The Waters of Contention: Hydropolitics in the Middle East
Speaking directly to the problem of cooperation and management of shared water resources in the region, the late King Hussein stated as late as 1993 that the next war in the Middle East would focus on the scarce water resources available to the expanding populations in the region(Kliot 1994, 259). Every nation in the region (except Lebanon) is currently consuming well beyond the water budget available without doing irreparable damage to the long-term carrying capacity of the resource. As a result, the need for a management regime based on cooperation is great. However, statements such as the one made by King Hussein do not help to explain the integral connection between the control of water resources and the security conception of an international actor. As a result, we must first examine the connection between freshwater resources and security conceptions, and then tum our attention to the prediction and analysis of conflict resulting from competition for shared water resources. What is clear, however, is that the status quo cannot continue. The recognition of the inevitability and importance of changes in the management of shared water resources in the region is evidenced by the high profile status given to issues of sharing water resources. The acute nature of water supply shortages in the area, combined with the dramatic political developments within the past five years, has allowed issues such as water use and water rights, to come to the fore. This increased emphasis on water resources has been manifest in the formal language and structure of the peace process as water is included in one of the five working groups in the multilateral peace talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In addition, water continues to play a key role in the bilateral peace process as well. Consequently, we will examine the Arab-Israeli conflict, its historical dimensions, and current situation in order to better understand the development and implications of the conflict over shared water resources in the Jordan River System. Due to the specific nature of the issue, the conflict over the Mountain and Coastal Aquifers will be considered separately. Thus, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a case in which conflict over shared water resources has occurred in the past, in which shared water resources are currently under increasing strain, and is currently undergoing a process of political change and with it a realignment of power. Using Thomas Frey's model for evaluating conflict over shared water resources, we will undertake a more thorough examination of the potential for conflict in the region over shared water resources.