Dividing the Waters: Reaching Equitable Water Solutions in the Middle East

by Mary E. Morris

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In the past few years, the many-faceted problem of water in the Middle East has received increasing attention. Issues of scarcity, management, ownership, and use have been discussed in their own right, as well as in relation to the politics of the region. Water, for example, is a critical issue in eventual settlement of land disputes between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and Syria. Indeed, one of the main issues under discussion at both the multilateral talks and between Israelis and Palestinians is the control and management of water. Water's availability and control is also tied inextricably to environmental and demographic conditions, as well as to international laws and covenants that can provide remedies. As populations increase, particularly in urban areas, and as agricultural yields diminish in relation to population, pressure on governments for greater shares of water are likely to increase. Through the medium of multilateral agreements and arbitrations, however, water issues can be resolved, especially because existing problems tend to be more political than technical. It is the political will more than the technological expertise of Middle Eastern countries that is necessary to ensure equitable distribution of this most vital resource.

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