HomeDOCUMENTSMediterranean and Middle East Special Group2002Report: Water Resources in the Mediterranean
Report: Water Resources in the Mediterranean
Rapporteur: Jean-Michel Boucheron (France)
I. INVENTORY OF WATER RESOURCES 2
A. A SCARCE AND UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED RESOURCE 2
B. A RESOURCE THAT IS ALREADY HEAVILY EXPLOITED 3
1. Overview 3
2. The threefold pressure of urbanisation, irrigation and tourism 4
3. Water management that is sometimes inconsistent 4
C. A RESOURCE THAT IS FRAGILE AND UNDER THREAT 5
II. CONSEQUENCES AND CHALLENGES 5
A. SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES 6
1. Growing demand 6
2. The spread of shortages 6
3. Obvious effects on the water economy 7
B. "HYDROGEOPOLITICAL" CHALLENGES 8
1. The Nile basin 8
2. The Tigris and Euphrates basin 9
3. The Jordan basin 10
III. WHAT SOLUTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE WATER DEVELOPMENT
IN THE MEDITERRANEAN? 11
A. TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS 11
1. Towards protective resource management 11
2. The role of demand management 11
B. INSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL SOLUTIONS 12
"Water, thou hast no taste, no colour, no odour; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself (...) Of the riches that exist in the world, thou art the rarest and also the most delicate thou so pure within the bowels of the earth."
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, England, 1969, p. 140) (Terre des hommes, Hachette, 1956, p. 214)
1. Although water covers 71% of the Earth's surface, 98% of it has too high a salt content to be used for drinking water, for irrigation or even for most industrial purposes. The polar ice caps, glaciers and subterranean water, as well as surface water in watercourses and lakes, account for the greater part of the planet's reserves of fresh water. The annual average flow of subterranean and surface water for the whole of the emergent lands (or "continental water") is estimated at 40,000 billion cubic metres. The arid and semi-arid zones contribute only 2% to this flow. Thus fewer than ten countries share 60% of the world's natural water resources; these are, in descending order, Brazil, Russia, China, Canada, Indonesia, the United States, India, Colombia and Congo (see Jacques Sironneau, Water: a new strategic issue for the world, Ed. Economica, Paris, 1996, pp. 5 and 15).
2. Water, a scarce, unevenly distributed and vulnerable commodity, is increasingly seen as a strategic resource. Not only does its rarity affect economic development, security of food supplies and public health in many countries, the uneven availability among countries and among populations accentuates differences in development and living standards, and may help to engender conflict.
3. This is clearly the case in the Mediterranean region, where small scattered drainage basins that are difficult to manage, irregular flows of water and uneven distribution in area are features of a resource whose quality is adversely affected by its scarcity and by continuously increasing human pressures.
4. In this context, and at a time when our perception of water is changing, your Rapporteur has taken the view that it is important for the Mediterranean Special Group (GSM) to study this issue, which is vital to the future of the region as a whole.
5. Although he has a wealth of documentation available, your Rapporteur will nevertheless confine himself to the principal characteristics of water resources in the Mediterranean area, because the format of the present report and the extent of the themes linked to it do not allow him to present a comprehensive overview of the situation. He considers that this version may be helpful in pursuing more exhaustive discussions on this topic in the context of the GSM's various activities.
6. First of all your Rapporteur, taking as a basis the excellent material and figures from the Blue Plan for the Mediterranean1 that Messrs Jean Margat and Guillaume Benoît, the vice-president and director of the Plan respectively, have kindly made available, will make an inventory of water resources in the region. He will then examine the consequences and challenges that the Mediterranean basin will have to face in the longer term, before turning finally to the solutions for sustainable development that specialists in the field have been advocating for several years.
I. INVENTORY OF WATER RESOURCES
7. "Far from being the heart or the centre of shared situations and problems, instead the Mediterranean is a fault line, if not a front line, between the countries in the North (Europe) and those in the South (Africa) and East (Turkey and the Middle East) (...) Contrasts in resources and in the means for mobilising them and contrasts in demand and in ways of responding to it lead in the Mediterranean area to a juxtaposition of situations in which water is abundant or scarce and of trends that accentuate the differences." (Jean Margat, "Water, a strategic resource in the Mediterranean area. Situation and prospects", Conference on "Security prospects and conditions in the 2025 timeframe", Institut des hautes études de défense nationale, Paris, 13 October 2000, p. 2).
A. A SCARCE AND UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED RESOURCE
8. The Mediterranean, an area of transition between a temperate Europe with relatively abundant and consistent water resources and the arid African and Arabian deserts that are very short of water - except for the Nile, is a region of contrasting situations illustrated by the following characteristics:
* Renewable water resources (i.e. derived from the total flow of subterranean and surface water resulting from rainfall on the national territory) in the Mediterranean region measure approximately 1,200 billion m³/year, which is only about 3% of the entire renewable resources of the planet.
* Of these 1,200 billion m³/year, 72% are in the North, 23% in the East and 5% in the South. Thus renewable water resources are measured in billions of m³/year in the case of the most supplied countries (France, Italy, Turkey, the countries of the former Yugoslavia), whereas they are measured only in millions of m³ in the most deprived countries (Malta, Libya, Cyprus, Palestinian Territories-Gaza, Jordan).
* The resources are distributed unevenly within each country: in Spain, 81% of the resources are in the northern half of the country; in Morocco, the two principal drainage basins (Oum-er-Rbia and Sebou, which cover one-tenth of the territory) provide 50% of the flows; in Algeria, 75% of the renewable resources are concentrated in 6% of the territory, while in Tunisia, the North (30% of the territory) produces 80% of the resources.
It should be noted that variable proportions of the total resources in certain countries come from outside by way of trans-boundary rivers. While resources in Spain, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Turkey are entirely or almost entirely internal, other States depend to a large extent on their neighbours: Egypt 98%, Syria 80%, Israel 55%, and the countries of the former Yugoslavia 45%.
* Related to populations, water resources per capita say even more about the levels of richness or poverty in Mediterranean countries in terms of water: they range from overabundance in Albania and in the countries of the former Yugoslavia (over 10,000 m³/year per inhabitant) to extreme water-poverty in the Palestinian Territories-Gaza and in Malta (less than 100 m³/year per inhabitant).
Thus today more than 160 million of the 425 million Mediterranean people (United Nations estimate) live in countries with less than 1,000 m³/year per inhabitant (annual average). Tensions there are becoming apparent between resources and needs, especially when irrigation is necessary. Of these 160 million persons, 30 million are living below the line of absolute water-poverty of 500 m³/year per inhabitant: in the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Malta and Tunisia.
9. Your Rapporteur wishes to point out here that these contrasting situations are exacerbated by:
* the great variability in supplies of water from season to season and from year to year, and the impact of droughts;
* varying degrees of exploitability, particularly by methods which are ecologically sustainable, and of water quality (only part of the renewable water is a controllable and usable resource);
* the impact of human activities, which disrupt systems and adversely affect water quality, as well as the vulnerability of certain resources to overexploitation (for example, coastal aquifers - see below);
* the divisions between several countries (the Iberian and Balkan peninsulas, the Nile basin, the Middle East) that make water resources the focus of potential conflicts, as your Rapporteur will demonstrate in the second chapter.
(Jean Margat, op. cit., p. 3: and "Water and sustainable development in the Mediterranean region", Curso Problemas de sustentabilidad en el Mediterráneo y la Comunidad Valenciana, Universidad internacional Menéndez Pelayo Valencia, Spain, 9-13 November 1998, p. 3).
10. Over and above the figures that your Rapporteur thought necessary to present, the growing shortage of renewable resources in countries already lacking water seems indisputable. This should be taken into account when seeking possible solutions at the level of individual states and of the Mediterranean region as a whole.
11. Experts agree on emphasising that the gaps between water resources per capita will widen, due to differences in projected demographic growth. These resources will stabilise, or even grow slightly, in the North. On the other hand, they will decrease somewhat sharply in the South and East, where the United Nations forecasts a population increase from 200 million in 1995 to 350 million by 2025, with the urban population reaching an estimated 260 million. These are all projections that, in the view of your Rapporteur, cannot be overlooked.
B. A RESOURCE THAT IS ALREADY HEAVILY EXPLOITED
12. In view of this shortage, demand for water is covered almost everywhere entirely through extraction. Pressure on resources is therefore heavy, while demand itself is increasing because of urbanisation, irrigation and tourism (see Blue Plan, Water in the Mediterranean region. Situations, prospects and strategies for sustainable management of the resource, 2nd edition, July 1997).
13. While global demand for water has doubled since the beginning of the 20th century, rising some 60% over the past twenty-five years alone, the current level is about 300 billion m³/year for all uses. Thus, in nearly half of the countries in the Mediterranean region, the total demand for water per inhabitant is between 500 and 1,000 m³/year. According to the Blue Plan, it could increase by 50% between now and 2025, but could grow by as much as 70% in the South and more than double in the East. Demand is out of step with the natural cycle of the resources - it is greatest in summer, just at the time when resources are at their lowest - and concentrated in small areas of the territories (the littorals). It often comes close to, sometimes reaching or even exceeding, the mean resource volume.
14. Imbalances between demand and resources are already taking effect, and are likely to spread and worsen in most southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. While resources are heavily exploited in the North (59% in Spain's Mediterranean basins, 27% in Italy), they are overexploited in Gaza, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Malta and Tunisia, where groundwater reserves have been opened. Exploitation of fossil water resources available in the large Saharan aquifers is already underway in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, and is very intensive in Libya, where the water supplies 87% of consumption.
15. These are all situations that contribute to conflicts of use, between sectors of use - for example, between towns and irrigated agriculture - between regions in the same country, or lastly between countries that have to share common resources (see Chapter II).
2. The threefold pressure of urbanisation, irrigation and tourism
16. The production of drinking water to supply urban communities currently exceeds 34 billion m³/year for the whole of the Mediterranean region. It already accounts for 60% in the North and 20% respectively in the East and the South. It tends to increase in the latter regions, due to population growth and faster urbanisation.
17. Irrigation accounts for a major part, if not an overwhelming share, of water use - over 80% in almost all the countries in the South, and up to 90% in Libya - although its contribution to the countries' GDP is small. Broadly speaking, experts estimate that the developing countries use twice the amount of water per irrigated hectare than the industrialised countries, though their crop yield is three times lower.
18. This situation, to which your Rapporteur feels compelled to call attention, is giving rise to debate in many countries in the Mediterranean basin, particularly about resource allocation decisions and about setting the price, usually very low, of irrigation water. It is clear at the very least that keeping up, and even more, increasing allocations to irrigation might hamper the development of other sectors of production with higher added value. Besides, competition between sectors has already begun in some regions, as your Rapporteur suggested above, and it might spread, calling for more choices to be made.
19. Lastly, as regards tourism, delegates will recall that, with some 250 million visitors per year, the Mediterranean basin is the premier world tourist destination. While growing demand for drinking water in the localities that receive visitors is not the only effect of tourism (500 to 800 litres per head per day are used in luxury hotels), it brings with it services and leisure activities that make extensive use of water and involves the creation of oversize distribution and purification facilities.
3. Water management that is sometimes inconsistent
20. Your Rapporteur wishes to draw delegates' attention to certain inconsistencies in water management in the Mediterranean. Apart from the occasionally irrational utilisation of resources referred to above, wastage and losses in transportation and distribution (cf. outdated or chaotic water-supply systems) should be noted: half the water extracted is lost in this way.
21. According to the World Bank, the following additional factors may come into play depending on the circumstances: the division of water management among a multiplicity of public and private bodies that deal separately with quantity and quality, health and environment, surface water and subterranean water (In Sicily some 451 establishments, institutions, consortia and public undertakings provide water catchments and distribution. "Sicily deprived of water by drought and the Mafia", Courrier international, No. 607, 20-26 June 2002); the failure to implement global management linking water quality and economic development; or again, the fact that water is regarded as a free asset, with no real economic value, which encourages overconsumption and unprofitable investment.
C. A RESOURCE FRAGILE AND UNDER THREAT
22. Water in the Mediterranean basin is not only a raw material exploitable within the limits of its availability. As your Rapporteur already suggested, it is highly vulnerable to forms of land use and to numerous sources of pollution; neither is it immune from the impact of climate change.
23. The failure to maintain banks in the North through terrace cultivation (which contributes to erosion), deforestation in the South and the "artificialisation" of watercourses all contribute to irregularities in water flow and reduce renewable resources. Groundwater is severely exposed in coastal areas, where the equilibrium with seawater can be easily upset (cf. the virtually irreversible inflows of salt water caused by excessive pumping in Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Libya, which have led to the abandonment of catchments).
24. Pollution, whether it is localised (low standards of wastewater purification, industrial discharges and accidents) or widespread (resulting from overuse of agricultural additives or poor waste management), is also a threat to resources, and tends to increase drinking water production costs considerably. Although less industrialised than the Northern countries, the countries in the South suffer just as much from the effects of such pollution, aggravated by inadequate purification and prevention facilities as well as by the scarcity and mediocre quality of the resources (cf., for example, Egyptian industries dump 550 million m³ of waste - 57% of the quantity produced - into the Nile every year).
25. Your Rapporteur cannot address the vulnerability of water resources in the Mediterranean without raising the issue of the silting-up of dams, which is particularly prevalent in the South: the high sediment content of flood water shortens the effective life of reservoirs, despite the high-volume "holding ponds" or "spare capacity" provided. While the loss of effective capacity of Mediterranean dams is currently between 0.5 and 1% per year, it is 2% in Morocco, where the reduction in regulating capacity attributable to silting-up is equivalent today to a loss of irrigation potential of 6,000 to 8,000 hectares per year; it ranges from 2 to 3% in Algeria, where the lifespan of average-capacity reservoirs is from 30 to 50 years, and from 1 to 2.5% in Tunisia, to such an extent that, according to experts, prevention efforts like reforestation of the basins or sediment traps can only delay the inevitable end of dam-reservoir sites. Thus "[t]he "post-dam" era will begin in the 21st century in many Mediterranean countries" (Jean Margat, "Water and sustainable development in the Mediterranean region", op. cit., p. 17).
II. CONSEQUENCES AND CHALLENGES
26. The consequences of the increasing scarcity of water resources in the Mediterranean are many, and all in all are quite obvious. Relying on the 2010-2025 futurological studies by the Blue Plan under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), your Rapporteur will now address the socio-economic consequences of this phenomenon. Secondly, he will give an account of the "hydrogeopolitical" challenges that the Mediterranean Basin is likely to face in the longer term - if it does not already.
A. SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES
27. There is universal agreement, whether in the Blue Plan for the Mediterranean or in coastal states' planning documents, in predicting increased demand for water in the East and the South, and the spread of tensions and shortages in these regions (see in particular Mohamed Benblidia, Jean Margat and Domitille Vallée, "Mediterranean: the challenge of water", Futuribles, No. 233, July-August 1998; and Jean Margat, "Water, a strategic resource in the Mediterranean area. Situation and prospects", op. cit.).
1. Growing demand
28. According to the Blue Plan 2025 forecasts, the North-South gap will widen with respect to pressure on resources: this will decline in the North (except in the case of the Balkans), while demand might double in Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, and might increase threefold in Algeria and fourfold in Libya.
29. Overall, demand will increase, even if its growth will sometimes be slowed by the scarcity of resources. Agriculture's share of total demand should still predominate in 2025, whereas the share of provision for communities is set to double under pressure of urbanisation. While still of minor importance, water consumption by industry should also increase (cf. Algerian paper mills, or Egyptian industry).
30. This demand will likely be met by increasing use of wastewater, which is often discharged without treatment and undermines the quality of natural water in watercourses and aquifers. While discharges could decrease by about 25% in the North, they may increase by 35 to 60% in the East and South. Waste water, when treated, could be used as "second-hand water" by agriculture (see below).
31. Thus all the hypotheses regarding changes in demand until 2025 lead to disturbing conclusions. They reveal the unavoidable increase in demand, and the fact that a growing population is a major factor. In this respect urban supply is set to become a crucial problem, which will call for more and more substantial resource mobilisation and supply projects with shorter deadlines and over ever-greater distances.
2. The spread of shortages
32. While there are already imbalances between demand and resources in the East and the South, as your Rapporteur has emphasised previously, in 2025 almost half the population of the Mediterranean countries will probably need more water - perhaps much more - than the natural supply can provide, and even more so compared to the resources that can actually be mobilised.
33. The Blue Plan estimates that as early as 2010 - i.e. eight years from now - some eleven countries will be exploiting over 50% of their resources: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Palestinian Territories-Gaza, Jordan, Malta and Syria are in the forefront, followed by Algeria, Tunisia, Cyprus and Syria. Lebanon will reach that level in 2025.
34. In the case of these countries, wastewater will be the first and principal source of increased supply. In addition, its re-use after treatment is already written into several States' management plans: in Israel the re-use rate was projected to reach 80% as of the year 2000, mainly by non-subsistence agriculture; in Cyprus the amounts re-used might increase three- or fourfold between now and 2010; Jordan could see an increase of more than threefold between now and 2015, while in Egypt the amount of drainage water re-used may almost double between now and 2025, with the re-use of urban waste water rising tenfold in the same period.
35. Moreover, the desalination of brackish underground water or seawater is already practised on islands (the Balearics, Malta, Dalmatia, the Cyclades, Cyprus), on coasts (Libya) and in deserts (Algeria). Although the amount of water produced in this way has increased steadily, costs remain high (from 0.5$/ m³ for brackish water to over 1.5$/ m³ for sea water). Consequently, according to specialists, desalination will contribute a greater share to supplies of drinking and/or industrial water.
36. Considerable increases in resources might also be achieved by permanent water imports, covered by commercial agreements. Permanent water transport, which has been used until now on a temporary basis or to deal with crisis situations, is the subject of studies or projects, some of which might be implemented in the next few decades: under-sea aqueducts between Albania and southern Italy; use of the sea route between Turkey and the countries of the Levant (Israel, Gaza), and the land route between Lebanon and its neighbours.
37. However, your Rapporteur wishes to draw delegates' attention to the fact that the potential development of these (known as non-conventional resources) will still be costly and perhaps insufficient to cover demand. In some experts' opinion, this production is likely to account only for about 5% of water production for the entire Mediterranean region in 2025. Thus the supply will still be 95% dependent on natural resources, unless there is a technological innovation with significant economic effects.
3. Obvious effects on the water economy
38. In the opinion of Mr Margat, vice-president of the Blue Plan, the spreading and worsening of shortages in most of the countries in the East and South, and even in some northern regions (Spain, Italy), will have obvious effects on the water economy, which your Rapporteur intends to present in outline as follows:
* some vulnerability of water use, particularly agricultural water use; an irregular increase in resources and deterioration in water quality.
* increased water development, exploitation and treatment costs, which will logically involve a rise in the cost of supply and, by extension, an increase in the cost of conserving water and improving efficiency.
Evermore substantial and technically complex installations will be required, while the distances over which transfers will be made will become greater. The result will be a considerable increase in investment expenditure and a corresponding increase in maintenance and management costs, which will far exceed local means (cf. the already burdensome national debts of eastern and southern countries).
* a growing number of conflicts over use.
It should be emphasised here that the routing of water resources to coastal regions, which is already underway to the detriment of the needs of the hinterland, will further increase population migration from the interior to the coast, thus raising density in the coastal zones. These trends, aggravated as they are, will make it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a balance in population distribution and economic development among regions in a given country.
* growing tensions between the aims of water use and the environment, as the mobilisation of water resources sometimes involves damage to nature.
39. Additionally, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain self-sufficiency in food, which will inevitably involve globalisation of the economy and resource management in the Euro-Mediterranean world, as well as security in food supplies, which will become evermore dependent on imports. The necessity of devoting a proportion of irrigated cultivation to exportable products with a higher added value - particularly with the prospect of a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area in 2010 - might cause the situation to change.
B. "HYDROGEOPOLITICAL" CHALLENGES
40. In your Rapporteur's opinion, it is clear in this context that the Mediterranean region is heading towards the predicted "hydroconflictual" situations - already realized in some cases - if nothing is done to control demand, to diversify supply, to find new criteria to decide the various uses of water or to jointly and rationally manage transboundary resources.
41. The situation appears to give particular cause for concern in North Africa and the Middle East, where demographic pressure and the scarcity of available water are most acute. There, water is seen more and more as a strategic issue that produces tensions between States and comes on top of very thorny political and identity problems. At this stage your Rapporteur proposes to give a brief account of the situation that prevails in the three principal hydroconflictual zones in the Mediterranean region: the Nile basin, the Tigris and Euphrates basin, and the Jordan basin.
1. The Nile basin
42. The Nile, formed by the confluence of the White Nile, which rises in Burundi, and the Blue Nile, which flows out of Lake Tana in Ethiopia, is the longest river in the world (about 6700 km). Its basin extends over an area of 3 million km2 (one-tenth of the surface of the African continent) and crosses nine countries (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt) (http://www.nilebasin.org/nilemap.htm)
43. The "hydrogeopolitical" challenge here arises from the sharing of the waters of the Nile among the countries furthest downstream (Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt), which lie in an arid or semi-arid zone where agriculture would be impossible without the river.
44. Indeed, although today some 70 million Egyptians live on the banks of the Nile, the issue is even more acute in Ethiopia, which faces a very substantial population increase. According to Jacques Sironneau, the population is set to rise to 94 million in 2010 from 54 million in 1992 (op. cit., p. 46). Although Ethiopia contributes 83% of the Nile's total flow, Egypt - a regional demographic and military power - denies it the right to carry out any development work likely to alter the river's level or its rate of flow, pursuant to agreements concluded in 1929 between Egypt and Sudan, to which Ethiopia was not a party.
45. Regarding Sudan, it has been building the Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile since its independence in 1957. In 1959 an agreement - still in force - with Egypt determined the sharing of water between the two countries: 55.5 billion m³/year for Egypt and 18.5 billion m³/year for Sudan. The latter agreed in exchange for the construction of the Aswan High Dam, while Egypt consented to the construction of two dams in Sudan and the completion of the Jonglei Canal, intended to drain that region's waters into the Nile. Egypt's dependence on the river led to the signing of a Charter of Integration between the two States in 1982, replaced in 1987 by the now-dormant Charter of Fraternity.
46. Thus, according to experts, there is some risk of a test of strength between Sudan and Egypt, so that the latter takes more notice of Sudan's water requirements, or even of a conflict between Sudan and Ethiopia (Jacques Sironneau, op. cit., p. 48). In addition, Mr Boutros Ghali makes the same point when he observes that: "Nile water, not politics, will be the cause of the next war in our region" (unofficial translation, cited by W. Remans, "War and Water", Humanitäres Völkerrecht: Informationsschriften, No. 1, 1995, p. 6). We should note that in the event of conflict the Aswan High Dam would be a sensitive and extremely important location in view of the incalculable consequences of its destruction. Delegates will remember that during the Gulf War the risk of a joint air attack by Iraq and Sudan on the dam was considered.
2. The Tigris and Euphrates basin
47. The Euphrates, 2350 km in length, rises in Turkey and flows through that country for 550 km. It then crosses northeastern Syria before entering Iraq, where it joins the Tigris further south, forming the Chatt-El-Arab, which flows into the Persian Gulf.
48. Thus three countries are affected by the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates, and moreover, all are confronting serious demographic pressures. In his study on "The geopolitics of water in the Middle East" which he has kindly made available to your Rapporteur, Mr Bichara Khader, professor at the Centre for Study and Research on the Contemporary Arab World at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), cites demographic growth of 2.5% in Turkey, 3.6% in Syria and 3.3% in Iraq (p. 13).
49. Delegates will recall that the sharing of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates has already given rise to more than one crisis between Syria and Iraq and between these two Arab states and Turkey. In the seventies, the filling of the Tabqa "El-Thawra" dam, Syria's principal structure on the Euphrates, caused a 25% reduction in the flow of the river through Iraq, which wasted no time in amassing its troops on the border. Only Saudi mediation between the two countries made it possible to avoid an armed clash.
50. In this respect the implementation by Turkey of the South-East Anatolia Project (GAP - Guneydogou Anadolou Projesi, 1980) has revived tensions in the region. The GAP is a water management programme for the Tigris, the Euphrates and incidentally the Orontes - the source of a several year-old territorial dispute between Turkey and Syria - which should culminate in the construction of 22 dams and 17 generating stations, half of which were apparently already complete during preparation of this report. The largest of them, the Atatürk Dam, the fourth largest in the world in terms of capacity (48 billion m³), came into service in the mid-nineties.
51. By these projects, Turkey not only intends to promote the economic take-off of the northern Iraqi region - and by so doing, neutralise the guerrilla warfare that has been rife there for years - but also to prioritise its agricultural development (irrigation of at least 1.7 million hectares is scheduled). It plans to export some of its agro-industrial production to the Middle East and to Turkish-speaking States in Central Asia and the Caucasus, where it would like to exert political, economic and cultural influence (Jacques Sironneau, op. cit., pp. 28 et seq.).
52. Thus Turkey, with the benefits of geographic superiority and considerable demographic and military power, is giving itself an absolute advantage in implementing its choices of water management, the consequences of which are of vital importance to Syria and Iraq. In 1987, Turkey undertook the restoration of 500 m³/s on average to the water supply leaving its territory, but it reserves the right to reduce this rate of flow in case of necessity. Iraq - which depends upon the Tigris and Euphrates for up to 95% of its industrial and agricultural requirements and for up to 80% of its domestic consumption - and Syria are seeking a review of this agreement, recognition of the status of the Euphrates as a shared international river, and the signature of a new agreement on water quality, which has apparently suffered from untreated urban waste and agricultural pollution. It seems that Turkey has still not signed the 1997 United Nations convention on the use of international rivers, depriving Syria and Iraq of any opportunity to appeal to international tribunals.
53. Lastly we should note that Jordan and Turkey announced a project in the same period for the transfer of water from the Euphrates to Jordan, making the overall balance equation for resources in the region still more complicated.
3. The Jordan basin
54. The most alarming scenario is in the Middle East, where water is at the centre of concerns and of decisive importance in the search for peace in the region. According to Thomas Naff, a hydrologist specialising in Middle Eastern issues, "[t]here can be no peace without resolving water problems and vice versa (...). It is water that will decide the future of the Occupied Territories and what is more, whether there is peace or war. If the crisis is not resolved, the result will be a greater probability of conflict between Jordan and Israel, which would certainly involve other Arab countries" (Jacques Sironneau, op. cit., p. 41).
55. We should note here that the Jordan River, which rises on Mount Hermon in Lebanon, flows for some 17 km in Israel before it meets Lake Tiberias. It then receives its main tributary, the Yarmuk, which is common to Jordan and Syria, before emptying into the Dead Sea. Thus four countries and the Palestinian Authority share the Jordan basin.
56. Delegates will recall that the scarcity of water resources in the region - which will increase - has already caused many conflicts. The Six-Day War, which broke out on 5 June 1967, was a transition phase from this point of view, because it enabled the State of Israel to take control over all the Syrian shores on the Golan plateau and over the Judea-Samaria aquifer on the West Bank, of exceptional importance in this very arid area. The operation "Peace in Galilee" carried out by Israel in 1982 in southern Lebanon gave it control of the three watercourses that supply Lake Tiberias (the Dan, the Banias and the Upper Jordan), as well as access to the upper Litani, Lebanon's principal river.
57. There is no doubt in this context that the sharing of water is (will be) a key element in the settlement of the Palestinian problem. Far from wanting to stir up tensions between the two parties, your Rapporteur is anxious to emphasise here, according to the World Bank, that 90% of West Bank water is used by Israel, the Palestinians enjoying the benefit of only the remaining 10%. In general, an Israeli has five times more water than a Palestinian from the west bank of the Jordan. In the Gaza Strip, which provides a snapshot of the problems that arise in the region, the ratio in 1990 was 1 to 20 (Stefan Deconinck, "Water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", http://medintelligence.free.fr). In light of recent events, your Rapporteur doubts that these figures have improved.
58. Over and above this unfair distribution of water, there are restrictive practices. It will be remembered that the 1967 Orders forbade Palestinian farmers to sink new wells without the prior approval of the military authorities, that strict extraction quotas were set for them, they were charged for irrigation water at drinking water prices and excluded from entitlement to the grants given to Israeli irrigators and settlements. Although Appendix B of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (28 September 1995, known as Oslo II) recognised "the rights of the Palestinians to water" and transferred jurisdiction over agricultural issues to the Palestinian Authority, negotiations to redress the imbalance in water resources have not taken place as of yet.
59. In the context of increasing shortages in the region, your Rapporteur is of the opinion that only bilateral and regional co-operation machinery is capable of at least easing situations of scarcity, if not resolving imbalances in water supply. However, for this approach - which can be described as "technical" - to work, fair and sustainable solutions still have to be found for territorial and political disputes.
III. WHAT SOLUTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE WATER DEVELOPMENT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN?
60. In view of the demographic and economic pressures and the spread of overexploitation and scarcity, many solutions have been advocated by the Blue Plan experts for several years. In this last part your Rapporteur will select only the major ones, which he will place in two broad categories: technical solutions, and institutional and legal solutions.
A. TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS
61. In the opinion of Mr Margat, the vice-president of the Blue Plan, governments and communities must now look to protective resource management and improved demand management if the aim is to have a water resource of sufficient and acceptable quality for the future (Mohamed Benblidia, Jean Margat and Domitille Vallée, "Mediterranean: the challenge of water", op. cit., and Jean Margat, "Water, a strategic resource in the Mediterranean area. Situation and prospects", op. cit.).
1. Towards protective resource management
62. Logically this involves the following, depending on countries, regions or situations:
* limiting pressure on resources where growth is still deemed possible, without excessive impact on the natural environment, and moderating surface water development;
* stabilising the pressures at their current level;
* diminishing pressures by reducing extraction, stopping persistent overexploitation of underground water and increasing the purification of wastewater.
63. In Mr Margat's view, any additional demand for water will have to be met by the non-conventional resources to which your Rapporteur referred in Chapter II (re-use of waste water, desalination), or even by water imports. Your Rapporteur, following the example of specialists, nevertheless wishes to stress that these methods are costly and that resorting to them can be postponed by better management of demand.
2. The role of demand management
64. Demand management, which aims to reduce the "non-use" of extracted or manufactured water and "misuse", is set to rival the importance of resource management in the water strategies of Mediterranean countries and in development and environmental conservation policies in the sector.
65. Several types of action should be developed and pursued in this context:
* Better management of demand by promoting savings, combating waste and improving efficiency.
It should be remembered that a substantial proportion of the water extracted is little used or badly used: at least one-third of the water supplied to Mediterranean towns and villages as drinking water is lost in the delivery system; many industries use amounts far greater than they need because of leaks and failures in recycling; almost half the water made available for irrigation is lost in transportation, because of poor regulation of the supplies to the fields, inefficient irrigation systems or the choice of crops that consume large amounts of water.
These quantities of lost or wasted water form a substantial "unexploited reserve", so that demand management will be just as necessary as other water supply solutions. Rehabilitation and preventive maintenance programmes for distribution and irrigation systems must therefore be launched, if they have not been already, as well as public awareness and irrigator information campaigns - which should also refer to health education and the campaign against pollution.
* Reviewing allocation of resources for the benefit of agricultural uses that have the greatest potential and those most capable of bearing the direct costs of water production.
In addition, the allocations of resources and the generally very low price of irrigation water - in Syria the price of water is based on the area irrigated, not on consumption, whereas in Egypt irrigation water is free - are hardly likely to encourage farmers to change their habits. As regards the Blue Plan, charging for irrigation water is essential in order to cover - even in part - production costs and to make irrigators change their ways. Although public assistance is appropriate, it should be directed above all towards making the amounts of water used more profitable rather than at increasing agricultural production.
* In more general terms, an economic value should be assigned to water.
Oddly enough, it is in countries where water is scarce that it is regarded as a free asset. Water, "a gift from God" according to the Sharia, has to be free in Muslim countries, thus deterring the institution of charges for use that would help curb overexploitation of resources.
66. The Blue Plan is still a theoretical model tacked onto a complex situation. We should therefore move towards incentives for rationalisation and not settle for the status quo or for the application of economically simplistic or culturally unacceptable measures.
B. INSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL SOLUTIONS
67. A suitable institutional framework and integrated management structure, a greater sense of responsibility among the parties concerned, greater involvement of consumers, and enhanced skills - including improvements in research and training - are essential if this management is to be made more efficient.
68. A large number of institutions involved in water management are to be found in all the Mediterranean countries, sometimes surprisingly as your Rapporteur initially stated. This results in many malfunctions that may be eased by the creation of bodies for coordination between sectors of government (cf. the National Water Council in Spain, the Supreme Water Council in Morocco, or the National Water Committee in Algeria).
69. Moreover, the process of national water management is often out of touch with local problems and the parties directly affected in the Mediterranean. It is therefore important to organise the coordination of responsible officials and those directly concerned at a decentralised level - province, department, drainage basin - as, for example, France (basin committees) or Spain (basin agencies or confederaciones hidrograficas) has done.
70. Although the State is still by far, and more or less everywhere, the most important party in water policy - it is the manager of the public domain, guarantor of water rights, principal investor and administrator - there are now clear signs of disengagement, such as private sector participation in the management and financing of water supply and purification. This trend is all the more favourable because it should enable the State to refocus on coordination, planning, supervision, allocating resources and price-setting - a role the Blue Plan experts advocate and your Rapporteur supports.
71. In the case of the latter, these initiatives must be accompanied by appropriate legislation. Although "water codes" have been evolving for some years, providing more effective support for the aims of national policies on efficient use of resources and environmental protection, their application and monitoring are not consistent.
72. The management of transboundary water obviously raises different issues. While it emerges from international practice that States are entitled on their territory to reasonable and fair use of water from an international watercourse, several doctrines governing the use by States of transboundary water continue to coexist. A Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes adopted in Helsinki on 17 March 1992 sets out a certain number of principles - "the polluter pays", consultation, co-operation - and aims to improve the application of treaties concluded between States on this issue. The "Bellagio" treaty seeks to apply the principles of "community of interests" and "optimum utilisation and conservation" of resources to transboundary groundwater.
73. Without being so naïve as to claim that the existence of rules of law is enough to prevent States from resorting to war, we can see the possible benefits of such provisions in the principal zones of water conflict in the Mediterranean region. However, the weaknesses of the instruments of public international water law are still substantial. The consequences of the lack of effective implementation and monitoring machinery are obvious in this connection, particularly in the Middle East.
74. Although the prospects of water shortage in the Mediterranean area vary according to country and region, they are nonetheless real. In your Rapporteur's view, these prospects and the tense situations that already exist, the increasing economic burdens that result from them and constraints on the forms and options for development call here and now for eminently political choices: reconciliation of fairness with long-term development.
75. Your Rapporteur is of the opinion that political solutions should be advocated, aimed at restoring an equal right of access to water and also at regional collective management of resources, their quality and use, and the funding of research and development for new technologies, in particular desalination. Thus justice, rationalisation, fair-minded control and technological research are the key-words in the peaceful settlement of the water problem in the Mediterranean region.
76. Consequently, in your Rapporteur's view the future equilibrium of the Mediterranean region makes it imperative for its countries to carry out a long-term study together, with the experts and institutions concerned, so as to be able to bring forward methods of water management and in so doing to respond to the desire of all for a lasting peace.
1 As part of the Mediterranean Action Plan, under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Blue Plan is a present and future study of mutual relationships involving the population, the natural resources, the principal environmental factors and the major development sectors in the Mediterranean Basin as a whole.