Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Golan Heights in Greater Palestine?

Most of what I am about to expand upon in this current posting is based upon the linked article with appropriate footnotes included with the article.

As you can see in this sulha, the sovereignty of Golan Heights (less the Shaaba Farm to Lebanon) is transfered to the New Greater Palestine instead of back to Syria.
The reason for this is less for military and geopolitical reasons than more the current reality in 2009 that the biggest threat to Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan and ANY solution to the Palestinian question is WATER!!!!!!

Lebanon has more water than it knows what to do with.  Literally it has done nothing to improve major water initiatives on a major scale for years.  Of course with Syria and Israel with boots on the ground for the better part of a quarter of a century the Lebanese can be forgiven not having the long term stability to do more.

And what Lebanon has done, even on a small scale is impressive.  But in there lies the rub.  It seems that a lot of that attention and priority are for the urban plains for water and power while much irrigation posibilities, (read here Shia population of the east and southern portions of the country.  And of course it cannot be overlooked that the number one source of water in the entire country just happens to flow, in the form of the Litani River, from the eastern valleys southward before taking a 90 degree right turn towards the Mediterranean.  All this flows through the highest concentration of Shia in the country.  

And that amazing 90 degree turn:  well it happens just before it would enter Israel.  

But back to the Shia.  The only really amazing engineering on the Litani over the past many decades has been the damming and then diversion of some 230+ MCM of water through the Markaba-Awali tunnel to provide water and power for the coastal areas.  You have to give it to the Lebanese on this plan.  It goes through 4 seperate penstocks on its way and is taped for electrical generation at each drop. These series of 4 drops provide 35% of all of Lebanon's power.  The last one does send power to the lower southwest of Lebanon, otherwise it is pretty well directed ouside of the Litani (read Shia) territory.

In all of Lebanon it is estimated that well over 1,000 MCM of fresh water flows either into the Mediterranean or otherwise out of the coutry without being used.   In the water starved Middle East this is considered by many to be a crime.

Perhaps 40% of that flow out of Lebanon occurs, on average, every year from just the Litani emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  

Somehow, long term, this is going to have to change.  Virtually every country in the region, no matter whom they like or dislike or are aligned with or put up with, any and all, will tell you that if push comes to shove the only thing that ALL of them would go to war over is water.  Three countries, and one that hopes to be, are quickly out growing current water supplies and all five countries know it and two decades hence is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.

And the other four countries or want to be countries, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan have four other major problems with water besides the lack thereof.  Much of the water they do have is long distances from where they really would like it to be.  Some such as Jordan and any Palestinian state don't have access to water that they claim is theirs either cheaply or at all.
And  much of the water source for Israel, Jordan and Palestine at some points become dangerously high in salt content.  The lower Sea of Galilee has 10 times the salinity of the Litani River at the bend.   And all of this water use is straining the Dea Sea.  It is dropping each year.  This opens sink holes, perhaps causes earthquakes and ruins any long term viability for tourism.  (Yes this is a lovely hotel but the Dead Sea is now way over there).

Syria's major water source, the Euphrates, is actually in the far east of the country.  And it's flow is entirely dependant on the will of Turkey.  Of course Syria has then the same ownership before handing it off to Iraq.  Oh the neighborhood.

But back to the original four states.   If there is to be any long term solution for water in the critical four state area surrounding the Golan, the only country I see being able to play the peace keeper and even gatekeeper in any long term solution would be Greater Palestine.  Greater Palestine is the only one who can deal in any credible way with all the other players.  Every other nation has too much baggage with any other country to be mediator.  And Greater Jordan is also the only one who is going to be able to act as broker to see that first the Shia along the Litani are made part of a comprehensive plan to utilize the water they are losing now to the sea.  Desalination plants in lower Lebanon, powered by power from the Golan, could effectively serve much of the larger cities of southern Lebanon.  Also a series of small retention dams in the hills on both sides of the Litani as it passes through the southern Lebanon mountains would provide a much larger and more stabe source of water than from the Litani.  And the distance for piping (always a major cost) would be relatively shorter than to pump all the way to the Jordan River Valley.

Then the idea of water from the bend of the Litani can be diverted, not directly to Israel, as is most assumed, but instead moving a little more easterly and then flowing along the lower parts of the Golan to the southern edge of the Heights.

Now here is where it again gets interesting.  The Yarmuk River is the upper border of Jordan/Syria and then becomes for a while the border Jordan/Golan.   It empties into the Jordan River and is a major contributor.  Although it flows into the Jordan at something like 100 parts per million of salt.  (Average river is 120 ppm)

This source provides almost 50% of all of Jordans 700mcm of water usage a year.  But the Yarmuk floods almost every winter at the rate of 100-240 MCM that goes to waste.  Ideally to let Syria take more from upstream at this time and contain and to let the rest be diverted into the Sea of Galilee would capture almost all of this otherwise wasted water supply.

If the proposal to take 400 MCM of water from the Litani River before making the bend, piping it over to the lower Golan of Greater Palestine and sending it across towards Israel, at the same time picking up all the runnoff from the Golan would add immeasurably to the water basin.  In this scenario Syria could impound and take a larger slice of the Yarmuk for the Daraa Governate of Syria.

Greater Palestine could divert all of the flood waters of the Yarmuk to the Sea of Galilee for impounding before capturing 40% of the discharge again as usable water.

Also of note here the water coming in the pipe from the Litani flows 20 ppm of salinity.   A diversion of some to the Sea of Galilee and the rest flowing on to the East Ghor Canal would improve salinity in both areas. 

In a perfect world, and perhaps before any such project like this might get off the ground, all sides would agree to play nice and the water from the Litani would drop into Hasbani River (the closest source to the Litani that drains into the Jordan River Valley system)  If all the water entering at the top went out the bottom on the Jordanian side the Israelis would not get any more water directly from this source but would get a much reduced salinity rate at the southern outlet to the Sea of Galilee.  Also the to any Jordan River flow means in the end more flow that can conceivably NOT have to flow into the Dead Sea if other diversion schemes for the Dead Sea are implemented.  

It is also of note that water taken from the Sea of Galilee actually travels as far as the Negev.  This would probably be replace by other sources closer to the area of need allowing for more usage closer to the Sea of Galilee.

Adding to the water picture is the proposal to have one pipeline run from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea through Israel.   The other is a Red Sea/Dead Sea pipeline.   A part of the cost rcovery of both of these projects is based upon the fact that the Dead Sea is some 1200ft or 400m below sea level.  Any power to pump, (desalinated or not or perhaps in dual pipelines carrying both at the same time) and sent to the Dead Sea can be made up somewhat by harnessing the power of just such a major drop at the end of the pipeline.

Why go to all that bother to send water to a salty sea?   Because to control the level of the surface of the Dead Sea does two things.  It creates a set boundary for the Dead Sea.   This allows for an major increase in the use of the Dead Sea for a tourist destination.  This has not been the case in the past many decades.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, to maintain any semblance of maintaining the lake, over 1,000 MCM of water from the Jordan River has to enter the lake each year to attempt to maintain that level.   If this level is maintained by other sources, the need to send so much fresh water into the Dead Sea is no longer needed.

Which brings us back to sovereignty of the Golan.   By having Greater Palestine take sovereignty many things could be accomplished at the same time.  Keep in mind that a pipeline running across the lower Golan is in basis a major obstacle, a wall if you will.  Greater Palestine allowing any former Syrians who used to live there to return is not out of the question.  The Druze who currently remain in the Golan can also stay.  Any Israelis who wish to remain, also welcome.  Any new people from any where else can also feel free to find a home.   This is of course with one caveat:  I would love to see some good portion of the Golan Heights of Greater Palestine filled with wind turbines.  Oh a number of those large ones here and there but also perhaps more as pictured above.

I know that wind power is all the rage and is needed to provide alternative energy.  But to me the one great disadvantage to wind power is that it is not steady.  This limits usage.  But the one usage that it can do with great aplomb:  it can be used to desalinate and pump water over long periods of time.   If water is not needed right now this instance and can be moved from one storage area to another over a long period of time and at an uneven rate.  Well then wind power is just fine.

And all of the water projects in and around the Golan and Greater Palestine all need one thing.  Power.  Of course many of the projects proposed can also make power.   But if you want to build a lot of mini retention ponds or mountain lakes without the added cost of major hydroelectric potential, but still need power for usage, then wind power from the Golan would fit just nicely.   And the need for very long water pipelines and worry about the changing rate not only during any given year but over a great span of time can be greatly mitigated.

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