Why  we need to move  forward  right now  for  the Middle East Water Issues

Dursun Yıldız

Specialist on Hydropolitics

15 August 2019


The Tigris and Euphrates, with their tributaries, form a major river system in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Originating in eastern Turkey, they flow through Syria and Iraq into the Persian Gulf.

Tigris and Euphrates Rivers  play  very important role for future of the Iraq and about 70 percent of  Tigris and Euphrates Rivers  flow from Turkey. In this sense, water management cooperation is  important for Iraq to evaluate its water resources in a sustainable way.

The water equation of the Middle East has highly variable parameters and includes non-regional actors. Therefore, a multilateral water agreement has not been concluded for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. These agreements have been  bilateral agreements between riparian states

The security balance of this region of the Middle East has not allowed multilateral agreements on water in the past. Lack of confidence among countries has been one of the most important obstacles to progress in water management  cooperation.

The civil war environment in the region for the last 11 years has caused the destruction of the water infrastructure as well as the relations of the countries. Arid periods, which  has been effective to cause  the civil war in the region, are highly likely to repeat. There is a risk of a severe water and food crisis in the region in terms of climate  change effects and lack of water management . There is an urgent need for measures to prevent the increase of water and food crisis in order to stabilize the region. Uncertainty continues in many areas in the region. However, if the cooperation steps on water and food safety are not taken, this uncertainty will turn into new conflicts.

It is unfortunate that the uncertain political future of the region may result in  re-securitization of water in the region. This could eliminate long-term peace and stability in the region. For this reason, riparian states need to  shift paradigm and regional water problems  should not be  provided as a tool  to be used  outside forces’ own interest in the region.   Because oil resources will only provide economic input in the reconstruction of the region. Sustainability in the region will depend directly on the cooperation in water resources.

Even Small Steps are Vital  for Water

Turkey and Iraq have  potential for cooperation in the region and the two countries can collaborate in many areas. If the step that has been taken will continue in a prescribed plan ,  may allow the Middle East Water Equation to be rewritten. Under this circumtances ,these small steps that  have taken  should not to be underestimated  in the region

Iraqi Water Resources Minister Jamal Adil Agriculture and Water Committee Chairman Selam Eş-Şemri  and  a delegation chaired by Veysel Eroğlu  the Presidential Special Representative for Iraq met in Baghdad  in   the First of  August.

What to be  Provided by Turkey

During the meeting, the Turkish side had presented a series of proposals, such as the implementation of projects in the field of land reclamation, drinking water and sanitation, broadening the cooperation framework in the fields of economy and trade, and the establishment of a joint research center on water management in Baghdad.

Veysel Eroğlu, the Special Representative of the Presidency for Iraq, and his team announced at the meetings that they discussed all the activities that could be carried out together with Iraq in order to improve water management in the basin and to complete the infrastructure deficiencies

Priority will be given to the studies that can be carried out in this region, especially considering the water shortages and demands coming from Basra in order to reach Iraqi clean drinking water and prevent diseases caused by water.

In addition, the development of modern irrigation infrastructure and irrigation efficiency will be among the leading issues. Iraq, 90 percent of the water used in irrigation and need to be used more efficiently

For this, especially in Iraq, determining the irrigable economic areas, transition to modern irrigation systems will be given importance. Turkey will share the expertise and knowledge with  Iraq.

At the same time, preparations for training Iraqi experts, engineers and technical personnel were completed.

Water and wastewater management, treatment technologies, design of treatment plants, modern irrigation methods, dam operation hydrology and energy issues that can be realized in the training program proposals were prepared by the relevant units.

It is aimed to start these trainings with the participation of expert delegations to be determined in line with the needs of Iraq.Turkey and Iraq have also agreed to establish a water resources center in Baghdad to study and address water issues in the region.

It is late but a vital step for  the region

The meetings and last announcement on water issues from Turkey and Iraqi side can be considered as a late step taken but it is a vital step for the  region.

We have experinced that  to reach a concrete solutions on transboundary water management conflicts have not been easy in a short period. It requires several internal and external conditions to start. But once it starts we need to consider  past experiences and  innovative hydro diplomacy  to shape it to be sustainable .This sustaniability  also requires  shared goal ,shared vision and unity of effort  between neighbours. The most important key element for the applicable and sutainable cooperation is establishing a muttualy beneficial approach for regional development project .

It is  Time to Put an Innovative Hydrodiplomacy on the Table

We ,Hydropolitics Academy of Turkey recommend  that Middle East Water isssue  cooperation need to be shifted to cooperate  on Food Safety as well as water safety  on the base of muttualy beneficial approach in several  sectors.

All these can only be achieved by satisfying public interest with an explained simple road map. In the both countries, civil society can also play very important role to avoid misunderstandings in the progress.

Turkish side  “constructive” attitude towards riparian’s water issues open  some new doors at the right time. It seems that both countries favored a solution and water talks presented a great opportunity to benefit both Turks and Iraqis as well as entire  region.

 It is right  time to put an innovative hydrodiplomacy on the table.

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Why we need to move forward right now for the Middle East Water Issues

Author :

Dursun Yıldız is a hydropolitics expert and Director of the Hydropolitics Academy Association located in Ankara-Turkey .



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Dursun Yıldız


Civil Engineer-Expert on Hydropolitics

He was born in Samsun in 1958. He was graduated from İstanbul Technical University Civil Engineering Faculty in 1981. After completing his military service in 1983 he began to work in State Hydraulic Works Technical Research and Quality Control Department. While working here he participated graduate professional education and investigation programs in Holland and USA Bureu of Reclamation and US Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1998 he participated first “EU Master Education” program and later “International Affairs Proficiency” program in Ankara University European Union Research and Application Center. In 2000 he completed his MS thesis in the topic of water politics in Hacettepe University Hydropolitics and Strategy Research Center.
He worked for five years as the section head and for following 10 years as department deputy Director in State Hydraulic Works Technical Research and Quality Control Department. During this period he published more than 100 technical and scientific reports and papers. Then he worked as the department Deputy Director in State Hydraulic Works Domestic Water Supply Department and worked at the Planning and Investigation Department of the same institution and retired in 2007.

Dursun YILDIZ while working in State Hydraulic Works he lectured in the topics of water works in Gazi University Engineering and Architectural Faculty, Civil Engineering Department and water resources and hydropolitics in Hacettepe University, Hydropolitics and Strategy Research Center.

Dursun YILDIZ worked also as a executive committee member , Vice President in Chamber of Civil Engineers and Vice President of Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects .

Dursun YILDIZ, experienced in water,hydro energy management and consultancy for 25 years, wrote ten books and besides published several papers and technical reports in the topics of water engineering and hydroenergy in national and international periodicals.
He has awarded Successful Water Resarcher Prize of Year of 2008 by Agriculturers Associations of Türkiye .

He is a member of Scientific Commitee of Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA).

He is a member of Water-Soil-Energy Working Group that has followed development of water,soil and energy sectors since 2009. He is head of Ada Hydro-Energy , Strategy & Engineering Consultancy Co. Since 2007