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A Water Solution for the Middle East Conflict

March 2003

Citation: ELR 10207

Author: Itzchak Kornfeld

Introduction

The key issue is no longer resource development and water quantity but resource allocation and water quality.1

The United Nations (U.N.) has recognized that "water stands today as one of the most critical dangers, one of the most critical breakdowns of peace between nations. It has replaced the threat of war over oil."2 Urbanization, urban sprawl, climate change,3 and droughts worldwide4 are stressing groundwater systems and sources. There are "three main causes of the impending . . . water crisis"5:

1. Rapid urban population growth, increasing at the rate of 170,000 persons per day in developing countries [and hundreds per day in Arizona, California, and Florida];

2. Fifty percent of all potable water is being wasted or lost in the developed world [and much is lost in the developed world due to aging infrastructure and wastefulness]; and

3. Pollution, with over [two] million tons of human excrement and an ever-increasing volume of untreated discharge going into urban water supplies everyday [as well as nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers, fecal matter flowing into streams in the U.S. and internationally].6

Additionally, "in the developing world, more than 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, and 1.7 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. The U.N. [notes] that dirty water causes 80 percent . . . of diseases in the developing world and kills 10 million people annually."7

Similarly, over the past few years the United States has seen farmers fighting for water with fishermen and environmentalists,8 and farmers in southern California's Imperial Valley fighting with adjacent cities for this most precious resource. Water has become a resource and strategic asset under stress and a cause for antagonism and turmoil. Accordingly, conflicts are developing in the United States and abroad over how much of the water pie each segment of daily life—people, industry, and agriculture—are entitled. This Article focuses on water resources in the Middle East's Jordan River Basin.

Mr. Kornfeld is in private practice in Philadelphia, Pa. He received his J.D. from Tulane Law School and his B.S. (Geology) and M.A. (Geochemistry) from the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. His area of concentration is environmental law and security of environmental resources. He is admitted to practice in Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Mr. Kornfeld was previously with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Texaco, Inc., where he addressed issues relating to drilling in the swamps of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and along the eastern seaboard. He also teaches environmental law at a number of institutions, and has taught at Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

The author extends his thanks to Prof. David Hodas of Widener Law School (Wilmington) for early discussions on the subject and for his encouragement to publish this Article in the Environmental Law Reporter, to Prof. John Dernbach of Widener Law School (Harrisburg) for his advice, and to Maria L. Barracca and Evan Kornfeld for their observations and comments on early drafts of this manuscript. The author can be reached by e-mail at kornfeldgroup@aol.com.

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