Archive for July, 2009

Terry Spragg Comments on Water, Peace and the Middle East

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Terry Spragg, inventor of the Spraggbag, sent me an e-mail responding to my previous posting on Water, Peace and the Middle East. I thought it worth sharing.

 

Dear Gabriel,

 

Using waterbag technology to transport Turkish water to Israel and Palestine can eliminate many of the political and economic issues raised in your recent editorial, and by Dr. Shuval, in your comments on the excellent NEW YORK TIMES editorial, “Water for Peace” (July 13, 2009) written by Stanley Weiss.

 

(Your readers can visit YouTube and insert the words, “Spragg Bag” in the selection box to see a video of television news coverage of a demonstration of this technology, or link to www.waterbag.com for photos and more information.  For more a more detailed analysis of the economic and political possibilities that will result from a successful waterbag operation in the Middle East, your readers may want to read the selections from the novel, WATER, WAR AND PEACE, that appear on this website.)

 

“Spragg Bag” technology can be visualized as a modular fabric pipeline that can easily and inexpensively move large quantities of water through the ocean in an environmentally safe manner, using large waterbags connected together in long waterbag trains with the world’s strongest zipper.  Waterbag economics are easy to calculate.  Waterbag technology is easy to demonstrate.  It is the politics of waterbag technology that is the most difficult issue that needs to be addressed.

 

As Prime Minister Netanyahu has correctly analyzed, Peace will not come to the Middle East without the development of a viable Palestinian economy.

 

A viable Palestinian economy cannot be developed without a reliable and economic water supply.

 

Transporting Turkish water to Israel and Palestine using waterbag technology is the least expensive and most politically viable way to develop a new water supply for the region.

 

This is an easy and inexpensive theory to demonstrate and calculate.

 

Dr. Shuval’s $0.50/m3 cost for desalinated water produced at the Ashkelon plant does not include capital costs, which would almost double this $0.50/m3 cost for desalinated water.  An email from Saul Arlosoroff (Director of Mekorot and Chairman of its Finance/Economic Committee) to David Brooks (Friends of the Earth, Canada) confirms this statement.  The Ashkelon plant received special financing considerations and natural gas concessions which are not available for the development of the new desalination plants currently under construction and being proposed in Israel.

 

Using Dr. Shuval’s economics, waterbag technology could deliver water from Turkey to Israel and Palestine in the $0.30/m3 to $0.40/m3 range.

 

Israel would prefer not to rely on Turkey as a source for some of its water supply.  All nations would like to be water independent.  However, military and trade relations between Turkey and Israel remain strong (setting aside the brief discussion between Erdogan and Peres at the recent World Water Forum in Israel).

 

Israel transports most of its energy from sources outside its boundaries using the seas.  Water transports using the seas should be no different.  The United States seems to be willing to protect Israel’s energy supplies.   Protecting Israel’s water supplies should be no different.

 

Israel proposes to build desalination plants to produce water for the Palestinians.  If the Palestinians are expected to rely on Israel for the development of a new water supply it would seem that Israel should be comfortable in relying on an outside source for a portion of its water supply. 

 

Waterbags delivered directly to the Palestinians can avoid this dependency issue.  The United States should commit to defending both these water supply transport systems in the name of national security.

 

Israel can use shipments of Turkish water directly to the Palestinians as a test case for Israel’s analysis of the economic and technical reliability of waterbag technology before it makes a commitment to purchase Turkish water.

 

The Palestinian concern that by accepting water from another source before it resolves its dispute with Israel over control of the West Bank and Gaza aquifers can be put to rest by using waterbag technology.  Israel should agree that transporting Turkish water to Palestine is only a test case to prove the economic and technical reliability of waterbag technology for both parties.  The acceptance of Turkish water by the Palestinians should have no relationship to the current dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the water in the West Bank and Gaza aquifers.

 

As the drought in the Middle East continues this argument should gain more acceptance by both parties.

 

Past failures of waterbag technology can easily be overcome by implementing a demonstration voyage of “Spragg Bag” technology between Turkey and Israel.  This demonstration voyage plan has been presented by Gershon Baskin (co-founder [1988] of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information [IPCRI], and a representative of Spragg & Associates) to various Israeli, Turkish, Palestinian, Jordanian and American government and business representatives.  If the political leaders in the region will publically announce their support for a demonstration of “Spragg Bag” technology in the Middle East to the media, then a demonstration of this technology should be able to be implemented with ZERO COST to the region’s governments.

 

Stanley Weiss is 100% correct in calling for the United States to take a leadership role in helping to develop a secure water supply for the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Water is becoming the most critical national security issue facing the nations of the Middle East, and therefore a critical national security issue for the United States.

 

The insidious nature of drought in the Middle East poses a major challenge for America’s security interests throughout the region.  American political and business leaders must be wise enough to anticipate these events.

 

As the drought in the Middle East continues, and recognizing that water may become the most explosive issue to be faced between the Israelis and the Palestinians, perhaps the Business Executives for National Security, lead by Stanley Weiss, will be able to take an active leadership role in gaining America’s political and technical support for demonstrating how water can be transported as a tool for helping to bring “Water for Peace” in the Middle East.

 

Terry also sent me a number of documents related to his comments. These include:

·         a letter from Israeli President, Shimon Peres to Terry;

·         a letter from research engineer, Cliff Goudey, of the MIT Sea Grant College Program to Terry regarding the control and stability of navigating such large bags across oceans;

·         a number of press clipping on the possible transport of water from Turkey to Israel and the Palestinian Territories; and

·         an e-mail from IPCRI’s Gershon Baskin to Terry discussing his July 2008 meeting with the Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr. Shaddad Atilli.

Water, Peace and the Middle East

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, Stanley A. Weiss offers a grave perspective of the water situation in the Middle East. He writes that “the region is headed toward a water calamity that could overwhelm all efforts at peace.” Ominous words, but sadly, true.

 

Weiss, however, also offers a prescription for averting the tragedy.  Among his recommendations, water-rich Turkey should become a purveyor for the parched nations of the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan, Syria, the future Palestine, and possibly others. While such solutions have been proffered in the past, couched in the language of “peace pipeline” and “water plan for peace,” the politics of the region have always thwarted their realization. My sense is that they will continue to do so into the future.

 

While Turkey does have prodigious amounts of water in relation to its land area and population, and certainly in comparison with its neighbors in the Middle East, transporting water from Turkey to where it is needed will require negotiations of Herculean proportion. As Weiss notes, a water carrier from Turkey will have to run through Syria and possibly Lebanon. Unfortunately, neither of these nations is known for their stability or international cooperation.  In particular, the ongoing tensions between Syria and Lebanon (e.g., over the murder of Former Prime Minister Hariri), Syria and Israel (e.g., over the Golan Heights), Lebanon and Israel (e.g., over Israel’s 2006 conflict with Hezbollah), and Israel and the Palestinians (e.g., over security, human rights, and independence) make any cooperation over water seem illusory.

 

Yet, it must be stated that the reason that such a scheme is unlikely to materialize anytime soon is not just because of regional politics. It is also due to a historically ingrained lack of trust among the region’s countries. In order to implement the Turkish water solution, the nations of the Middle East would have to become comfortable being dependent on Turkey having ultimate control over an indispensible resource. Iraq’s and Syria’s ongoing water relations with Turkey suggest anything but comfort with Turkey’s management of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (see my prior post). Similarly, given the route of the water carrier, some nations would also have to be reliant on the amiability of countries in whose territory the carrier would run.

 

It has been said multiple times: water is life. Without it, life ceases to exist. Hence, the question: what country would willingly place its life, its peoples’ lives, in the hands of a neighbor, especially one who may be unfriendly? I suppose nations in Europe and North America might be more inclined to accept such a precarious situation in order to ensure their water supply. These, though, are nations with a history of cooperation over security, shared resources, migration, and other issues. I have my doubts, however, about the nations of the Middle East. With their long record of enmity and conflict, any accord that creates dependency would necessitate a significant calamity (such as widespread famine), immense international pressure, or some advantage that the subordinate State could not refuse (no, I cannot think of any examples).

 

Pessimism aside, Weiss’ other recommendations do hit the mark. Israel should be convinced to share its water expertise and technology with its Arab neighbors. Israel has long been a leader in water management techniques and technology and such an overture would not only help alleviate water scarcity problems in the region, but also serve as a basis for further cooperative opportunities. The U.N. also should mobilize a global effort to improve desalination efforts to make them less expensive, less energy intensive, and more environmentally friendly. Lastly, a new effort on water management should be brokered between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to replace the failed Joint Water Committee.

 

In addition, though, steps must be taken to overcome the inherent lack of trust shared by the region’s nations as it relates to fresh water. Specifically, Europe and the U.S. should embark on a new strategy with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and with any other nation in the region willing to exchange peace for water, for a comprehensive plan for water management and provision. Such a plan should have two main tenets.

 

First, the plan should be based on the undeniable reality that there just is not enough water in the Middle East to support everyone’s population, developmental, and environmental needs. There is a dire need to develop new sources of freshwater through desalination of sea water and brackish aquifers, treatment and reuse of grey water (non-industrial wastewater generated from domestic processes), and the capturing of rain and flood waters that otherwise go unused. Hence, a key aspect of the plan would be to generate financial, technical, and management support from Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere to pursue these new water opportunities. It would also involve assistance in developing the necessary infrastructure needed to deliver the water to where it is needed.

 

The plan also would be founded on the principle that, to the extent possible, no nation should have the ability to control the flow of water into another nation. While the elimination of all control factors is likely unattainable, the reduction of some measure of countries’ dependence on water resources originating or flowing from neighboring states will go a long way to lessening both water stress and political tensions. This principle would be implemented through two alternate but not mutually exclusive approaches. The first approach is through the creation of bilateral or multilateral water management and allocation institutions that have some degree of independence in their operation. Existing institutions that might be look to as models include, among others, the Mexico-US International Boundary and Water Commission, the Franko-Swiss Genevese Aquifer Management Commission, and the Council of Ministers and High Commission of the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River. Preferably as a complementary approach, but possibly as an alternative approach if the institutional strategy is deemed unworkable, the second tactic would pursue the augmentation of local water opportunities in each country as well as the reassessment of access points and allocations of transboundary waters to provide each nation with enhanced water security. For example, desalination on the Israeli Mediterranean coast would be expanded to benefit Israel in exchange for the Palestinians receiving a greater share of the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank. A similar approach could be employed between Israel and Jordan on the Jordan River.

 

Weiss’ warning of the coming “water calamity” in the Middle East cannot be overstated. Water is a life issue. But, it is also subject to political, economic, and security concerns, climatic variability, and a host of societal, national, and international interests that threaten to overwhelm any effort to achieve a lasting peace in the region. Although water could certainly serve as a basis for peace in the Middle East, success will hinge on generating a level of trust and cooperation that has yet to be seen in the region.


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Law of Transboundary Aquifers to be discussed at Stockholm World Water Week

Monday, July 6th, 2009

UNESCO-IHP, along with others, is organising a seminar during the upcoming Stockholm World Water Week on Sharing an Invisible Water Resource for the Common Good: How to Make Use of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers (TBA).” This looks to be a fantastic event and line up of speakers.

 

In preparation for the seminar, the organizers have launched an internet debate to allow contributions from the rest of us. Those contributions will be compiled in a final report and presented during the seminar in Stockholm. Brief comments, thoughts, and case studies can be sent to IHPSeminarWWW2009  “at”  unesco.org.

 

The following is my own initial contribution:

 

One of my concerns related to the Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers pertains to how nations, organizations and others view the articles. To many, I suspect the articles represent the law by which to judge the actions that States may take vis a vis transboundary ground waters (e.g., did the State comply with the legal obligation). And the emphasis is likely to be on the substantive articles of equitable and reasonable utilization (Draft Art. 4); no significant harm (Draft Art. 6); prevention, reduction and control of pollution (Draft Art. 12), etc. In order to employ these principles to their fullest extent, though, they would be applied ex post facto – after a particular action is taken that results in an alleged claim of violation. This is because the objective determination of what use may be equitable and reasonable, or whether a particular project will significantly harm another state, etc., is, at best, a very difficult exercise where the equity and reasonableness of a water use, or the magnitude of the harm, are mere projection.

 

What I hope is not neglected, thought, is the fact that the Draft Articles are also (or, more so) intended as proactive procedures designed to help nations manage their transboundary aquifers in ways that prevent waste and neglect and, especially, avert disputes among aquifer riparians. Some of the more significant include proactive procedural articles that could easily be implemented prior to or during the implementation of an aquifer-related project, including Draft Art. 8 (Regular exchange of data and information); Draft Art. 9 (Bilateral and regional agreements and arrangements); Draft Art. 13 (Monitoring); Draft Art. 14 (Management); and Draft Art. 15 (Planned Activities). Doing so would likely prevent subsequent violations of the substantive rules. Accordingly, I hope that States, IGOs, NGOs and others place greater emphasis and attention on the procedural provisions of the Draft Articles as a means for encouraging cooperation and collaboration, and for preventing dispute over shared waters.