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Water in the Middle East

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Water in the Middle East
Cooperation and Technological Solutions in the Jordan Valley. Edited by K. David Hambright, F. Jamil Ragep, and Joseph Ginat. Foreword by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Preface by David L. Boren. Volume 3 in the International and Security Affairs Series. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2006. Pg. xiv, 249. 30 B & W Photos. Charts, Graphs, and Maps) ISBN: 0-8061-3758-4.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 13, 2006

Water is one of the staffs of life of which man cannot live without. In times of plenty, mankind often squanders this valuable, and finite resource, simply because there appears to be so much of it. In reality, however, fresh water is a scare resource, one that is becoming rarer by the minute. Population growth aside, much of the world's available fresh water resources are being contaminated by farm runoff, pesticides, and other pollutants, as well as by sea water intrusion. Worse, even slight variations in rainfall amounts can tip an area into a state of drought. The scarcity of water, combined with growing populations (and therefore consumption) and the ever threatening possibility of drought, can be acerbated even further by political instability or conflict. The precarious situation is perhaps best illustrated by the water situation found in the Jordan Valley.

Currently, the water supply found in the Jordan Valley is shared by four countries, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, and by the Palestinian territories. For decades, an equitable solution has been found for the four countries to share the water resources of the area. However increasing population pressures and politic instabilities, continually threaten to destabilize the status quo. Therefore it is vitally important for all the parties involved to work together and to make use of the most up-to-date water conservation and draw-down mechanisms possible.

In November of 2001, a conference was held at the University of Oklahoma that looked at the water situation in the Jordan Valley, the role that water can play in the peace processes, and the long term viability of available water resources in the area. They also dealt with both the economic and environmental issues associated with the sensible usage of the available water resources, as well as the technological innovations that can be used to increase the natural water resources (such as desalination plants), as well as those tools that can be used to conserve this resource. The conference drew attendees from around the Middle East and the United States, including attendees from Israel, the Palestine territories, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq.

One of the outcomes of this conference was this book, Water in the Middle East. Cooperation and Technological Solutions in the Jordan Valley. This book contains a foreword by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, and a collection of eighteen essays that expound upon the issues discussed during the conference. The material covered is broad in both scope and breadth. Essays incorporate a range of disciplines, including geology, political science, biology, economics, history, engineering, and more. While most of the essays focus specifically on the Middle East, an informative essay on regional cooperation, in regard to the division of water resources in West Africa, help put the need for cooperation in the Middle East in perspective. A good feel for the breadth of material covered in this timely book can be obtained simply by scanning through the titles of the essays. They are:
  1. Water - A conduit for Peace
  2. The Jordan Valley's Water: A Source of Conflict or a Basin for Peace
  3. Historical Political Conflict of Jordan River Water Resources
  4. Compliance with the Violations for the Unified Johnston Plan for the Jordan Valley
  5. Water Resources Scarcity in West Africa: The Imperatives of Regional Cooperation
  6. Is Joint Management of Israeli-Palestinian Aquifers Still Viable?
  7. The Southern West Bank Aquifer: Exploitation and Sustainability
  8. Groundwater Salinization in the Jordan Valley - Quo Vadis?
  9. Lake Kinneret and Water Supply in Israel: Ecological Limits to Operational Supply
  10. The Water Economy of Israel
  11. Current Water Provision and Allocation in Palestine
  12. The Peace Process and Water Supply in Jordan: Inter- and Trans-Boundary Border Projects
  13. An Economic Approach for Making the Most of Jordan's Water
  14. Water: Casus Belli or Source of Cooperation?
  15. Water, Demography, and Future Economic Development in the Triangle: Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories
  16. High Income Innovative Crops and Optimal Fertigation System: The Solution for High Farm Income under Water Shortage in the Jordan Valley
  17. Protected Agriculture: A Regional Solution for Water Scarcity and Production of High-Value Crops in the Jordan Valley
  18. Focusing on Peace - Building Trust and Understanding
Written from a variety of perspectives, these essays are notable not only for the in-depth and intelligible information provided, but also for the unbiased and equable treatment given to what could have been used as a platform to disseminate the writers varied political views. Water in the Middle East: Cooperation and Technological Solutions in the Jordan Valley is an invaluable book that should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the Middle East, from scholars to politicians. Water can easily become the tinder box that has the possibility of being the cause of catastrophic warfare as the different factions fight over this important resource. Or it can become the single factor that unifies the region and which provides the foundation upon which the various factions can learn to live in harmony.


Related Reviews:

A History of The Middle East,By Peter Mansfield.
This work provides a sweeping survey of Middle Eastern history from the time of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, in 1798, until the start of the Gulf War in the 1990's.

Conflicts in the Middle East since 1945. Second Edition, by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Peter Hinchcliffe.
A brief, up-to-date overview on the causes and consequences of the conflicts in the Middle East since 1945.

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