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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Frederick M. Lorenz
SIS 490
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Content varies from quarter to quarter.

Class description

Water and Security in the Middle East.

As the amount of available fresh water in the world decreases in quality and quantity, development and protection of this critical resource becomes a matter of international security. In the Middle East, fresh water is likely to become more important than oil.

This course will take an interdisciplinary approach, beginning with an overview of the scientific and hydrological factors that are critical to understanding the subject. There will be a special emphasis on the hydrologic cycle and the impact of climate change on fresh water supplies in the region. By studying three major river basins in the Middle East, students will explore the historic, geographic, political, environmental and legal factors that lead to conflict or cooperation.

Climate change will have numerous and diverse impacts, including impacts on human health, natural systems, and the built environment. Since global climate change will likely affect fundamental drivers of the hydrological cycle, climate change may have a large impact on water resources and water resource managers. This course will also explore the strategies to improve water management by tracking, anticipating, and responding to climate change.

The Tigris-Euphrates basin is considered the cradle of civilization, but Turkey controls the headwaters of the Euphrates River, and the downstream Arab states, Syria and Iraq, are highly dependent on the flow of fresh water. Turkey is in the process of building a major hydropower and irrigation system that will significantly diminish the flow to its neighbors. For the Nile, the conditions are reversed, with the most powerful river state, Egypt, in the downstream position. In the Jordan River Basin, control of the dwindling water supply has been a major factor in regional conflict. Contested claims over surface and underground water resources permeate all other concerns about ideology, national security, economic and social well-being, and international politics.

Student learning goals

Achieve a basic understanding of the complexities (political, hydrological and economic) of transboundary water issues in the Middle East.

The focus of the course will be an attempt to answer a fundamental question: What can nations do to develop their common water resources in a cooperative, sustainable and equitable manner, thereby avoiding the risk of violent conflict in the region?

General method of instruction

See assignments and grading below.

Recommended preparation

No special requirements, but a general familiarity with developments in the Middle East will be helpful.

Class assignments and grading

Students will be assigned roles in water negotiations for one of the three river basins; three “exercises” are scheduled during the course. Students will have the opportunity to specialize in a particular basin, focusing on the special historic, cultural, political, and hydrological factors that make that area unique. They will be expected to represent the interests of their nation or organization to achieve the best result. In past years this has been the most enjoyable part of the course, based on student comments.

This is a writing course that will include: Two short papers, each about 1250 words (5 typewritten pages) One final paper- about 2500 words (10 typewritten pages)

Each short paper will be 20% of the final grade, and the long paper will be 40% of the final grade. Class participation will be 20% of the final grade.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by M Jane Meyerding
Date: 04/19/2011