Second World Water Forum
(March 17-22, 2000)
The Middle East Peace process and its bilateral track began with
Conference of October 1991.
Subsequently, peace process partners agreed to establish a
multilateral track, which began with an organizational meeting in
Moscow in January 1992. The broad goal of the multilateral track is to
focus on issues of common interest and importance throughout the
region that can best be addressed on a regional basis. The multilateral
track consists of five working groups: (1) Working Group on Water
Resources, (2) Working Group on the Environment, (3) Working Group on
Regional Economic Development, (4) Working Group on Refugees, and (5)
Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security.
For the Middle East, most of which has semiarid to and climatic
conditions, the water problems are myriad. The Working
Group on Water Resources (WGWR), for which the United States
serves as Gavelholder and Japan and the European Union serve as
co-organizers, established the following four broad agenda items to
address some of the critical water issues.
Enhancement of water data availability. Water management practices,
including conservation. Enhancement of water supply. Concepts of
regional water management and cooperation.
Since its inception, the WGWR has been implementing a variety of
projects under its four agenda items. Each project enjoys the support,
both technical and financial, of one or more of the WGWR's
extra-regional donor delegations. The multilateral framework has been
a successful mechanism for addressing regional problems. The WGWR in
particular has been successful in developing a cadre of high-level
water decision makers that now can effectively work together on
regional water issues. The WGWR projects continue to provide important
benefits to its participating regional parties. Selected project
activities are described in this brochure.
Enhancement of Water Data Availability
Regional Water Data Banks Project
The Implementation Plan of the Regional Water Data Banks Project was
approved in November 1994. Regional participants met with
representatives from the United States, European Union, Canada, and
France (Donor Parties) in January 1995 to initiate the project. The
first action was to form a committee to manage, coordinate, and
promote project implementation. The committee formed during the
meeting is known as the Executive Action Team
(EXACT) and is composed of two members from each regional party and
two representatives from each Donor Party.
EXACT since has met twice every year to plan, coordinate, and
direct project implementation. The Regional Water Data Banks Project
is organized to improve the availability and applicability of water
data information. The project is implementing 39 recommendations
applicable to all of the regional participants, plus Work Package A,
which is designed to help establish a Palestinian water data bank.
These activities and Work Package A will upgrade existing data banks
while creating one for the Palestinians in order to ensure that all of
the systems can function effectively in a regional setting. The
project goal is to enable the exchange of consistent, compatible, and
reliable water data and information to support decision making at both
local and regional scales. The basic approach adopted for the project
is that water data collection and dissemination programs are
compatible and will meet the specific needs of the regional
participants. Through this process and approach, regional sharing and
exchange of relevant water information will be promoted and enhanced.
As a result of continuous collaborative work since January 1995,
the Regional Water Data Banks Project has achieved some remarkable
successes, a few of which are listed below: Water data collection,
storage, and retrieval capabilities have been established within the
Palestinian Water Authority and those of the Israeli Hydrological
Service and the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation were
improved and enhanced.
Mobile labs, computer equipment, and advanced software all were
donated to the regional participants within a coordinated, compatible
framework. Manuals, standards, and a variety of training programs have
been implemented. Relevant, interconnected projects have been
developed and are being implemented jointly, and discussions are
underway for future collaborative work. Theoretical and practical
frameworks for future participation have been laid.
The regional participants continue to dedicate both human and
financial resources to establish compatible water data collection and
dissemination programs and to adhere to agreed-upon regional standards
for equipment, accuracy, and operations. New activities that are
expected to commence in the year 2000 include:
Real-time transmission of hydrologic data.
Joint training of technicians.
Enhancements to networks and laboratories.
Pilot projects looking at artificial recharge of ground water
and wastewater treatment for small communities.
Regional analysis of rainfall intensity.
The Water Data Banks Project has a web site located at:
Water Management Practices, Including Conservation
Public Awareness and Water Conservation Project
The Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources established
the Public Awareness and Water Conservation Project in 1996, which
is being managed by the United States. The first activity
completed by the regional participants was the design and
preparation of a video aimed at youth that highlights the
importance of water issues from a regional perspective. This video
is available for showing at youth-oriented events throughout the
The second major activity underway, known as WaterCare, is the
preparation of a Student Resource Book, Teacher's Guide, and
complimentary Web Page focused on water conservation issues that
are regional in concept, scope, and content. The materials are
being prepared jointly by educational writers from each of the
regional participants and are being written for students between
12 and 15 years old. Once completed, they will be used as
supplementary materials in the educational systems of each of the
regional participants. The major topics addressed by the materials
include water resources, water use, water pollution and
life/health, water management for conservation, and water care for
the future, all from a regional perspective. The materials are
scheduled for implementation in schools throughout the region in
Optimization of Intensive Agriculture under Varying Water
In 1996, the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources
established a project on Optimization of Intensive Agriculture
Under Varying Water Quality Conditions, which is being managed by
the Government of Luxembourg. The primary focus of the project is
to demonstrate how brackish and saline water can be used to
support sustainable farming. A demonstration farm, established in
Gaza at Beit-Hanoun, is used to support technology transfer in the
field of water use. Project implementation is led by Al-Azhar
University of Gaza.
Comparative Study of Water Laws and Water Institutions in
The Norwegian Government, through the Center for Environmental
Studies and Resource Management, a nongovernmental organization
known as CESAR, conducted a comparative study outlining the
legislative, regulatory, institutional, and pricing framework of
water resource management in various Middle Eastern countries and
territories. The data allow common denominators among the various
water management systems to be identified. A detailed comparison
among the various water regimes establishes a potential starting
point for consensual formal cooperation in the future. A
compilation of official English translations of the various water
laws and authority bylaws has been produced.
Enhancement of Water Supply
Regional Water Supply and Demand Study
The German Government undertook a study of the long-term
strategic development of water resources in the region. The
objectives of the study were to (1) elaborate specific proposals
for the provision of additional water resources on the basis of a
comprehensive demand forecast, and (2) develop a concept for
coordinated future management of all regional water resources. The
study has been implemented in three phases. Phase I is a review of
local and regional water related data, establishing water
balances, determining the size of the long-term net water gap
between supply and demand, and identifying options for bridging
this gap. Phase II is an assessment of local development options
and regional options for developing additional water resources,
using short-term (2000), medium-term (2010), and long-term (2040)
scenarios. Phase III is the joint elaboration of a regional water
resources strategy and the provision of recommendations on key
short-term regional activities. The study was completed in 1998.
The data show a significant gap between water supply and demand
throughout the region, even when using conservative estimates of
future population growth and water use. In addition, deteriorating
water quality already is a serious issue in some parts of the
region, and increasing pollution and salinization threaten to make
more and more regional water resources nonutilizable in the
future. The conclusions and recommendations drawn from this study
consider potential alternative water sources such as reuse of
wastewaters, seawater desalination at coastal locations, intersea
schemes conveying water to the Dead Sea, importing water by
pipeline, and importing water by large, refurbished crude oil
tankers or new tankers, or the towing of large vinyl bags. They
present a regional strategy, include immediate steps related to
each of the regional participants, and offer short- to long-term
priorities in a regional context. The five activities considered
to be the highest priority are:
Joint development of prototype desalination plant(s) at the
Mediterranean and/or the Red Sea.
Prefeasibility study of large-scale coastal desalination plants.
Comparative study of intersea schemes (Med-Dead; Red-Dead).
Prefeasibility study of intraregional conveyance systems.
Study on regional institutional setups.
Middle East Desalination Research Center
East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) was established in
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman in December 1996. Initial funding for the
Center was obtained through contributions from several donor nations.
The economy of the Middle East is inextricably tied to the high cost
of seawater and brackish water desalination, a cost the Center will
try to reduce.
The mission of MEDRC is to conduct, facilitate, promote,
coordinate, and support basic and applied research in water
desalination and supporting fields, and to raise the standard of
living in the Middle East and elsewhere by cost reduction and quality
improvement in the technical processes of water desalination.
The objectives of MEDRC are:
Discovering, developing, and improving methods of desalination
through basic and applied research. Initiating training programs in
the field of desalination to develop expertise as well as technical
and scientific skills. Promoting electronic networking communications
to improve the dissemination of technical information on desalination.
Establishing regional cooperation and work to foster progress in The
development, improvement, and use of water desalination and related
The Center is directed to focus on priority research, training, and
communication needs. Their research program is based on seven primary
Decrease the cost of desalination.
Develop productive partnerships and cooperation.
Develop sustainable desalination technologies.
Improve communications in the desalination community.
Develop human resources for application of desalination and
foster international cooperation in research activities,
particularly among regional experts.
Utilize limited regional and international research resources.
Maximize technology transfer of research activities.
The types of research projects sponsored by MEDRC include:
Examinations of best practice for the disposal of brine from
thermal and RO plants; Vari-RO solar powered desalting study;
Novel material selection to improve corrosion resistance;
Automation and operation optimization to reduce water costs;
Hybrid desalination systems; Innovative small desalination
systems-hybrid fossil/solar heated multi-effect still; Development
of new technologies for the reduction of fouling; Investigation on
the use of evaporation ponds for brine disposal in inland
desalination plants; and Assessment of aquifer storage and
recovery using desalinated water.
Concepts of Regional Water Management and Cooperation
Declaration of Principles for Cooperation among the Core
Parties on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water
Subsequent to the Norwegian Government's study of water laws
and regulations, the Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian (Core
Party) participants adopted a formal "Declaration
of Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters and New and
Additional Water Resources" (DP). In initialing the DP,
the Core Parties jointly resolved to cooperate in the development
of new and additional water resources. They recognized the
importance of (1) developing locally compatible legal, economic,
and institutional frameworks; and (2) the ability of the
participants to cooperate on the basis of identified common
denominators among their respective water management systems. In
addition to documenting the common denominators among the systems,
the DP details avenues for potential cooperation in developing new
water sources and in other water-related matters, should the Core
Parties agree to move the process forward.
The Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources established
in 1996 the Waternet Project sponsored by the Norwegian
Government. The project is the first joint initiative by the
participating parties (Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian) to
implement parts of the DP. The project has three main parts.
Waternet-Local assists the Core Parties to develop a computerized
water information system to display relevant local water
information. Waternet-Regional assists the participating parties
to link local nodes to form a shared regional computer information
network. The third part is establishment of a Regional Waternet
and Research Center in Amman, Jordan. The objectives of the
Center, to begin operation in 2000, are to develop and maintain
the Waternet, to stimulate regional cooperation on water-related
matters, to initiate new regional and joint activities, and to
promote cooperation among the Core Parties as outlined in the DP.
The Waternet Steering Group, consisting of regional
representatives, Norwegian project implementers, and technical
experts as needed, meets regularly to lead, monitor, and evaluate
the project. A Local Steering Group and a Local Technical Group
provide further assistance and support.
One of the first objectives to be achieved is the development
of a common information system for water-related matters, known as
the Waternet Information System (WIS). The initial focus for WIS
is on the development of the module called "Water Library and
Information Navigator". Compatible computer node sites are
being installed, and water-related regional bibliographic
information is being entered into a data base.
Water Sector Training Program
importance of the water issues in the region led the Working Group on
Water Resources to accept in April 1994 a joint United States/European
Union proposal for a Regional Training Program in the water sector.
The European Union undertook the coordination of this Program, which
included donors from the United States, European Union, Canada, Japan,
The Netherlands, France, Israel, Spain, UNEP, and Sweden.
The program consisted of 14 courses, although some were offered
twice so 20 sessions were presented. The topics covered included water
related aspects of planning, management, administration, technical,
legal, financial, and institutional subjects. Courses were designed to
consider issues from a regional perspective, so as to initialize and
promote the creation of a regional information network and to
encourage widespread reflection on common issues. A total of 275
people participated in the program, including: Palestinians (91),
Jordanians (70), Egyptians (47), Israelis (38), Omanis (14), Yemenis
(8), Tunisians (4), Moroccans (2), and Saudi Arabians (1).
Participants ranged from scientists, planners, and managers, to policy
level decision makers.
Future Activities and Needs
The success of the Multilateral framework in dealing with the
problems of water scarcity and regional cooperation serves as a beacon
to the rest of the world as to what can be accomplished. Having proven
the efficacy of the framework, we face the future with a new sense of
hope. The time has come to extend and enhance the project portfolio to
include other avenues designed to foster sustainable development. Some
options that are possible include: investing in the treatment of
wastewater, rehabilitation of municipal water supply systems,
desalination plants, water transport by sea, improving the quality of
water and its conservation, working to prevent pollution, and
implementing public awareness and public health campaigns.
In the dawn of the new Millennium, all nations are invited to take
part in this mutual quest. Our experience shows that international
support, as demonstrated in the Working Group on Water Resources,
leads to vitality and commitment to the process. This enables the
vision to become a reality, by initiating and realizing both local and
regional water projects. The time has come to bring into the process
other regional parties and donors from both within the Middle East and
North Africa region and without, and from both the public and private
sectors. Together, we will discover new synergies and new ways to
resolve shared problems. Together, we can usher in an era of peace,
prosperity, and global collaboration.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Hazim El-Naser, Secretary General Ministry of Water &
Irrigation, P.O. Box 2412, 5012 Amman, Jordan
Mr. Ram Aviram, Director, Multilateral Peace Talks Coordination
& Water Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hakirya, Rommema
Mr. Fadle Kawash, Deputy Head, Palestinian Water Authority, P.O.
Box 2174, El-Bireh/Ramallah West Bank, via Israel
Dr. Chuck Lawson, Senior Advisor for Science & Technology,
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA/PPR), Room 5256, Department of
State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington D.C. 20520