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Israel, Palestine, Peace and Water

This morning, President Obama spoke clearly to the Israeli people about why they should seek peace with their neighbors, the Palestinians. He talked about the need for security, about the demographics that necessitate a two-state solution, and about how continued prosperity depends on peace with their neighbors.

There was one more he could have added – the one that could screw every nation in the Middle East: water.

Last month, scientists from the University of California published a study showing that between 2003 and 2009, groundwater across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran had plummeted by more than 144 cubic kilometers, an amount equivalent in volume to the Dead Sea. More than 60 percent of the water loss was due to groundwater pumping, and much of this occurred during the drought that began in 2006 – a drought that, to this day, shows no sign of diminishing.

Lead author Jay Famiglietti writes that the region has already lost enough water to supply 100 million people for a year:

… The water situation in the Middle East will only degrade with time, primarily due to climate change.  … Consequences for the Middle East include more prolonged drought, which means that the underground aquifers that store the region’s groundwater will not be replenished during our lifetimes, nor during those of future generations.

Moreover, the rapid rates of groundwater depletion that we report will only accelerate the drying of the region, placing additional stress on already overtaxed resources.  … Declining water availability in the Middle East is consistent with an emerging, if not alarming, global picture

The water situation across the Middle East is rapidly becoming either a cause of more conflict or a reason for cooperation.

While Israel has one of the best water management situations in the world, this is not a solution, only a mitigation. Ultimately, and very simply, the entire region will either work together or wither together.