Keywords: integrated management, Jordan Valley, Mesopotamia, Middle East, Nile Valley, Peace Pipeline, water conflict, water law, water resources management, water supply, water use, population growth, water shortages
Population and water in the Middle East: the challenge and opportunity for law
Although it is commonplace today to argue that population growth drives many or most environmental problems, Jane Jacobs has questioned the prevailing view, noting that the empirical evidence for it is actually rather slim. This article presents a case study of the pressures that population places on water in the Middle East, concluding that the countries of the region suffer from inappropriate patterns of water use rather than from excessive population. Heavy reliance on agriculture for employment or to earn foreign exchange can only lead to environmental collapse in such an arid region. In particular, to develop export markets for agricultural products is really to export water from a water-poor region. With such short-sighted policies in place, the region has already entered upon a severe crisis of recurring and intensifying water shortages that are exacerbated by population growth. If more intelligent use were made of the waters of the region, a population considerably larger than found at present could be supported without excessive stress on water resources or the natural ecology. To accomplish this, the nations of the region must create legal institutions to enable them to undertake integrated (joint) management of their shared water resources.