“Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink!”  – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

By: LeeOr Deutsch, Journal of Transnational Law & Policy Member

The Middle East has been a region of conflict for centuries. Throughout history, borders have changed, new regimes have entered the arena, and religion has consistently fanned the flames of struggle. Additionally, a water shortage is one factor that is constantly in play because the Middle East mainly consists of desert terrain. Between North Africa’s Saharan Desert, the Arab Peninsula’s Arabian Desert, and Israel’s Negev, it is no wonder that the region has been suffering from a severe drought.

The inconsistency of borders in the area only frustrates the situation and is an added source of turmoil for neighboring countries. Specifically in Israel, a National Water Carrier was built in 1964 to distribute water from Lake Kineret, the country’s main water source. However, that same year Syria constructed a plan to block the flow of water into Lake Kineret by way of the Jordan River. Israel attempted to block Syria but inevitably this became one of the factors leading to the Six-Day War in 1967.  In the end, Syria lost and as a result of the war Syria lost control of the Golan Heights. Israel was able to protect its water source as well as gain the buffer zone between itself and Syria. On the other hand, after the Six-Day War Jordan and Israel were able to negotiate a peace treaty that lasts even today. As a result of that treaty, Israel annually supplies Jordan with 50,000,000 cubic meters of water from Lake Kineret. In addition, Israel also supplies water to the Palestinians. As so many people are dependent on Lake Kineret for water, it is no wonder that the lake has begun to deplete at a rapid pace.

As the quote that provides the title for this post indicates, the frustrating thing about a drought is that the majority of the world is covered in water. One can imagine how upsetting it is for the Palestinians to border the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, a huge body of water, without ever being able to enjoy a sip.  In light of the number of seas and oceans bordering arid regions, desalination could be the answer to the problems associated with ongoing droughts. Converting seawater into everyday drinking water may be the answer to not only the end of a drought, but also perhaps lasting peace. Already in 2013, only after a few years of putting desalination plants in place, Lake Kineret has reached a record high water level of the past eight years.

In addition to facing the ongoing political tensions, the Syrians, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Libyans are thirsty. If these countries were able to facilitate a joint venture in investing capital, workers and resources for the shared benefit of surviving the drought, perhaps issues of Isaac and Ishmael would take a back seat. It is in these countries’ best interest to put aside their differences long enough to solve this paramount issue since the drought will inevitably have grave effects on the region as a whole if not resolved efficiently. If the region could come together to solve this problem, maybe other issues won’t seem as crucial and the Middle East will finally find a way to coexist.

One initiative of this kind has already made progress. MEDRC, the Center of Excellence in Desalination and Water Reuse Technology, aims to assist in the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa by supporting the use of desalination in satisfying the needs of the people for fresh water. MEDRC uses desalination technology, education, and training to build cooperation between nations. The goal is to form the joint projects and international relationships essential to meet the needs for fresh water. Over 200 global experts volunteer with MEDRC and 75 multinational research projects have been funded by MEDRC at over $11 million. In 2013, MEDRC has offered scholarships to Palestinians and Israelis alike in the hopes of together solving the Middle East’s drought once and for all. It is too soon to tell, but hopefully this joint water venture may even one day lead to peaceful partnerships.

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