The Water-Energy Nexus Project aims at researching and advocating for a Water and Sustainable Energy Nexus approach to counter the effects of climate change and its potential negative security implications, while providing solutions to water scarcity in the region.
The project includes researching the technical, economic, and geo-political pre-feasibility of Jordan as a provider of large-scale renewable energy for the Levant with the coastal region of Israel and Gaza producing the desalinated water.
Given the present reality of climate change, desalinating Mediterranean seawater is a necessary adaptation measure, and investments in renewable energy are an important mitigation measure.
Agreements reached in Europe over steel and coal, were the backbone to the creation of a more peaceful Europe that lead to the creation of the European Union. The water and energy nexus could be the backbone to a more peaceful and sustainable Levant.
In the water sector, new technologies related to water supply, both in treating waste water for reuse in agriculture and in the desalination of marine water for domestic purposes have already revolutionized the water sector in Israel. From a water economy just a decade ago of 2 billion cubic meters, the development and adoption of these technologies has increased Israel’s water economy to over 3 billion cubic meters per annum today. Of critical importance to the Middle East peace process, the additional water available should make it more politically feasible to reach a water sharing agreement over shared natural waters between Israelis and Palestinians.
Likewise the discovery of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean has the potential to be another game changer. Israel has now gained energetic independence for at least the next two decades, and is already negotiating export deals, among them to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. However, natural gas reserves are limited and unsustainable. The gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean (Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Cyprus) should encourage the Levant countries to utilize the present energy windfall from gas to developing long term renewable energy solutions integrated with meeting region wide water needs.
The main country in the Levant that has the land reserves needed to generate large scale solar energy production is Jordan. A potential solar energy power house, Jordan is blessed with an average of 320 sunny days a year. Unlike Israel, Palestine or Lebanon Jordan holds the extensive desert land reserves needed to house the extensive solar farms that would need to be built to produce sustainable energy for the region as a whole. Jordan has recognized the solar potential, recently having passed a new law to promote renewable energy production including the creation of a fund to help promote investments.
Creating an integrating water and energy economy, for example between Israel and Jordan, could help meet the growing energy needs of both countries – linked to their needs for more fresh water through desalination – and counter the effects of climate change and its potential implications for security and stability in the region.
The long term relationship suggested is one of interdependence with Israeli, Palestinian and potentially Lebanese Mediterranean shores providing the much needed additional water to the Levant as a whole, in the short term fuelled by natural gas reserves, but in the longer term to be fueled by extensive investment in solar energy production in Jordan. While the Memorandum of Understanding signed in December 2013 between Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli Water Ministers, witnessed a new era for potential water exchange, the inclusion of energy into the mix makes for a far more sustainable interdependence of geopolitical interests in the Levant based on the water and renewable energy nexus.
Advancing such regional cooperation whether on limited cross border solar-based desalination, or broader water-energy needs in general, requires a multi-disciplinary multi-country effort of further studies to identify strategies to help overcome political obstacles and generate political will, based on studies related to environmental, economic and technical feasibility.