‘Virtual Water’ in the Water Resource Management of the Arid Middle East

  • Hillel Shuval


Agriculture and rural village life have historically played central roles in the life, economy and culture of the Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis. However, in the 21st century these nations are facing the reality that their natural fresh water resources will shortly become fully utilized and that there is an urgent need to reevaluate their long-term water resources management strategy. While calls for food security based on growing all food locally arouse popular support, this chapter will show that the modern, rational, economic approach to this question is, that the arid countries in the Middle East, with little water should accept the reality that priority in utilization of their limited fresh water resources should go to meet the immediate human needs of drinking water, domestic and urban use as well as for high income producing commercial, industrial, tourism use and assuring the quality of life with green open spaces. It is more rational to import most of the high water consuming food and fodder, particularly the staples which can be shipped and stored easily from those countries with plenty of water from natural renewable sources. In other words, to import ‘virtual water’ in its most economical form: food. This chapter shows that in reality Israel has de-facto adopted this policy and imports 80 per cent of the national caloric intake from abroad while the Palestinians import over 65 per cent of their caloric intake. Plans must be made over a 20–30 year period to retrain the agricultural population for alternatives employment in a modern economy.


Israel/Palestine/Jordan water resources Middle East virtual water food security agriculture water for nature and ecology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hillel Shuval
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalem
  2. 2.Hadassah Academic CollegeJerusalemIsrael

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