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New Book Explores Water Management Solutions Across International Borders

Located half a world apart, the Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin regions are two of the world’s prominent arid transboundary areas, and they face very similar challenges. 

A new book edited by UA water experts Sharon B. Megdal, Robert G. Varady and Susanna Eden, "Shared Borders, Shared Waters: Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges,” explores those challenges.

Presented as a collection of papers examining the management of cross-border water supplies in arid regions, the book is based on a 2009 workshop presented by the UA Water Resources Research Center (WRRC). Called the "Arizona-Israeli-Palestinian Water Management and Policy Workshop," or AzIP, the event brought together for the first time the similar water challenges facing the two regions.

Varady, an authority in U.S.-Mexico water management, supported the idea of hosting the workshop in Tucson after he attended a 2006 UNESCO-sponsored meeting between key Palestinian and Israeli scientists and water managers.

“Given the decades-long hostility between the two sides and the near impossibility of open, diplomatic discussion of critical shared water supplies, I found it remarkable that such an exchange of ideas could take place at all, let alone that it could remain cordial and productive,” he said.

The new publication stresses the need to avoid potential social or political conflicts in the search for cost effective ways to meet water needs in these water-scarce regions.

Released last month by CRC Press, a division of the Taylor & Francis Group, the presents research and expertise of economists, policy experts, geographers, historians and water scientists in an effort to solve trans-boundary water issues and relieve stresses on over-allocated water sources.

“It is essential to research and implement water solutions that meet the needs of neighboring societies,” said Megdal, WRRC director and lead editor. “Both science and diplomacy play vital roles in the search for sustainable solutions for divisive, complex water challenges.”

Megdal noted the commonality of water challenges in arid climates around the world.

“Bringing together different cultures and interdisciplinary backgrounds can help develop solutions for shared water sources through scientific diplomacy," she said.

Also, Eden said the AzIP workshop and subsequent book provided a unique opportunity to examine Arizona’s water policies and management in a new light. 

“The view of familiar issues and solutions is subtly altered by placing them next to the issues and solutions of another region, very different in history, politics and culture but very similar in many of the challenges they face,” Eden said. “I believe this shift of light can provide important insights. It certainly raises new and interesting questions and invites future collaborations.”

“Shared Borders, Shared Waters” is available through CRC Press.