that
it is not, by design, a vehicle for actually resolving
conflicts. The contentious topics of water rights and
allocations, which some argue must be solved before
proceeding with any cooperative projects, are rele-
gated to the bilateral negotiations, where they take a
lower priority. Likewise, the principles of integrated
watershed management are difficult to encourage:
water quantity, quality, and rights all fall within the
purview of different negotiating frameworks-the
working group on water, the working group on the
environment, and the various bilateral negotiations,
respectively. Finally, and perhaps somewhat related,
there are the limitations imposed by who does and
does not take part. Syria and Lebanon have not
agreed to participate in any of the multilateral work-

ing groups. This omission means that a comprehen-
sive settlement of the conflicts related to the Jordan
or Yarmuk Rivers is precluded from discussions.
Also, the focus of these talks has been the core
region, including Israel and its neighbors, and has
yet to include most of the Nile riparians or Iraq.
The history of hydropolitics along the rivers of
the Middle East exemplifies both the worst and the
best of relations over international water. While
shared water resources have led to, and occasionally
crossed, the brink of armed conflict, they have also
been a catalyst to cooperation between otherwise
hostile neighbors, albeit rarely and secretively.
With the flow of water ignoring political
boundaries, and with appropriate measures of water
equity eluding disciplinary boundaries, the history of
hydropolitics in the Middle East gives one a glimpse
into a gloomy but probable future for many of the
more than 200 international river basins. Without
agreed-upon criteria for fair ownership and distribu-
tion of such a vital resource, many may come to
experience the sentiments of Byron:

Till taught by pain, men know not water's


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Aaron T. Wolf is an assistant professor with the Department of Geography at the University of
Alabama, U.S.A.

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