This website was created as a product of a first year seminar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The course, titled HIST 63H: Water in the Middle East, focuses on water in the Middle East and North Africa more broadly. The politics of water involve the social, historical, environmental, and the economic implications of water in this arid region. This website was created as a teaching tool in order to spread awareness of the politics of water in these environments more specifically.

The Middle East was where civilization began.  

Once referred to as “The Fertile Crescent,” the arid region now faces many problems regarding water scarcity and political conflict over claims to water resources, as water is being withdrawn at alarming rates.  This website addresses various issues involving water that have caused conflicts within and between nations in the hope of increasing awareness of the importance of water for the Middle East and the world.

Varying Water Levels in the Middle East, in Cubic Meters Per Capita

Water has grown to be a key player in many political conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. Water issues are multifaceted and will continue to affect the political stability of the Middle East and North Africa, if not addressed; for this reason, it is imperative that future policy makers understand these issues. Presented is in-depth, diverse research into the plethora of ways that water can connect to political conflict, specifically in the context of the issues mentioned above.

Below are brief summaries of each project included on this site. Please click on the title of the project, or on the tab at the top of the webpage, to travel to your topic of interest. When navigating through the pages, click or hover over the storymap on the page and scroll down to move through it. Many maps are interactive, so feel free to explore by clicking on various elements!


Linda Henry, Hannah Adams, and Taylor Woollen

With groundwater and rainfall depleting at an alarming rate in a region already riddled by political and environmental stress, countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates must turn to desalination to prevent future political tensions and provide a safe and reliable water source.

Israel-Palestine and Shared Aquifers

Talia Wiseman and Jasper Mark

In addition to the depletion of underground aquifers, one of Israel-Palestine’s largest water issues is one of fair distribution. Israel and Palestine have long struggled over the shared resources, heightening political tension in the region.  

The Dead Sea

Bridget Mizener, Sophia Ong and Summer Lawrence

The Dead Sea conduit is a project that aims to address the issue of the shrinking Dead Sea by redirecting water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea. Although it is a popular solution, economic, environmental, and political factors prevent the project from becoming a reality.

The Nile River and GERD

Jed Higdon, Brendan Sheehan, and Ryan Eskew

As Egypt’s main source of water, the Nile River provides the country with the majority of the water used for drinking, agriculture, and domestic use; the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, located upstream from Egypt on the Nile, has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of water flow into Egypt, which could lead to even further political conflict.

The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

Coleman Evans, Angela Chin, and Rachel Augustine

The political conflict in Syria came as a result of a devastating drought in the Levant region coupled with ongoing abuse by the Assad regime; the ultimate uprising would not have happened without the presence of water issues and thus presents a clear connection between political conflict and water in the Middle East.

Turkey and Transboundary Water

Summer Lawrence, Gabrielle Hobson, Coleman Evans and Linda Henry

Located at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Turkey harvests a large portion of the water flow, despite downstream countries’ needs; this tug-of-war for water places a political stress on the region.

Weaponization of Water

Sarah Shapiro and Gabrielle Hobson

In many conflicts in Iraq and Syria over the past three decades, water has played a key role in military actions, and has been used as a weapon through the deliberate targeting of water infrastructure. Control over major parts of the water system, such as dams, is also a priority for military forces due to the power this brings them.