CE 397  Transboundary Water Resources

Jordan Basin




The Jordan River basin is shared by four sovereign states: Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and the Palestinian autonomy. Among its geographical, economical and political characteristics are:

 Hydrology of the Jordan River Basin

Upper Basin

There are four main sources of water in the basin: The flow of the main rivers, the perennial flow of the wadis, the flood flow of the wadis and groundwater supply. The upper basin is composed of the Banyas the Bareighit the Dan and the Hasbani. About 50-70% of the flow originates from springs: the Dan’s source is in Israel, the Hasbani’s in Lebanon and the source of the Banyas in Syria. The annual flow from these rivers is estimated at 572 million cubic meters.


The Yarmuk is the principal tributary of the system. About 20% of the basin area is (7252 square kilometers) lies within Jordan and the remaining 80% within Syria. All of the Yarmuk’s flow originates outside Israeli territory. The annual flow of the Yarmuk is estimated at 475 million cubic meters.

 Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee)

The lake is the main storage feature in the basin. It’s upstream location, the storage capacity make it the most strategic water body in the basin.

 Lower Jordan

The lower Jordan forms the border between Israel and Jordan and Jordan and the West Bank. It flows between Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) and the Dead Sea. About 20% of the lower Jordan’s flow originates within Israel. The annual average flow of the Jordan is estimated to be 538 million cubic meters respectively.


Israel and the West Bank Palestinians also rely on a group of aquifers: The Yarqon-Taninim aquifer is located on the western parts of the West Bank and its water flows down westerly towards the Mediterranean Sea. This aquifer supplies about 25% of Israel’s water consumption.

The second aquifer is the coastal aquifer which is shared by Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Another group of aquifers forms the eastern part of the West Bank and drains into the Jordan River.

The water agreement between Jordan and Israel

In October 1994 Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty that included a treaty regarding the share of the Jordan River’s basin water. The following key points were part of the agreement:

Questions for and Topics Discussion

  1. Given the water scarcity in the Basin and the population growth, what future solutions are attainable?
  2. Do Syria and Lebanon have the right to allocate the water originating in their territories? Obviously this will effect Israel’s and Jordan’s allocations downstream.
  3. Israel’s solution to the water scarcity is desalination; will this new water source hurt Israel in future water negotiations with Syria and the Palestinian Authority?
  4. Water and agriculture are used for political/ideological reasons. How does that affect Hydropolotics in the region?
  5. Is Israel violating the international law by transferring water outside the basin? If yes, why did Jordan still sign a treaty with Israel without objecting this violation?
  6. Is the Jordan-Israel agreement a good model for agreements? Is it practical and will it be sustainable over time?
  7. Why weren’t water rights discussed in the Jordan-Israeli agreement? Is this a good approach?

Required Readings

Elhance, Arun P., The Jordan Basin, Hydropolitics in the Third World: Conflict and Cooperation in International River Basins, United States Institute for Peace, Washington DC, 1999, pp. 85-122.

Shamir, U., Jordan River Case Study: The Negotiations and the Water Agreement between The Hashmite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel, Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential, UNESCO, Paris, 2003 - Especially pages 10 -15 which discuss the actual agreement reached between Israel and Jordan.  (Available online:  http://www.ce.utexas.edu/prof/mckinney/ce397/Topics/Jordan/Jordan-Negotiations.pdf)

Supplementary Readings

McKinney | CE397 Civil Engineering | UT Austin