The Fertile Cresent is often referred to as the cradle of civilization. The map show the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. Not shown but equally important are the Jordan, which drains to the Dead Sea, and Lebanon’s Litani River.
Each of these waterways is shared between at least three countries, with the exception of the Litani, which has been determined to be entirely within Lebanon’s territory. Each is heavily overdrawn and plagued by mishandling, most often in the form of aging, leaky irrigation infrastructure.
The area was the scene of our mastery of agricultural and animal husbandry between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Cities such as Damascus and Jericho are believed to have been continuously occupied for the last 11,000 years. But current reports on all five drainage basins point to trouble brewing for the entire region.
Water issues are embedded in any geopolitical concerns for the region, but this far I have only written The Nile’s Annual Flood, Losing The Euphrates, and mentioned the Jordan in passing in Monitoring The Golan Heights. Like my attention on wheat production, examining rainfall and groundwater usage can provide insight into the potential for trouble far in advance of events that actually make the news.
Information on these waterways is fragmented, of wildly varying quality, often contentious, and the sources which pass the test for quality are typically deeply technical hydrological research. Understanding what is really happening with enough specificity to make good predictions is non-trivial, but it is my chosen task for the third quarter of 2013.
Phi Beta Iota: This is an example for first-rate geospatial analysis with a grasp of the fundamentals. Water is central to understanding the tensions in the Middle East — and has been ignored for 50 years. Had we spent a fraction of our “military” assistance budget on restoring the Dead Sea (which is being done, successfully, by a tiny handful of scholars on a shoe-string budget), and combined that with ethical diplomacy and policy, the Middle East would be prosperous and at peace today. Instead we chose to pamper our armaments industry and sacrifice the Palestinian people among others to despotic regimes among which that of Syria is the most beneign while Saudi Arabia and Israel, between them, terrorize everyone else.