Transboundary Strategies for the Resolution of the Water Deficit Problem in the Middle East

The Middle East is one of the driest areas in the world. Scarce freshwater resources cannot meet growing demand and are severely overexploited. Political tensions in the region make collaborative water management challenging. To avoid a widening of the regional water crisis, the SALAM initiative, led by the Applied Geology Department (Professor Sauter) of the University of Göttingen and Rusteberg Water Consulting, is developing transboundary water transfer strategies with partners from Germany, Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

SALAM calculates the future water budget of Jordan and Palestine for different scenarios. By 2050, households and industry are projected to lack 1300 million cubic meters of water. To meet this shortfall, SALAM is investigating the construction of innovative seawater desalination plants on the Mediterranean and Red Seas, which could be fed by renewable energy. The team is using an optimization model to determine the best transfer routes between desalination plants and water demand centers. Some produced water must be stored during periods of high precipitation to meet demand during dry periods. The partners are using hydro(geo)logical models to investigate intermediate storage in Lake Tiberias and in overused aquifers. The project is also investigating the necessary expansion of wastewater systems and options for the reuse of treated wastewater. The strategies developed will be integrated into a decision support system. This will allow decision-makers to compare strategies and select the most appropriate one, while weighing individual criteria.

SALAM is a continuation of work in the region that has been ongoing for more than 25 years. Close cooperation has emerged in the water sector, bringing together partners in the Middle East to find a common solution to the water deficit. SALAM is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 2.3 million euros as part of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) funding measure under the “Research for Sustainability” (FONA) strategy.

The project results are summarized in the SALAM Brochure.

Mukheiba well field near Yarmouk River in Northern Jordan (© Dr. Julian Xanke, KIT)