water energy nexus
The Water-Energy Nexus (WEN) is EcoPeace’s flagship project for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and 1 of 4 pillars of our proposed Green Blue Deal for the Middle East.
EcoPeace has long advocated for a regional water-energy-nexus between Jordan, Israel and Palestine – a nexus that would create healthy and sustainable regional interdependencies based on critical natural resources, with Israel and Palestine producing desalinated water and selling it to Jordan, and Jordan selling Palestine and Israel renewable energy, thereby enabling each partner to harness their comparative advantage in the production of renewable energy and water.
While the EcoPeace-led UAE/Israel/Jordan water-energy agreement brokered in November 2021 was a significant breakthrough, the potential impact of the WEN goes beyond Jordan and Israel, and must include Palestine. It could also expand to include additional countries such as Lebanon (adding coastline), Egypt/Sinai (adding both coastline and desert areas), Saudi Arabia, and parts of Syria and Iraq. In fact, the WEN model for optimizing natural resource-management via collaboration between hinterland and coastal areas, is relevant worldwide.
Agreements reached in Europe over steel and coal were the backbone to the creation of a more peaceful Europe and led to the formation of the European Union. We believe the WEN could be the backbone to a more peaceful and sustainable Levant.
In the water sector, new technologies related to water supply, both in treating wastewater 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 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 develop long term renewable energy solutions and meet 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 integrated 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.