Clean water initiatives promote collaboration across Middle Eastern borders
Clive Lipchin ( PhD, 03 )
Director, Center for Transboundary Water Management Arava Institute
The opportunity to meet so many wonderful people (students and faculty) from all over the world.
Make sure you have a good and open relationship with your faculty advisor. Your advisor is not only the person that will approve your dissertation, but they are a fantastic resource for networking, which is critical for establishing yourself in your chosen field.
In the Middle East, where borders are hard-fought and often violently maintained, basic human issues like clean water can serve to open lines of communication. Enter Clive Lipchin, director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute, an Israeli environmental studies institution located near the border with Jordan in the Arava desert.
The center facilitates direct communication among regional water professionals in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan – the three lower riparian states of the Jordan River and Dead Sea Basin. Lipchin’s goal is to open transboundary dialogue that enables the flow of data and, most importantly, establishes long-lasting relationships built on trust and integrity between those responsible for the sustainable management of the region’s fragile water resources.
One of the center’s current projects entails bringing decentralized, low-cost wastewater treatment and reuse options to off-grid homes in rural villages, which often have limited access to water and lack wastewater treatment plants. In such communities, sewage is drained into pits, where it poses the threat of contaminating groundwater that is much-needed for drinking and irrigation in a region of relative water scarcity.
Lipchin is also piloting technologies that decontaminate sewage and purify greywater used for washing and showering. While sewage is broken down by bacteria in septic tanks, greywater is channeled to a gravel bed populated by bacteria and then reused for irrigation of high-value crops including olive, grapes, and citrus fruits.
A collaboration with Palestinian colleagues, this project not only addresses the pressing need for clean water, but also promotes cooperation among historically at-odds Israelis and Palestinians.
“The environment knows no borders,” Lipchin says. “In a region of conflict like the Middle East, the only way to resolve shared environmental problems is through cooperation. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water.”