TIGRIS AND
The Euphrates is the longest river in western Asia.
   Arising near Mount Ararat at heights of around
  4500 m near Lake Van, the Euphrates drops on
average 2 metres per kilometer of length in Turkey
             and then crosses into Syria.
In Iraq, the Euphrates reaches a giant alluvial delta
 at Ramadi where the elevation is only 53 m above
sea level. Further downstream, near Nasiriyah, the
river becomes a tangle of channels, some of which
    drain into the shallow lake of Hammar as the
remainder joins the Tigris at Qurna. The Euphrates
        has a very gentle gradient in Iraq.
 The River Tigris, which is the second-largest river
    in western Asia, originates near Lake Hazar
(elevation 1150 m) in eastern Turkey. The Tigris is
  fed by several tributaries in Turkey. It forms the
 Turkish–Syrian boundary for 32 km, and crosses
     into Iraq. Within Iraq, the Tigris has several
   tributaries which contribute significantly to the
      water potential of the river. The combined
  Euphrates and Tigris rivers are named Shatt-al-
 Arab, forming a river almost a kilometer wide and
  190 km long. Iran is a co-riparian of the Tigris–
 Euphrates system by virtue of her contribution to
   the River Tigris via the lesser Zab, Diyala and
                  Karun rivers.
    The estimates of mean annual natural runoff of the
     Euphrates and Tigris rivers are given in Table 1.
      The characteristic feature that distinguishes the
hydrological regime of the Euphrates–Tigris river system
is the irregularity of flow both between and within years.
   The annual precipitation in the Anatolian and Zagros
       highlands exceeds 1000 mm. There are steep
  differences between maximum and minimum monthly
 flows, which for the Tigris are nearly 80-fold and for the
 Euphrates 28-fold. The concentration of discharge over
 the months of April and May causes not only extensive
spring flooding, but also the loss of much-needed water
  required for irrigation and power generation purposes
              during the summer season.
   The hydrologic records (1946–1994) of
 average annual flow for the Euphrates and
  Tigris rivers are shown in Figure 2. At the
  Turkish–Syrian border, for the Euphrates,
    annual discharge values range from a
    minimum flow of 14 km3/y (1961) to a
     maximum of 57 km3/y (1969). The
discharge values for the Tigris at the Turkish
border dropped to 7 km3/y in 1961 and rose
           to 34 km3/y in 1969 .
   It seems that the anticipated combined demand for
water from transboundary rivers by riparian counties is
     actually greater than the total volume of the river
 system as could be seen from Table 4. Turkey started
     the GAP project in the 1960s which is a group of
thirteen projects ( The full development of 22 dams and
  19 hydropower plants). The mean natural flow of the
  Euphrates is about 32 billion cubic metres (bcm) per
 year. It is estimated that as much as 90 percent of the
 total flow of the Euphrates is generated within Turkey,
    with a further 10 percent produced by runoff from
      Syria. Except in times of unusual rainfall, Iraq’s
  contribution to the Euphrates water is almost nil.
            Water availability
Water use and water availability can be expressed in cubic •
 metres per capita per year, which is total annual average
  runoff in a country divided by population. When water
 availability per capita is 500 m3/person per year or less, a
country is accepted as being beyond the ‘water barrier’ of
  manageable capacity, which is the case for Jordan and
 Palestine. The limit of 1000 m3/person per year indicates
chronic ‘scarcity’, while less than 1600 m3/person per year
    is termed as water ‘stresses. For the real water-rich
   countries of northern Europe and Canada, the water
                    availability is around
 10 000 m3/person per year or more. Water availability in •
         Turkey, Syria and Iraq is given in Table 6.
     The total storage of the existing dams on the
   Euphrates is 148.8 km3, or five times the river’s
      average annual flow. On the Tigris, existing
     storage totals more than double the average
annual flow of the Tigris. The values given in Table
    4 represent the best estimates of the extent of
irrigable lands in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. At present
it is estimated the irrigated areas cover 202 000 ha
  in south-eastern Turkey, 350 000 ha in Syria and
               2.8 million ha in Iraq.
Many innovations may affect the water supply and
    the use within the next four decades, the full
development scenario indicates a water deficiency
   in the Euphrates basin (Table 5). This picture
  signals a water shortage that will emerge some
 time after 2020. The application of water-saving
 techniques in irrigation could help to save 10–
   20% of irrigation demand. Turkey has already
     started using water-saving technologies by
switching to low-pressure pipe systems rather than
            open canals and flumes.
   The use of water-saving innovations requires
higher investments and necessitates education
of the farmers, which may take years to progress.
     Nevertheless, once the full use of water is
   reached, water-saving techniques become
compulsory as part of a scarcity regime. Water
   pricing is one of the key issues that must be
  introduced if efficiency of water use is targeted.
 Properly applied, water pricing can not only bring
  about some water saving opportunities but also
     provide much-needed funds for improving
 distribution systems. Conversely, a lack of water
 pricing would encourage waste and improper use
                      of the water.
      It is obvious that, in the full
     development of the basin, the
   independent undertakings of the
  three riparian countries may bring
 too many reservoirs into existence,
      which may cause excessive
     evaporation. Through full co-
ordination of river system operation
by the three countries, up to 7 km3/y
 (or 50%) of the evaporation may be
The most important era of the negotiations on the
waters of the Euphrates–Tigris basin involved Joint
 Economic Commission (JEC) meetings and Joint
    Technical Committee (JTC) meetings. These
     meetings were initiated in December 1980.
   Although 16 JTC meetings were held between
 1981 and 1992, no consensus could be achieved
for the settlement of disputes. The main argument
      of Iraq during the negotiations was over its
  ‘acquired rights’ or ‘historical rights’ which stem
     from the existing water installations and the
              ancestral irrigation systems.
 In 1995, ‘Three-Stage Plan for Optimum, Equitable
    and Reasonable Utilization of Transboundary
  Watercourses of the Euphrates–Tigris Basin', was
      proposed, which involves: (1) compiling an
    inventory of water resources; (2) compiling an
inventory of land resources; and (3) determining the
  optimum total water demands of each country for
 domestic, industrial and agricultural requirements.
  Syria and Iraq stated that the Turkish three-stage
  plan could not lead to an equitable and reasonable
 solution. They accused Turkey of trying to seize the
largest portion of Euphrates waters, which should be
  accepted as collective property. They insisted that
 the Euphrates and Tigris are separate international
     Problems Related to Water
    The anticipated and declared demands of the •
  riparian countries are greater than the total water
volume of the two rivers. Water is already becoming
 a scarce commodity, as the 1999–2001 drought has
proven. There is a need to devise an arrangement for
using the waters of the Euphrates–Tigris river basin
     in a rational, equitable and sustainable way.
  Uncoordinated and independent actions of basin
 countries may result in some difficult problems for
 which remedies cannot easily be found. With proper
    and coordinated planning and implementation,
    however, many of those problems may be pre-
  empted, eliminated or greatly minimized. Some of
      the important problems of water resources
  development and existing misconceptions are as
     Environmental Problems—
     Mesopotamian Marshlands
One of the more recent controversies about environmental •
      problems was started in 2001 by a United Nations
 Environment Program (UNEP) report which stated that,
      between 1970 and 2000, 90% of the marshlands of
Mesopotamia, which originally covered an area of 15 000–
 20 000 km2, had disappeared . A long-term recovery plan
   requiring a holistic river basin approach based on the
  ultimate goal of sustaining riverine ecology and in which
  all Tigris–Euphrates riparian countries share the rivers’
  water in a coordinated and equitable manner was called
   for. Priority was to be given to allocating an adequate
amount of water to the wetlands, while water releases from
 existing dams could be timed to natural flow patterns and
              bring the marshlands back to life.

                TIGRIS RIVER BASIN
Iraq was strongly opposed to examine the possibility   •
of covering possible shortages of water supplied by
the Euphrates through diverting a part of the Tigris
River’s water to the Euphrates and insisted on
negotiating only the waters of the Euphrates, Syria
joined Iraq in advocating that the rivers be
considered separately. Hence, in 1972 and 1973 a
series of JTC meetings were held. The impounding
of both reservoirs, (The Tabaqa and Keban were
completed during this period (1974-1975)), in the
following two years escalated into a crisis in the
Spring of 1975 , a war over water was averted when
Saudi Arabia mediated that extra amounts of water
be released from Syria to Iraq.
  Turkey refuses the downstream countries having the
rights of co -sovereignty on the waters of the upstream
country. The Turkish position is that international rivers
 are only those that constitute a border between two or
  more riparians. Turkey considers the Euphrates and
  Tigris as a single Transboundary river system, which
          crosses the common political border.
  Advantages of Co-operation
There are distinct advantages if the basin countries •
come together and put forward plans for coordinated
development. Some of the areas of possible co-
operation are:
• The waters of the Euphrates and Tigris can be •
utilized equitably and effectively, taking into account
seasonal and yearly variations in flow due to floods
and droughts.
• Conjunctive use of interconnected water and •
energy systems can be realized.
• Basin-wide management using remote sensing, •
geographical information systems (GIS) and
optimization technologies can promote optimal use
and water savings.
• Joint regional research institutes, training centres •
and pilot farms can be developed to exchange not
only engineers and technicians but also farmers.
• Water-augmenting techniques such as water    •
harvesting, conjunctive use of surface and
groundwater sources, reuse of return water and,
if necessary, cloud seeding, can be studied,
encouraged and practiced.
• Demand management plans can be developed •
for municipal and irrigation water supplies,
especially for possible drought periods.
• Co-operative action may facilitate the •
achievement of environmental sustainability.
The overall objective of a Middle East water •
agreement is to provide sustainable utilization of
the region’s land and water.

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