Water Resources Working Group

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.

  1. Enhancement of water data availability
  2. Water management practices, including conservation
  3. Enhancement of water supply
  4. Concepts of regional water management and cooperation

Taking into consideration that the water resources of the region are already fully exploited and demand for water is rising rapidly, the issue of water has become one of the most urgent. Given its importance to sustaining the quality of life and future economic development, emphasis is being placed on enhancing existing resources and developing new, additional resources, including desalination and sewage treatment.

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.

Following are several projects carried out to date:

The Regional Water Data Banks Project is organized to improve the availability and applicability of water data information. 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. As a result of continuous collaborative work since January 1995, the Regional Water Data Banks Project has achieved some remarkable successes. 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. Among the donor countries taking part in the initiative are Canada, France, the Netherlands, and Australia. The Water Data Banks Project has a web site located at: .

The Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) – The Center, established in Oman in December 1996, coordinates and sponsors basic and applied research in the area of desalination. The U.S., Israel, Japan, Oman, the E.U. and Korea are the founding members of this first regional center, and comprise its board of directors. A number of training courses have been held for regional participants.

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 technical areas.

    The Public Awareness and Water Conservation Project, established in 1996, is 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. The second major activity underway, WaterCare, is the preparation of a Student Resource Book, Teacher’s Guide, and complimentary Web Page focused on regional water conservation issues that are regional. 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. 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 January 2001.

    The Middle East Regional Study on Water Supply and Demand Development – 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 elaborate specific proposals for the provision of additional water resources on the basis of a comprehensive demand forecast, and develop a concept for coordinated future management of all regional water resources. 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 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.

    Comparative Survey of regulatory and legal frameworks of water laws, pricing and management – A comparative study outlining these issues has been conducted by the Norwegian government through CESAR. In June 1996, the Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian (Core Party) participants adopted a Declaration of Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water Resources identifying principles for regional cooperation.

    The first result of this survey was the establishment of the Waternet project, designed to develop a computerized information system for water related issues to serve as a tool for researchers in the region and to enhance regional cooperation. 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 the establishment of a Regional Waternet and Research Center in Amman, Jordan, to begin operation in 2000.

    Optimization of Intensive Agriculture under Varying Water Quality Conditions – This project, established in 1996, is 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.

    Water Sector Training Program – The importance of the water issues in the region led the Working Group on Water Resources in April 1994 to accept a joint United States/European Union proposal for a Regional Training Program in the water sector. 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. 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.