The International Rivers in The Arab Homeland


The Arab Homeland gets 76 per cent of its surface water from outside its international borders. This reality has imposed a geo-political weakness on the Arabs. There are 50 permanent running rivers, one of four of them are international. Therefore, the Arab Homeland is threatened, from time to time, with regard to its water resources and these threats become more obvious in relation to international rivers such as the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Jordan and the Nile, particularly when the countries of origin of these rivers have built a number of their own irrigation projects, dams, lakes etc. on these international rivers.

   There are other international rivers suffering from crisis although less severe, but which could lead to conflicts in the future, such as the Senegal, the Shibeli and the Juba (the latter two in Somalia).

   Besides, there are international rivers receiving their waters from the Arab homeland and running toward foreign neighboring countries. They are subject to threats and crisis from these surrounding countries like Israel and Turkey, either to increase their share of the water or to use the rivers for political gains, as with the Orontes when Turkey tries to put political pressure on Syria.

   A third type of international rivers in the Arab Homeland, is those getting their waters from Arab lands and then run into other Arab states, like the rivers Mejerdah (Algeria to Tunisia), Deraa (Morocco -Algeria) and Yarmouk (Syria Jordan). There are problems related to such rivers between Arab state themselves.

   The book consists of three chapters and supplements.


Chapter One:

This chapter deals with the international rivers in the Asian parts of the Arab Homeland. Among them are the Euphrates and its tributaries and the irrigation projects built since the 1950s until now, both in Syrian and Iraqi parts of the Euphrates. The proposed irrigation projects in these countries could lead to conflicts.

   Also the River Tigris and its tributaries in Turkey with their projects and the regime of the river were fully studied both in Syria and Iraq. The study also covers the Iraqi rivers coming from Iran and which Iran has redirected towards Iranian lands. 

   The River Jordan was studied as well as its tributaries like the Dan, the Banias, the Hasbani, the Wazzani and the Yarmouk, with respect to their origins, regime and the volume of their annual water resources . Finally, this chapter deals with the Orontes River which originates in Lebanon and runs through Syria and Turkey, and the irrigation project already built on it.


Chapter Two:

This chapter deals with African rivers in the Arab Homeland, including the River Nile which has been followed from its African lakes (the White Nile), then its tributaries from Ethiopia (the Sobat, the Blue Nile and the Atbara), and in addition the Bahr al-Ghazal, the Bahr al-Jebel (White Nile), the Naubi Nile and others. Light is shed on the Nile and its tributaries in the Sudan and its course down to Egypt, as well as the projects built on the Nile in both Egypt and the Sudan.

   The study also covers the Senegal River, passing through Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Mauritania, with its branches and tributaries in these states and the problem of water sharing. In addition, the development and administration of the Senegal River valley through the Senegal Valley Organization (MOVS) are discussed, including the agreement between these states about the development and proposed water projects on the Senegal. Finally, the author discusses the rivers Juba and Shibeli in Somalia, their origins and tributaries as well as the irrigation projects built on them and ways of improving agriculture in these areas.


Chapter Three:

In this chapter three rivers in the Arab Homeland are studied, their countries not facing any acute water conflict or severe problem for the time being at least. The River Mejerdah and its tributaries, running from the Constantine region in Algeria to Tunisia and the Mediterranean Sea. The Mejerdah is the only river in Tunisia which is running continuously during the whole year. The projects on the Mejerdah are also discussed.

   The second river is the Deraa (Dra) which forms part of the border between Morocco and Algeria. Its projects are also discussed.

   The third river is the Yarmouk which originates in Syria and passes through Jordan to join the River Jordan south of Lake Tiberias. The proposed projects on the Yarmouk are thoroughly discussed.

   Finally, the chapter brings up the ArabArab problems about water in the Arab international rivers which the author thinks could become a cause of tension between Arab states in the future. This has already happened between Iraq and Syria, when a quarrel over the Euphrates water almost lead to a war between the two countries in the mid-1970s. Thanks to Arab mediators this war was prevented.

   There has been conflict between Syria and Jordan about sharing the River Yarmouk, and between Syria and the Lebanon about the Orontes waters. Both of these conflicts were eventually solved. There is also a problem between Egypt and the Sudan about sharing the excess water of the River Nile. The problem between Algeria and Tunisia about the Mejerdah and between Algeria and Morocco about the River Deraa. Finally, the author has proposed a number of formulae to make an Arabic Law of Waters and to form an Arabic law court to look into this kind of matters arising between Arab states.



In this section there are graphs, tables and a bibliography of Arabic and foreign references, books and journals.

   This study is a complement to eight previous studies published by the author about Middle Eastern water. The aim is to shed more light on the biggest problem in the 21st Century in the Arab Homeland, a problem which could lead to disruption of the relations between these countries which are already fragile because of water-related conflicts.