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Water security is national security

A Stanford project in Jordan, a nation that is traditionally a stabilizing force in the Middle East, holds promise for better water management and less conflict in arid regions around the globe.

Water insecurity is a growing threat throughout the arid Middle East. But just as conflict over water can fuel instability, sound water management and regional cooperation on water issues can bolster harmony.

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment's Global Freshwater Initiative spearheads an interdisciplinary effort aimed at improving water security by developing new approaches for enhancing the sustainability of freshwater resources in Jordan and, ultimately, arid regions throughout the world.

Called the Jordan Water Project, this team of hydrologists, economists, political scientists, geographers and engineers is developing a sophisticated planning model that will provide simulations of how various decisions might affect water security. The end result: more effective water management and stronger water security.

Photo Courtesy of Global Freshwater Initiative

The Dead Sea off the coast of Jordan is currently declining at a rate of 1 meter/year due to upstream diversions.

1.8 billion people will face water scarcity by 2025

Jordan's many freshwater challenges include long-term drought, transboundary water competition and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Despite the challenges, countries like Jordan could go a long way toward water security just by overhauling their approach to long-term management of water systems. "So many of these issues are institutional, about government, finance and upkeep," said Jim Yoon, a graduate student in Environmental Earth System Science and a researcher on the project.

Photo Courtesy of Global Freshwater Initiative

Irrigation canal in Jordan

Water security has an important role to play in the search for solutions to poverty and other conditions that breed extremism, according to the Global Freshwater Initiative's director, Steven Gorelick, the Cyrus Fisher Tolman Professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute. Jordan, a stabilizing force in the region, is the ideal place to tackle the problem, he said. "It is, by our measures, the most water-vulnerable country in the world," Gorelick said.

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