Reducing the Risks of Water-Related Conflict in the Middle East
The focus of this paper is on the sources of tensions over fresh water in the Middle East and on mechanisms and principles that could be adopted in the ongoing multilateral and bilateral talks for reducing those
tensions. Given the current volatile political situation, unfavorable demographics, and the limited absolute amount of fresh water, tensions over water in this region are likely to increase greatly in the near future. The adoption of some critical principles and the establishment of some cooperative agreements outlined here would help reduce tensions and encourage effective and productive negotiations by the parties involved. These principles include (1) an agreement to share all hydrologic data, including water supply and water use data; (2) developing an institutional mechanism by which these data can be made available for open review and analysis; (3) the quantification of a minimum equitable allocation ("minimum water requirement") of limited water resources; (4) allocating additional water supplies based on proportional rather than fixed strategies; and (5) the commitment to resolve water-related disputes peacefully, through direct negotiations involving both resource experts and politicians, perhaps through the formation of a cooperative Regional Water Resources Commission that includes representatives from all affected parties and appropriate independent participants.