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Transboundary Water Basin Management

Final Report Summary - TRANSBASIN (Transboundary Water Basin Management)

In many parts of the world water resources traverse political boundaries. The sustainable management of these transboundary water resources by necessity requires regional cooperation among riparian states. Coupled with physical water scarcity, is the increase in demand for water by growing populations and expanding economic sectors. In regions in which political relations are fragile, these transboundary water tensions can prevent the establishment of a lasting peace or even erupt into active conflict.
In this Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) we studied the Jordan River basin, shared by Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, and the Guadiana River basin, shared by Portugal and Spain. The objective of this program was to provide a scientific forum for the establishment of a common ground for these basins as case studies of conflict and cooperation in river basin management and to identify the principles and mechanisms that both promote and hinder cooperation. Lessons learned from this project can be applied to other transboundary river basins in Europe and throughout the world.
As much as they disagree about territorial boundaries, often to the point of fracturing diplomatic relations with one another, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have little choice but to reach agreements on the distribution of water — a resource that crosses political boundaries. The improved understanding of the Jordan and Guadiana River management practices and comparative analysis of different operational experiences highlight the mutual benefit to be gained by the exchanges in knowledge pertaining to transboundary water resources.
The exchanges in the framework of TransBasin helped the participants build on water management governance tools based on state-of-the-art methods learned from the diverse and multidisciplinary group of researchers. In addition, the researchers were able to develop proposals for further research to be funded by international bodies such as the European Community, USAID and private foundations.

The program began with strong working relations between the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian partners who have a history of collaboration even when regional political tensions are high. The exchanges were based on existing research projects that were expanded and intended to include a trans-European dimension. These focused on transboundary stream restoration, transboundary wastewater management and ecosystem services. The transboundary working relationships and trust were created not only from working with each other but also travelling with one another and jointly working towards solutions to environmental issues that are particular to the area.
Due to the economic crisis in Europe, and severe restrictions on mobilization of funds, in 2012 it became apparent that there are critical difficulties affecting the involvement of the additional European partners in the consortium. Therefore, the first period of the program implementation was focused only on exchanges between Israel, Palestine and Jordan. By the end of 2013 Annex 1 – Description of Work, was modified to reflect the new consortium which emerged and resubmitted for approval by the European Commission. The new consortium was comprised of the following partners: Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Center for Transboundary Water Research; Masar Center, Jordan; Palestinian Wastewater Engineers Group, Fundacao da Faculdade de Ciencias da Universidade de Lisboa (FFCUL). With the new consortium researchers and early stage researchers focused on understanding the current management of the Jordan River Basin and the Guadiana River Basin, the legal framework of which the management of the basins is managed and identified the gaps and possible improvements to better manage both river basins. The results of these studies are several publishable papers, that contribute to the existing literature on transboundary water management.
It is important to note that the overall program objective did not change with the new consortium, however, it was reformulated to reflect the new areas of expertise presented by the modified consortium. Despite the major hurdles and not completing the entire secondment months awarded, the program was very successful in promoting research exchanges, collaborative research outputs and most importantly in improving the trans-European partnerships between the consortium members. Strong working ties and program goals and outputs were attained.