The Usefulness of Water: A Study of the Jordan Valley

Student Author(s)

Benjamin Foss

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Janis Gibbs

Document Type


Event Date



Long before the discovery of oil, the most valuable resource to the inhabitants of the Middle East was water. Cities were built around it, and trade routes ensured that desert traders had access to water. With the population growth in the Middle East, water scarcity is an issue of national security. Poor Arab countries such as Jordan have to import fresh water to supply their citizens with drinking water. Water shortages stem from the political, military and economic interactions of the previous one hundred years, beginning with the European colonization. The division of the former Ottoman Empire by the British and the French was done without the consent of Sharif Hussein or other Arab leaders. The creation of Israel, a state whose boundaries have been contested since their creation, further denied water resources to the Arabs living in the Golan Heights, Jordan, Lebanon, and the occupied West Bank. Water resources then served as a catalyst for the 1967 Arab - Israeli War as well as the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Jordan Valley water politics are divided into three categories: a realist approach focused on security, an idealist approach calling for cooperation, and an ambiguity approach where discussion of water is left ambiguous to allow each state to take whatever steps it deems to be necessary. This research suggests that fresh water resources serve as a point of conflict between Arabs and Israelis and pose a significant security threat to the Middle East.

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