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Water in the Middle East



Water has always been scarce in the Arab world, but growing populations place ever-increasing demands on the limited resources. Competing claims over water rights can lead to disputes between countries or between consumers.

The wealthier Arab countries can meet some of their needs by desalinating seawater. Meanwhile others drill ever-deeper wells which in time may only make the problem worse.

One new and important element in this debate is the concept of "virtual water". Growing wheat, for example, takes a lot of water. By importing wheat and concentrating on crops which require less water, a country can acquire "virtual water" and use existing resources more efficiently.

Regional overview

Water resources in the Middle East 
(World Bank)

General overview of the water situation in the Middle East (FAO)

Urban water and sanitation  
(World Bank)

Liquid assets
For the Middle East, water has always been a politically sensitive issue, linked as it is food production. (The Guardian, 25 July, 2001)

Humanitarian hydro-aid: Is water scarcity drowning the Mideast? 
Hussein Amery, Al Arabiya, 4 July 2014

Water resources issues in the Arab states region
Alain Marcoux, FAO. April 1996

Water Diplomacy in the Middle East  
Mostafa Dolatyar, University of Newcastle, 2000

Water Resources in the Middle East: a bibliography  
Dag Hammarskjold Library, UN

'Virtual Water': A long term solution for water short Middle Eastern Economies? 
Tony Allan, SOAS, London, 1997. (PDF)

Watersheds and Problemsheds 
Explaining the absence of armed conflict over water in the Middle East. By Tony Allen. MERIA Journal (Vol 2, No. 1) March 1998

Water Wars: a lecture  
Adel Darwish. June, 1994

Nile Basin

Nile river (Medea)

The Nile Basin 
Evolving approaches to Nile waters management, by Tony Allan, SOAS, London, 1999. (PDF) 

The Nile Basin 
A Cascao, SOAS 2005. (PDF)

The River Nile, the life of Egypt  
Dr. Salah Hassanein

The Nile River Dispute  
Inventory of Conflict and Environment

Drought risk monitoring for the Sudan 
Alemayehu Kassa, SOAS 1999. (PDF)    

The Egyptian hydro-hegemony  
Carles A, 2007. SOAS 2007. (PDF) 

Resisting Hegemony on the Nile  
Cascão A.E. 2007. SOAS 2007. (PDF) 

Sudan's 'Midstream Doctrine'  
Saleh, S.M.K. 2007. SOAS 2007. (PDF) 


Water wars
Paul Welsh looks at water in Israel (BBC, 15 March, 2000)

Water wars and peace
Paul Adams (BBC, 9 January, 2000)

Israeli water use and export
(US Trade and Environment Database)

Israel and water in the framework of the Arab-Israeli conflict 
J A Allan, SOAS 1999. (PDF)

The quality and sustainability of the water resources available to Arab villages to the west of the divide in the southern West Bank 
D S Scarpa, SOAS (PDF)

Israel's hydro-hegemony 
S Attili, SOAS 2005. (PDF)

Hegemony and counter-gegemony over shared aquifers 
The Palestinian Experience. Messerschmid, C. 2007. SOAS 2007. (PDF) 

Definition of Israel's water problem, or, water as a metaphor  
Dan Zavlasky, June 2000

Water and conflict in the Gaza Strip  
Stephanie Goeller, December 1997 (Inventory of Conflict and Environment)

Israel's appropriation of Arab waters: an obstacle to peace 
Ronald Bleier. Middle East Labor Bulletin, Spring 1994

Water systems in Jerusalem
Historical information about the city's ancient water supplies (Jerusalem Mosaic)

Efficient use of limited water resources: making Israel a model state  
(BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University)

An assessment of irrigation efficiency in the Palestinian West Bank 
Faten Al-Juneidi and Jad Isaac. Arij (PDF)
Approaches to the legal aspects of the conflict on water rights in Palestine/Israel
Jonathan Kuttab and Jad Ishaq. Arij 1994 (PDF)

A sober approach to the water crisis in the Middle East 
Jad Isaac. Arij 1995 (PDF)

Preliminary evaluation of the aquaculture potential in Palestine 
Leonardo M. Hosh. Masters Thesis; International  Agricultural  Development, ARIJ 1995 (PDF)

Roots of the water conflict in the Middle East 
Leonardo Hosh and Jad Isaac. Arij 1992 (PDF)

Core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli water dispute 
Jad Isaac. Arij 1994 (PDF)
Towards a Palestinian water policy 
Walid  Sabbah and Jad Isaac. Arij 1995 (PDF)

An evaluation of water resources management in the Ramallah district 
Walid Sabbah and Jad Isaac. Arij 1996 (PDF)

Dryland farming in Palestine 
Arij 1994 (PDF)

The water conflicts in the Middle East from a Palestinian perspective 
Arij 1996 (PDF)

Efficiency of irrigated agriculture in  the West Bank 
Jad Isaac, Faten Al-Juneidi, Walid Sabbah and Moh'd Abu Amriyeh. Arij 1997 (PDF)

Jordan Basin

Jordan river (Medea)

The Jordan river dispute  
(Inventory of Conflict and Environment)

Water disputes in the Jordan basin region
Stephen Libiszewski (Center for Security Policy and Conflict Research; Berne: Swiss Peace Foundation. August 1994)

The Jordan river basin: explaining interstate water co-operation through regime theory
Anders Jägerskog, SOAS 2001

The sanctioned discourse - A crucial factor for understanding water policy in the Jordan River Basin
Anders Jägerskog, SOAS 2002

Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty 
Annexe dealing with water issues

Hydro-Peace in the Middle East: Why no Water Wars? A Case Study of the Jordan River Basin 
J A Allan, SOAS 2002 (PDF)

Why states cooperate over shared water: The water negotiations in the Jordan River Basin 
Anders Jägerskog, SOAS 2003. (PDF)

Water and the Jordan River co-riparians: from zero-sum to positive sum game 
D Philips, S Attilli, S McCaffrey and J Murray, SOAS 2005. (PDF) 


Euphrates river (Medea)

Tigris river (Medea)

The Tigris-Euphrates river dispute  
Inventory of Conflict and Environment

The Euphrates river: the politics of water  
Rick Francona, November 1999

Iran-Iraq War and waterway claims  
Inventory of Conflict and Environment

One river's journey through troubled times 
The Guardian, 23 August, 2003

The household water crisis in Syria's Greater Damascus region 
Elie Elhadj, SOAS 2004 (PDF)

Arabian Peninsula

Ministry of Agriculture and Water 
Saudi Arabia

Camels don't fly, deserts don't bloom  
An assessment of Saudi Arabia's experiment in desert agriculture. By Elie Elhadj, SOAS 2004 (PDF)

Household water and sanitation services in Saudi Arabia 
An analysis of economic, political and ecological issues. By Elie Elhadj, SOAS 2004 (PDF)

The securitisation of the Disi aquifer: a silent conflict between Jordan and Saudi Arabia 
F Greco, SOAS 2005. (PDF)

Water demand management, natural resource reconstruction and traditional value systems
A case study from Yemen, by G Lichtenthäler and A R Turton, SOAS, London, 1999. (PDF)

Monitoring qat with earth observation data and geographic information system techniques  
A study in the region of Jabal Sabir, Ta'izz, Yemen. By K Leung, SOAS, London, 1999. (PDF)

Responses to water scarcity
Social adaptive capacity and the role of environmental information - a case study from Ta'iz, Yemen. By Y Mohieldeen, SOAS, London, 1999. (PDF)

Assorted articles

Water in international systems 
A risk society analysis of regional problemsheds and global hydrologies, by J A Allan, SOAS 1999. (PDF)

Virtual Water
A long-term solution for water-short Middle Eastern economies? by J A Allan, SOAS 1997. (PDF)

Precipitation, people, pipelines and power
Towards a 'virtual water' based political ecology discourse, by A R Turton, SOAS 1999. (PDF)

Water and state sovereignty
The hydropolitical challenge for states in arid regions, by A R Turton, SOAS 1999. (PDF)

Water scarcity and social stability
Towards a deeper understanding of key concepts needed to manage water scarcity in developing countries, by A R Turton and L Ohlsson, SOAS 1999. (PDF) 

Water scarcity and social adaptive capacity
Towards an understanding of the social dynamics of managing water scarcity in developing countries, by A R Turton, SOAS, London, 1999. (PDF)

Middle Eastern hydropolitics
Interpreting constructed knowledge - a review article by J A Allan, SOAS 1999. (PDF)

Great Man-Made River
The Libyan project explained

Water issues of the Golan Heights  
Golan Heights Information Server - an Israeli view

Global systems ameliorate local droughts: water, food and trade
by J A Allan, SOAS 1999 (PDF)

Financing major water projects in the poorest economies
Elie Elhadj, SOAS 2001 (PDF) 

Islamic finance to aid water utilities  
Elie Elhadj, SOAS 2001 (PDF)

The turning of a screw 
Social resource scarcity as a bottle-neck in adaptation to water scarcity, by Leif Ohlsson and A R Turton, SOAS 1999. (PDF)

The Regional Water Balance Statement 
A new tool for water resources planning, by S Merrett, SOAS. (PDF)

Policy transformation and implementation in the water sector in Lebanon: the role of politics
Emmanuelle Kunigk, SOAS 1998/99 (PDF) 

Water stressed regions: the Middle East and Southern Africa - global solutions 
S Jobson, SOAS 1999  (PDF)

Closing a water resource; some policy considerations
by Brian and Lynne Chatterton
(Former Minister of Agriculture of South Australia and former official of the Government of South Australia)  (PDF)

Water scarcity and food imports 
An empirical Iinvestigation of the ‘Virtual Water’ hypothesis in the MENA region. By H Hakimian, SOAS 2003. (PDF)

Water transfer versus desalination in North Africa   
Saad A. Alghariani, SOAS 2003. (PDF)

Water websites

SOAS Water Issues Group 
(School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London). List of published papers is here.

Middle East Water Information Network
(University of Pennsylvania)

Water in the Middle East 
Compilation of links (Columbia University)

Water and conflict 
Focusing on the role of water in conflict and co-operation (mainly on the Israel/Palestine and the Jordan basin)

MERIA Research Guide  
Middle East water issues 

Water Demand Management Forum 

Middle East Desalination Research Center

World Water Council

Global Water Partnership

Global Hydrology and Climate Center

UK charity dedicated to safe drinking water and hygiene promotion among the world's poorest people 

Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) 
Site includes a publications list and details of the Water and Environment Research Unit

Nile Basin Initiative

Ministry of Agriculture and Water 
Saudi Arabia


In the water section


In the environment section



Books amazon.com (click here for amazon.co.uk)

The Middle East Water Question
Tony Allan. Hardcover, 2001. Also paperback edition.

Arab Water Security: Threats and Opportunities in the Gulf States 
Hussein Amery, 2015

Practical Peacemaking in the Middle East: The Environment, Water, Refugees, and Economic Cooperation and Development
Steven L. Spiegel, David J. Pervin (eds). Hardcover, 1995

International Waters of the Middle East: From Euphrates-Tigris to Nile
Asit K. Biswas (editor). Hardcover, 1994

Water in the Middle East: A Geography of Peace
Hussein A. Amery (ed), et al. Paperback, 2000. Also hardcover edition.

Water wars: coming conflicts in the Middle East
John Bulloch, Adel Darwish 

Rivers of Eden: The Struggle for Water and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East
Daniel Hillel. Hardcover

Water Management in Islam
Naser I. Faruqui (ed), et al. Paperback

Water and Power: The Politics of a Scarce Resource in the Jordan River Basin
Miriam R. Lowi. Paperback, 1995. Also hardcover edition.

Water in the Middle East: Cooperation or Conflict?
Thomas Naff, Ruth C. Matson (editor). Paperback, 1984

Turning Water into Politics: The Water Issue in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Alwyn R. Rouyer. Hardcover, 2000

Politics of Scarcity: Water in the Middle East
Joyce Starr, Daniel Stoll. Paperback, 1988

The Euphrates River and the Southeast Anatolia Development Project
John F. Kolars, William A. Mitchell. Textbook binding, 1998

A Strategy for Managing Water in the Middle East and North Africa
Jeremy Berkoff. Paperback, 1994


From amazon.co.uk (click here for amazon.com)

The Middle East Water Question
Tony Allan. Paperback, 2001. Also hardback edition

Turning Water into Politics: The Water Issue in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Alwyn R. Rouyer. Hardcover, 1999

Water in the Middle East: A Geography of Peace
Hussein A. Amery (ed), et al. Paperback, 2000

The Politics of Water in the Middle East
Martin Sherman. Hardcover, 1999

Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply
A. Trevor Hodge. Paperback, 2002

Water in the Middle East
Hussein Amery, Aaron T. Wolf. Hardcover, 2000

Water in the Middle East
W. Scheumann, M. Schiffler (eds). Hardcover, 1998

Water for the Future
National Research Council Committee on Sustainable Water Supplies in the Middle East. Paperback, 1998

Water Politics in the Middle East
Mostafa Dolatyar, Tim S. Gray. Hardcover, 1999

Water, Peace and the Middle East
J.A. Allan. Hardcover, 1996


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Last revised on 11 August, 2015