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Water Allocation Towards Constructive Engagement Along The Jordan River Basin

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
12. Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers
Author(s): Muatsem El-Fadel
Rola Quba'a
Ibrahim Alameddine
Majdi Abou Najm
Rola Quba’a, Mutasem El-Fadel, Ibrahim Alameddine, and Majdi Abou Najm
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 12: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers,
Article: Oral:



The dispute over the allocation of the Jordan River Basin (JRB)water is among the most intricate and politically sensitive water conflicts due to its direct association with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Experiences across other transboundary basins indicate that a successful agreement is possible if it involves all riparians; achieves equitable water allocation; and has an management framework with conflict resolution mechanisms and flexibility to accommodate potential changes in the basin's conditions (Zawahri, 2009; Haefner, 2013; Atwi and Choliz, 2011; Alam, 2002; Yoffe et al., 2003; Giordano et al., 2005). This study applies the allocation criteria adopted by the 1997 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Water Courses for the water distribution of the JRB with a sensitivity analysis to the criteria weights to anticipate the riparians perspectives regarding significance of reallocation criteria and discuss the potential incentives to motivate them into cooperation under a proposed management framework.


The study applied the criteria adopted by the UN Convention to the JRB to define "reasonable and equitable" water allocation entitlements for riparians (UN, 1997). The criteria were quantified (Table 1) and scores were derived as a percentage contribution of each riparian country to the overall total of the quantified criterion. A sensitivity analysis for the relative importance of the adopted criteria in the proposed water allocation schemes was carried by applying scenarios and varying assigned criteria weights between 0 and 50% using increments of 5% for each criterion.


The results (Table 2) indicate that 1) the highest percentage of the basin's catchment area and discharge are attributed to Jordan; 2) the highest percentage of rainfall occurs in Syria and Lebanon; 3) the highest within basin population and consequently the highest expected water demand among the riparians are in Jordan followed by Syria; 4) Israel is currently the greatest user of the basin's water resources; 5) though Palestinians are entitled to a share in the basin's water, they are currently allocated none; and 6) irrespective of assigned weights, the current pattern of water allocation does not conform to international water law guidelines. Comparing the current to proposed allocations at equal criteria weights shows that Israel is exceeding its share by ~266%, while Jordan is underutilizing its share by ~29%, Lebanon by ~93%, Syria by ~33%, and the Palestinian Authority by 100%.


The sensitivity analysis shows that Israel enhances its share by assigning most of the criteria weight to existing pattern of water utilization. Jordan's strongest arguments would lie in highlighting the significance of within basin population and its share of the basin area, whereas precipitation is the strongest criterion for enhancing Lebanon's share. The Palestinians strongest arguments would be the economic needs associated with water use and the burden of securing alternative water resources, and Syria's would be its contribution to the basin area and its socioeconomic needs. Based on these outcomes, possible riparian perspectives for defending their water rights and positions with respect to the international law "equitable and reasonable allocation" criteria are identified.

A regional integrated management plan for the JRB is proposed with components that address negotiating agreements, creating a specialized institution for the joint management of the Jordan River Basin, implementing legislative and institutional reforms, harmonizing water pricing and cost recovery policies among riparians, exchanging water demand management experiences, selecting regional water supply development projects, enhancing regional public awareness, and developing a joint river water commission. To motivate cooperation, a win-win strategy is recommended to: (1) support a positive-sum (Phillips et al., 2007) arrangement in the water reallocation scheme; (2) create economic incentives for riparians (especially those having to give up water use from the JRB) to cooperate; and (3) generate benefits for third parties who will sponsor this cooperation framework.The positive-sum arrangement proposes development of "new water" mainly through seawater desalination projects to compensate riparians for reallocated water. The economic incentives are secured through relating cooperation over the reallocation of the JRB waters with cooperation over regional solar energy (DESERTEC Foundation, 2014). These regional initiatives require sharing electrical power through establishing cross-border grid interconnections (Meisen and Tatum, 2011). As Israel is the party who will have to mainly reduce its water use from the JRB, it will be provided connection to the Eight Country Grid Interconnection power project in return for its cooperation. Economic incentives and access to partnership in regional water and energy projects imply more prosperity to the Israeli economy and greater development potentials for other riparians. The international community would provide the direct financial subsidies and arbitrate the water conflict negotiations in return for benefits arising from political stability and security to their energy projects.


In closure, a successful water allocation benefits from joint management with due considerations to criteria recognized in international guidelines and to the role that the potential connection of water and energy projects can play in creating economic incentives for attracting riparians into cooperation. The role of a third party in supporting a win-win strategy needs to extend beyond economic funding to arbitrating potential disagreements especially anticipated perceptions of inequity or of one party benefiting more than another. 1. Alam, U. Z. (2002) Questioning the water wars rationale: A case study of the Indus Waters Treaty. Geogr. J. 168(4), 341-353.

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