Hydro-Politics of the Tigris and Euphrates Basins
Tigris-Euphrates river system, great river system of southwestern Asia. It comprises the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which follow roughly parallel courses through. PDF | Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are the longest Rivers in southwest Asia. meet their domestic, agricultural and industrial demands. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet in the present-day country of Iraq. They begin in the country of Turkey and flow through present-day Syria, although their .
Iraqi and Syrian Dams Figure 3. This has placed a further 36, people at risk of being displaced and shows the severity of the decrease in water levels, as these Karez are ancient and consistent sources of water that have nourished populations in the area for hundreds of years.
The report also found that water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates have fallen by more than two-thirds and warned that these vital lifelines could dry up completely by The decline in water flows has also led to decreased agricultural yields. Iraq reported its worst cereal harvest in a decade inindicating that with a decline in water supplies comes a potential food security problem.
Projections for are for record high levels of imported cereal crops due to lower domestic production. An increase in water levels after the ousting of Saddam Hussein has been followed by a return to critical levels just a few years later. Iraq has stated that the required river flow in the Tigris, Euphrates and Shatt Al-Arab rivers is cubic metres a second; but it has been measuring an average of just cubic metres a second, which illustrates the dire position facing the country.
Turkey promised Iraq a flow rate of cubic metres a second at the World Water Summit inbut so far this promise has not been fulfilled.
International Negotiations and Legal Framework Despite numerous attempted negotiations between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, there has been little progress. There was not another significant agreement formed until when Turkey agreed to maintain a minimum flow of cubic metres a second into Syria. Iraq and Syria also established a bilateral water sharing agreement inbut there is still no significant bilateral agreement between Iraq and Turkey, which is the source of much of the tension regarding water sharing in the region.
This is the key factor that needs to be addressed. Iraq underlines its long historical use of the Tigris and Euphrates water resources as the basis for its rights to sufficient access to these waters. Turkey, however, considers that approximately 90 per cent of the water in the Euphrates River and 50 per cent of the water in the Tigris originates in Turkey and that it is therefore its resource to do with as it pleases.
They cannot say they share our water resources. This is a right of sovereignty. We have the right to do anything we like. The United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses is the only truly global framework for dealing with disputes over waterways crossing international borders.
It also requires that states take all the appropriate measures to avoid causing significant harm to other states sharing an international watercourse. While these objectives are somewhat vague and potentially contradictory, they at least offer a framework for negotiation.
It is unfortunately a framework that has not been accepted by the global community, as the required number of signatories for the implementation of the convention has not been reached.
Because of its potential to create international moral and diplomatic pressure on specific nations, however, acceptance and ratification of this convention remains an important goal. Karun and Karkha Rivers usually contributes Its annual discharge at Fao city reaches Shatt Al- Arab River is characterized by its high sediments which resulted in the formation of large number of islands during its course.
Causes of the Conflict Number of factors escalated the conflict over water issues in the Middle East. The total population of the Middle East was about 20 million in this number tripled in and quadrupled to about million in and expected to double within 30 years .
Tigris–Euphrates river system
Accordingly, water allocation per capita decreases with the increase of population . However, this is not the case in many Middle Eastern countries which have unrealistic aspirations of food self-sufficiency and in it would require a most Figure 3. Water contribution to Shatt Al-Arab River .
Population characteristics within Tigris-Euphrates Basins modified from . Future predictions suggest more shortages and depletion of groundwater resources   .
Iraq and Syria were grain exporters and now they are importers. The capability of these countries to produce grains is less than that of Turkey . The goal of Turkey to turn its GAP area into a breadbasket will threaten the irrigation based agricultural potential of the lower riparian . Syria tries to achieve self-sufficiency long time ago and continue to be so.
It doubled its irrigated land and tried to use drip irrigation so that further increase can be achieved. This situation caused many people to join insurgents so that they can survive .
As far as Iraq is concerned, the plan was to be grain exporter by  . Iraq is importing all its food now  . The country was one of the few regional cereal exporting countries in the region in the past. Now it is evident from food shops in Baghdad for example that everything is imported apart from dates, which implies that the agricultural outcome is disastrous  . It should be mentioned however, that the goals of the governments in Syria and Iraq consider this plan of food self-sufficiency is of minor importance and priority is given to national security problems especially the threat of ISIS.
Energy Security Turkey uses hydropower relatively more than Syria and followed by Iraq . Due to the fact that Turkey is not an oil producing country, it does not like to rely on importing oil as an energy source.
GAP project is one of these sources where it is anticipated that it will reduce importing 28 million tons of oil . Syria relies on hydropower to generate electricity despite the fact that they have oil reserves and this gives Turkey the chance to threaten Syria by decreasing the discharge of the Euphrates using the GAP project.
Despite the continuous declarations from the Turkish Government that GAP is purely a development project, it seems that there are number of internal and external goals involved as well  - . Economic Development Syria and Iraq experienced rapid economic development and rising of the standard of living  due to the fast increase of oil prices. This raised the demand for water for domestic and industrial uses.
To achieve its development goals, Turkey is planning to use water. In addition, Turkey is trying to use water to improve its relationships with other countries by trading water. This aggravates the water shortages problem where in urban areas the water consumption is 10 to 12 times its rate per capita as village dwellers .
Technological Development Technological developments had increased water losses where large dams were build which increased evaporation rates and huge quantities of water is lost in irrigation projects due to inefficient irrigation methods. Riparian countries within the Tigris-Euphrates basins do not use new technologies to save water in their agricultural practices.
Syria tried to adopt new technologies in irrigation practices but it did not work because farmers could not adapt quickly to the new technologies . Before that, the Ottoman Empire dominated much of the Middle East for years.
During that period, conflict among different people dampened. After that, ethnic consciousness increased which lead to growing disparities and rivalries in the region and all the people became more competitive and nationalistic.
During the twentieth century cold war had a restraining effect on the likelihood of major conflicts, and this does not exist now. Surface waters and groundwater resources overuse and pollution became a source of friction and tension.
Good examples are the war between Israel and Arab states where water was one of the underlying causes as well as the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in where they occupied Litani River and diverted its water. Future prediction models suggests that groundwater in depleting    as well as surface water  -   . Restoring the marshes   and the growing demand for water in Turkey and Syria will lead to dry the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in .
International Water Laws Existing international laws might be suitable for non-arid regions like Europe but they are inadequate for arid regions like the Middle East. Legal principle exists in these laws, but there is no legally binding international obligations for countries to share their water .
Accordingly, agreements depend upon the goodwill of the riparian in any particular drainage basin. In this case a number of factors can raise the conflict such as relative position of the country within the drainage basin, degree of national interest in the problem and the power both internal and external available for the country to pursue its politics .
Water Availability Turkey argues that the allocation per capita in Iraq and Syria in suitable for the requirements of people in these countries Table 5 . Water Management Water scarcity problem have been exacerbated due to poor water management  in the Tigris and Euphrates basin. Extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticide in farming had affected the water quality of rivers and groundwater Figure 4 and Figure 5. Dumping of industrial and domestic waste in the rivers increased the pollution of these rivers in particular at the downstream riparian.
This causes dissatisfaction and frustration and crates irritation that might lead to conflict. Water allocation per capita per year in Turkey, Syria and Iraq a  ; b . In this context, these figures do not include certain problems like restoring the Iraqi marshes. Furthermore, when GAP project is completed these figures will be decreased. Salinity variation along Euphrates River since .
Salinity variation along Tigris River before and after . At Ataturk dam the TDS is about ppm. Within Iraq, the source of most of the back irrigation water is from irrigation projects that are located in the central and southern parts of the country 1.
Back irrigation water from these projects is directed to the main outfall drain which drains to the gulf in order to reduce the soil salinity . Despite the presence of these drainage measures, the salinity increases downstream along the courses of the two rivers in conjunction with decreases in their discharges Figure 6 and Figure 7.
This situation overstressed the agricultural sector in the southern Iraq. This is due to the effect of the feedback from Tharthar depression toward Tigris River .
Where some of the Tigris flood flows is diverted at Samara Barrage to Tharthar depression which is highly Figure 6. This forced the government to undertake a land rehabilitation program and a total ofha were reclaimed. Public Awareness Conservation is a cost-effective means of securing future water supplies since security of freshwater is emerging as a worldwide issue due to growing population and limited supplies, coupled with diminishing availability due to inadequate management, deforestation and increasing pollution.
To achieve secure and sustainable water for future generations, the efficiency of current water supply and usage needs to be improved. Such program should be an interactive movement in which different parties are engaged, each with their own roles, responsibilities and ways, to make their voices heard and create social pressure . Governments in the Tigris-Euphrates basins should adapt a multi-step framework for preparing an overall strategy and designing a public water awareness program that includes promotional activities, implementing the activities and monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness.
As a first step is to educate politicians and policy makers; water planners and managers; and social marketers and educators about the importance of water conservation in the potable water supply sector and how it may be approached, so that they can take part in national water awareness program and promoting it to society as a whole. Professionals in the water sector and education officials should setup special curricula in schools by developing and finding ways to introduce the subject.
The media can play an important role in raising awareness about the importance of water issues where the lack of public perception of the importance of proper water management and the ignorance of the impact of political and economic decisions of the long term guarantee of water resources are one of the biggest problems in the Middle East. Since agriculture is the highest water consumer in the region, farmers are to be educated on the use of new irrigation techniques that are suitable for arid regions.
It is believed that the countries concerned in the Tigris Euphrates Basins should adopt the outlines of the program set by . What are the rules and regulations for water and wastewater permits? How is the water produced and distributed? How is the wastewater collected and treated? How does your utility provide maintenance and repair services? What kind of customer service does your utility provide?
What conservation measures are in place? Total Dissolved Solids concentration at Samarra Barrage the supply- ing point to Tharthar depression. Iraq in particular and Syria are the lower countries in the basin and for this reason they always like to ensure the quantity of water required to satisfy their domestic, industrial and agricultural requirements.
Water-Shortage Crisis Escalating in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin
Turkey was the only country within the Euphrates basin and one of the only three countries that voted against the International Law Commission of the United Nation on the law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses in Turkey also considers that the convention does not apply to them and for this reason it is not legally binding .
In addition, Turkey considers that Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are in one basin due to the fact that they join together to form Shatt Al-Arab River while Syria and Iraq consider them as separate basins. Turkey also likes to negotiate all the water resources in Syria and Iraq while Syria opposes to discuss the water resources of other rivers in Syria Orontes River and upper headwaters of the Jordan including the Yamouk River.
As far as Iraq is concerned, they also refuse to discuss the water coming from the Iranian valleys to Iraq. Syria also laid claim to the Tigris, even though only 44 km run along their common border with Turkey. There have been number of attempts to find a common ground on water issues between the main three riparian countries since but no agreement signed yet.
The first treaty concerning the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers was signed between France as the mandatory power for Syria and Great Britain the mandatory power for Iraq in They agreed to establish a committee to examine and coordinate the use of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers  . One year later, another agreement was signed between Turkey and France as mandatory for Syria where it states in article 12 that Aleppo city can use the water of the Euphrates River.
Inthe agreement known as Lausanne agreement was signed between Turkey and allied powers. In this agreement it was agreed that issues related to trans-boundary water should be dealt with separately and with mutual respect. It also includes a provision that Turkey must consult Iraq before undertaking any hydraulic works article  .
In this treaty they agreed to cooperate together to use the Euphrates basin. Iraq and Syria gained their independence in and respectively. Turkey renewed its promise to consult Iraq before beginning any development projects on the Tigris and Euphrates in the Ankara Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborliness . It is considered as the first legal instrument of cooperation. They agreed that Turkey shall install and operate permanent flow measurement facilities and inform Iraq periodically about the recorded data article 3 and water infrastructure projects  .
The three riparian countries had their first set of talks about the Tigris Euphrates-Basin in The situation became very tense between Iraq and Syria, the latter promised to supply Iraq with million cubic meters MCM from Tabaqa.
InSyria was impounding Assad Lake which deprived Iraq of some of its promised water share. Syria claimed that it did not receive half of its normal flow from Turkey . Tension was so high that both countries amassed troops along their border in June, Saudi Arabia proposed that Iraq and Syria should share water on a basis proportional to how much water Syria receives from Turkey.
This eased the situation but no agreement was signed. Ina protocol for technical and economic cooperation was signed between Iraq and Turkey. Syria signed the protocol in According to the protocol, a joint technical committee JTC was established to study the issue of regional waters-particularly the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers  . In the s, Syria conducted subversive actions against Turkey where they allowed Kurdish and Armenian rebels attacking GAP projects to headquarter in Syria .
In that protocol, Article 7 of the protocol states that Syria and Turkey shall work together with Iraq to allocate Euphrates and Tigris water within the shortest possible timeframe. Article 9 asserts the intention of the two states to construct and jointly operate irrigation and hydropower projects on the two rivers . According to this protocol, Turkey should provide Syria with cubic meters per second of the Euphrates .
Iraq was frustrated that it was not included in the protocol and for this reason it did not allow Turkey to attack the PKK in Iraq and inIraq suppressed its Kurdish uprising in February60, Kurds fled to Turkey, further deteriorating their relationship . From January 13 to February 13, Turkey practically did not release water to Syria so that it can fill the Ataturk Dam. It governs the establishment of a Syrian pumping station on the Tigris River.
It also specifies project area and volume of water extracted . During the period tothe entire region experienced a drought which affected the amount of water that Turkey releases to Syria and Iraq.
They agreed that water is a focus point for cooperation between the two countries with emphasis on improvements to water quality, the construction of water pumping stations on the Syrian stretch of the Tigris and joint dams, as well as the development of joint water policies . In addition, Turkey agreed to assist Iraq through this drought with additional water, but this did not lead to any agreements on long-term water sharing .
In view of the present internal situation in Syria and Iraq with the occupation of ISIS parts of these countries, the water issue is not considered as a priority now. Now, the situation is very bad both in Iraq and Syria. Such talks or agreements are insufficient to begin discussions for a regional solution.
In view of this, a third party is required to intervene to bring Turkey, Syria and Iraq together because they failed to initiate successful triplicate negotiations. To entice Turkey to negotiate, two issues can be used. The first is its struggle to join the European Union which requires Turkey to improve its human right record. This can be done by involving the Kurds in a cooperative water utilization effort .
The second is external funding to finish the GAP project. Possible funding agencies are EU and World Bank. These agencies will require an agreement with downstream riparian counties before releasing any fund . Development assistance, by financial and technical support and increased water efficiency can be the enticement factors for both Iraq and Syria. This will help these countries in developing their agricultural plans including more innovative advanced projects .
An external mediator can highlight and frame the issues in such a way that each country believes that it is gaining by joining the discussion and will lose something by avoiding the discussions. Possible mediators can be: The World Bank has good history in mediating water disputes. In addition, it technical expertise to ameliorate the inefficient, water wasting practices of the countries involved. The riparian countries will also have the access to the Bank funding and the Bank itself has financial incentives to reach a resolution so that it can provide loans to these countries.
Turkey is connected with different treaties with USA and is willing to be part of EU as well as defense agreements e. NATO can force Turkey to join water issues negotiations.
The same applies for Iraq and Syria. All riparian countries would like to have the expertise, technical and financial support of these international powerful forces. UN has very good record for mediation in different occasions all over the world.
United Nation or its agencies e. This includes the needs and requirements. Furthermore, the UN can use the Security Council if required to enforce agreements. This country is considered legitimate by the riparian countries, plus it has the financial resources to contribute to a basin fund that would finance on going and future water related plans.
Saudi Arabia also has the experience in mediation where it resolve the conflict between Iraq and Syria during wher both countries were on the verge of war and Saudi Arabia brought both parties on the table of negotiation and achieved a final resolution.
Water-Shortage Crisis Escalating in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin - Future Directions International
Egypt has good experience in basin agreement gained from the Nile Basin initiative. It was involved in resolving the crises between Turkey and Syria in when Turkey accused Syria supporting the PKK and harboring its leader.
Egypt can use the lessons gained from the Nile basin conflict and apply them to resolve the Tigris-Euphrates basins conflict. For this reason, Iraq is the mostly affected country relative to Syria and Turkey. It covers an area ofsquare kilometers populated by about 32 million inhabitants. Iraq is facing serious water shortage problem as part of regionally problem   - .
Wilson  reported thatIraqis have fled their native communities since due to water shortages according to UNESCO study. The same study found that 70 per cent of the Karez in Iraq that were providing water in were dried up and abandoned by which put 36, people at risk of being displaced.
In addition, water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates have fallen by more than two-thirds and warned that these vital lifelines could dry up completely by . Decline in water supplies caused the worst cereal harvest in a decade in in Iraq, indicating comes a potential future food security problem . The problem is expected to be more chronic and severe in future.
MacQuarrie  estimated that the deficit in water will be over 20 billion cubic meters. Despite the differences in numbers given by various sources, there is an overall agreement that there is a gap between supply and demand    . The overall estimate of water required is 75 to 81 BCM . The agricultural land cropped is about 1. The rivers have several small tributaries which feed into the system from shallow freshwater lakes, swampsand marshesall surrounded by desert.
The hydrology of these vast marshes is extremely important to the ecology of the entire upper Persian Gulf. Historically, the area is known as Mesopotamia.
As part of the larger Fertile Crescentit saw the earliest emergence of literate urban civilization in the Uruk periodfor which reason it is often described as a " Cradle of Civilization ". In the s, this ecoregion was put in grave danger as the Iran—Iraq War raged within its boundaries.
The wetlands of Iraq, which were inhabited by the Marsh Arabswere almost completely dried out, and have only recently[ when?
In addition, Syrian and Iranian dam construction has also contributed to political tension within the basin, particularly during drought. General description[ edit ] Marsh Arabs poling a mashoof in the marshes of southern Iraq The general climate of the region is subtropical, hot and arid.
At the northern end of the Persian Gulf is the vast floodplain of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Karun Rivers, featuring huge permanent lakes, marshes, and forest. The aquatic vegetation includes reedsrushesand papyruswhich support numerous species. Areas around the Tigris and the Euphrates are very fertile. Marshy land is home to water birds, some stopping here while migrating, and some spending the winter in these marshes living off the lizards, snakes, frogs, and fish. Other animals found in these marshes are water buffalotwo endemic rodent species, antelopes and gazelles and small animals such as the jerboa and several other mammals.
Play media This visualization shows variations in total water storage from normal, in millimeters, in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, from January through December Reds represent drier conditions, while blues represent wetter conditions.