Problem: Water and Grain Import Wars in the Middle East
- Nile River basin
- Jordan River basin
- Tigris-Euphrates River basin
The Middle East Countries & Rivers
- cut population growth
- improve irrigation efficiency
- spend $2 billion to build the world's largest concrete canal and pump water out of Lake Nassar (the reservoir created from the Nile by the Aswan High Dam) to create more irrigated farmland in the middle of the desert
- import more grain to reduce the need for irrigation water
- work out water-sharing agreements with other countries
- go to war with Ethiopia and Sudan to obtain more water
- suffer the harsh economic and human consequences of extreme hydrologic poverty.
The Jordan River basin is by far the most water-short region, with fierce competition for its water among
- The combined populations of these already water-short countries are projected to more than double from 33 million to 69 million between 2002 and 2050.
- Some good news is that in 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty that addressed their disputes over water from the Jordan River basin.
- Syria plans to build dams and withdraw more water from the Jordan River, decreasing the downstream water supply for Jordan and Israel.
- Israel warns that it will consider destroying the largest dam that Syria plans to build.
Turkey, located at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, controls how much water flows downstream to Syria and Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf.
- Turkey is building 24 dams along the upper Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to
- generate huge quantities of electricity
- irrigate a large area of land
- generate several million jobs for its 67 million people
- If completed, these dams will reduce the flow of water downstream to Syria and Iraq by up to 35% in normal years and much more in dry years.
- Syria also plans to build a large dam along the Euphrates River to divert water arriving from Turkey.
- This will leave little water for Iraq and could lead to war between Syria and Iraq.
- Resolving these water distribution problems will require a combination of
- regional cooperation in allocating water supplies
- slowed population growth
- improved efficiency in water use
- increased water prices to encourage water conservation and improve irrigation efficiency
- increased grain imports to reduce water needs.
- Instead of water military wars we could have grain-import economic wars.
- Water-short countries able to pay for imported grain instead of those that are the strongest militarily may win the competition for scarce water and food.
- The availability of water and food in water-short countries is connected to the interlocking problems of
- population growth and control and water conservation to reduce water needs
- environmentally sustainable economic growth to provide enough money to reduce water needs through grain imports.