Northwestern Center for Water Research: Tackling the water scarcity in the Middle East and Israel

By Dale Benton

This May, an interdisciplinary group of experts will connect together and explore the ramifications of water scarcity across the Middle East.

In a public symposium held at the Northwestern University, Illinois, the second annual symposium on water in the Middle East and Israel, will look at how water scarcity is driving conflict and social instability.

“Robust long-term solutions to water scarcity are necessary for stable societies in the Middle East, which is ground zero for this global threat because of an extremely limited water supply,” says Aaron Packman, Director of the Northwestern Center for Water Research.

“Drought and the associated reduction in food production contributed directly to the civil war in Syria and thus to the global migrant crisis we face today,” Packman said. “This connection between water crises, food crises, civil unrest and large-scale involuntary migration has been identified by the World Economic Forum as one of the most pressing global threats over the next five to 10 years.”

A word from the sponsors

The symposium will be sponsored by the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Buffet Institute for Global Research.

Technically speaking
Six scholars will come together and explore the technological solutions to water scarcity, including desalination and precision agriculture; the socio-political aspects of water security in the Middle East; and strategies for international cooperation to achieve water security, peace and health in the region while factoring the added complication of climate change.


As the region’s leader om water management technology, including efficient irrigation and cutting-edge desalinisation techniques, Elie Rekhees, Associate Director for Israel Studies in Weinberg believes collaboration is key.

“The international community, the United Nations, humanitarian NGOs and academic research institutes can — and should — play a major role in enhancing cooperative policy.”

Climate change and the Middle East

Water scarcity is a problem confounded by the effect climate change has on the Middle East. The stakes are high to develop more resilient water systems and use water more efficiently in the region, especially with the specter of climate-change induced changes in precipitation patterns looming.

“The Middle East is definitely getting hotter, which means more evaporation and less overall water available,” Packman said. “Predications of future precipitation in the region are uncertain, and any shifts will cause disruptions and, potentially, threats.”


Speakers, topics and bios:

  • Hussein Amery, associate professor of international studies at Colorado School of Mines
    Topic: “Threats to water security on the Arab Gulf States”
  • Jean Cahan, director/chair, Norman and Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska
    Topic: “Explaining and resolving water security tensions in the Middle East: What can the humanities contribute?”
  • Yoram Cohen, distinguished professor of chemistry and biomolecular engineering at University of California, Los Angeles
    Topic: “Advances in water treatment and desalination technology in Israel: Regional and global benefits and challenges”
  • Naftali Lazarovitch, professor at Ben-Gurion University-Negev in Beersheba, Israel
    Topic: “Irrigation studies in arid environments: From measurements and models towards sustainable crop production” 
  • Seth Snyder, water initiative leader at Argonne National Laboratory
    Topic: “The state of technology for providing clean water” 
  • Neda Zawahri, associate professor of political science at Cleveland State University
    Topic: “Adapting to climate change in the Middle East”

Second Annual Symposium on Water in Israel and the Middle East: Regional Water Sustainability and Resilience

May 24, 2017

9:30 am to 4:00 pm

Hardin Hall, Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street, Evanston Campus


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