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Water, the Mid-East Conflict and Public Health: from Zero-Sum to Win-Win

Abdeen, Ziad*; Safi, Jamal; Richter, Elihu

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000362958.09762.56
Abstracts: ISEE 21st Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, August 25–29, 2009: Poster Presentations

*Al Quds University, East Jerusalem, Palestinian Territory, Occupied; †Environmental Protection Research Institute, Gaza, Palestinian Territory, Occupied; and ‡Hebrew University-Hadassah, Jerusalem, Israel.

Abstracts published in Epidemiology have been reviewed by the organizations of Epidemiology. Affliate Societies at whose meetings the abstracts have been accepted for presentation. These abstracts have not undergone review by the Editorial Board of Epidemiology.


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Background and Objectives:

Current severe water shortages in the Mideast result mainly from growing populations, increasing negative supply-demand ratios, contamination by toxics from industrial and agricultural effluent, desertification and salting of aquifers.

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We (1) examine water needs and resources in the region; (2) identify role of toxic effluents in destruction of these resources; (3) present a region-wide inventory of water resources and technologies and (4) outline the components of a region wide win win strategy keyed to climate change.

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We summarize existing inventories and information on toxic effluents, based on available information, and present win-win options for meeting needs.

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Data show that water sources in Turkey more than meet the needs of Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan combined, even with trends associated with climate change. Within individual countries, water shortages and contamination by microbials and toxins have resulted from regional and local mismanagement, waste, poor conservation policies, and aquifers contaminated with toxins. Improvements in microbial water quality from chlorination and filtration have been offset by contamination from industrial sources, pesticides, metals, and solvents.

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A comprehensive regional strategy addresses needs for public health, agriculture, recreation and industry, and ensures water supply and quality. This strategy requires measures at the national and regional level, including conservation, more use of waste water for irrigation and reuse, removal of toxics at the source (Zero Emissions), filtration and chlorination and reversing the shift to bottled water. Desalination plants, the Med-Dead Canal and a Turkish pipeline are capital options, but require assessments of environmental and public health impacts. These measures should more than offset draughts from rainfall shortages associated with climate change. Water shortages are a consequence, not cause of zero-sum regional conflicts, and the costs of prevention are a fraction of those of the arms race.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.