The Yarmouk tributary to the Jordan River I: Agreements Impeding equitable transboundary water arrangements

Mark Zeitoun
School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; m.zeitoun@uea.ac.uk

Chadi Abdallah
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Beirut, Lebanon; chadi@cnrs.edu.lb

Muna Dajani
Middle East Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK; m.d.dajani@lse.ac.uk

Saʼeb Khresat
Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, Jordan; khresats@gmail.com

Heather Elaydi
Independent researcher; heather.elaydi@gmail.com

Amani Alfarra
Independent researcher; amani.alfarra@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: This article explores the ways in which two international water agreements on the Yarmouk tributary to the Jordan River induce or impede transformation to equitable transboundary water arrangements. The agreements in question were reached between Jordan and Syria in 1987, and between Jordan and Israel in 1994. Following a brief review of theory and a summary of the body of knowledge on 'model' agreements, the article combines official river-gauging data with interviews and textual analysis to query the text and role of the agreements, particularly in relation to key dams and other infrastructure. Both agreements are found to i) lack important clauses that could govern groundwater abstraction, environmental concerns, water quality, and the ability to adapt to changing water quality, availability and need; and ii) include both ambiguous and rigid clauses that result in generally inequitable allocation of water and thus of the benefits derived from its use. Due to their omissions and to their reflection of the asymmetries in power between the states, both agreements are found to be 'blind' to existing use, to be incapable of dealing with urgent governance needs, and to impede more equitable arrangements.

KEYWORDS: Jordan River, Yarmouk, transboundary water politics, water treaties, water agreements, hydro-hegemony, Jordan, Syria, Israel