"The social-ecological regulation of supply systems"

Case study Middle East: Conflicts on resources and governance processes in
arid regions under conditions of population growth

Diana Hummel

The subproject of political sciences deals with the issue of population growth and problems of water and food supply systems in developing countries. The analysis focuses on changing access, demand and availability of water under the following conditions: Changig demographic processes and patterns (increasing population numbers, as well as declining birth rates, migration and urbanization processes) and different political regulations of dealing with these social-ecological problems. With regard to intersectoral linkages and existing competitions among different sectors (private households/ muni-cipalites, agriculture and industry), a particular consideration will be given to relations between food supply and agriculture on the one hand, and domestic water use, on the other hand.

The population’s supply with goods such as drinking water and food is regulated by different actors. From the perspective of political sciences, the forms of access and dist-ribution and the therewith involved forms of power and control are of particular interest. In the discussion on causes and effects of water shortages considerations about population growth, the rising demand and its fulfilment play a major part. Mostly it is argued that the population’s sustainable water supply and food production become precarious and are put at risk by the rapid population growth. In regions whith water scarcity the demographic growth is generally regarded as exacerbating the problem.

The interactions between population growth and water supply result in the question „Who will use how much water in the future?“ This question may be interpreted as „Who has the right for how much water?“ or „Who has got how much political power to enforce his claims regarding the water use?“ Thus, the question arises how political (as well as socio-economic, cultural and legal) factors affect the water supply system. The goal thereby is to examine the role of demographic changes in the nexus of the complex problem.

Another main emphasis of the sudy is to analyse the origins and characteristics of conflicts as well as conflict resultions. Water resources, being a potential contribution as well as an instrument of conflicts, relate to different aspects such as water quantity and quality, changing demands and needs. Hydrological conditions overlap with geopolitical realities. Especially in arid and semi-arid areas the scarce water resources are linked to classic areas of conflict: power, security and welfare. The water issue frequently challenges inter- as well as intra-state power; and in many cases water is the cause and instrument of conflicts, but also of co-operation.

The study directs its attention to the various forms of political regulation, institutional arrangements and the different actors and actor groups which are involved.

For the case study the Middle Eastern region of the Jordan Basin (Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) was chosen. Regarding the relationship between demography, water demand and use on the one hand and disputes on resources and territory on the other hand, the region represents a particular extensive conflict conglomeration. The social-ecologial problems are characterized by aridity, water scarcity and a growing diminishment of water quality as well as an expanding gap between supply and demand, and a lack of sustainable management policies on the societal side. The region represents a complex system of watersheds which is geopolitically fragmented. The majority of water resources are to be found in areas over which political control is disputed. Thus, the dispute over territory is also a struggle over water. Since the 1950ies, the region suffers from water shortages. At the same time, a considerable population growth can be observed in the region of the Jordan River Basin which will continue for the coming decades.

One main hypothesis of the study is that within the conflicts on the water resources not only inter-state conflicts have to be considered, but also intra-state conflicts. In particular a growing competion between sectors, i.e. agriculture and municipal water supply can be observed, also as a result of population growth and urbanization processes. Because of the growing household demands for drinking water as well as the rising demand of industry the situation becomes worse, especially because agriculture is the only sector, from which water can be withdrawn. However, this diminishes its potential to meet the rising demand for food production and socio-economic development in rural areas. In this context, the study will discuss the potential of „Virtual Water Transfer“ as a possible new form of social-ecological regulations.

March 2006