Poisoned Wells: The Politics of Water in the Middle East

by Mary E. Morris

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Emerging water shortages, combined with a deterioration in water quality, present an alarming prognosis for the Middle East--in particular for Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Analysts have forecast a regional annual water deficit of 100,000 million cubic meters a year by the year 2000. It has been predicted that, by the turn of the century, water will be the dominant resource issue of the Middle East. The expected water deficit, caused by arid climate and scarce rainfall, is aggravated by the nature of existing water supplies, rapid population increases, growing industrialization, increasing urbanization, and pollution. The continuation of present distribution and consumption patterns is likely to lead to competition and conflict within the region within the next decade. Control over the supply of fresh water sources could affect the politics of the region, shape inter-Arab alliances, and even alter the substance and outcome of the Arab-Israeli dispute. In addition, conflicts over water could combine with other underlying forces of instability, serving as a catalyst for region-wide violence.

Originally published in: Middle East Insight, Vol. 8, no. 2, 1992, pp. 35-39.

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