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Euphrates Tigris Water Issues Workshop

Tigris/Mosul Dam
April 22, 2016
All Day
The Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 1501 Neil Ave

The e-book that resulted from this workshop is available here.  

We will reconvene the Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation (ETIC) at The Ohio State University from the evening of Thursday, April21 to 3:30 on Friday, April 22nd, 2016 (see full program below). This is part of the Hydropolitics seminar series on water scarcity and water security, co-sponsored by the Global Water Institute and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies.  The series is co-directed by Esther Gottlieb, Professor in Education Policy and Leadership, and Bryan Mark, Professor in the Department of Geography.  This is a unique opportunity to interact with experts from Syria, Turkey and Iraq who have worked locally on water resource management issues in the Euphrates-Tigris region for many years. The program will begin with a public address and keynote lecture by Aysegul Kibaroglu, world expert on Turkish water policy issues, and the history of cooperation across political boundaries in the Euphrates-Tigris region. The program continues the next day as a workshop for faculty and graduate students working on international public policy, water resource management and local cultures of the region. It is hoped that the conversations in this workshop will point to practical means to address the current issues in the Euphrates-Tigris riparian nations.  


Current issues, such as the impending evacuation around the Tigris due to issues with the Mosul dam make this workshop particularly salient.  The current situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq makes it impossible for ETIC to convene, or to conduct much of the data gathering work it used to do.  The purpose of the workshop is to provide insight on how to address the most urgent issues. Among the presentations will be a history of a knowledge sharing project conducting by ETIC, an analysis of similarities and differences between the Euphrates and the Rio Grande, and the current status of Mosul Dam.  For program details, and additional background information, please see the workshop event page

We would be very glad to welcome you to our campus as you share your knowledge and experience with the other participants, including the founders of ETIC, Feysel Rifai, and Aysegül Kibaroglu . We have reserved a block of rooms at Springhill Suites, Marriott at the rate of $124 for  Wednesday, April 20th and a check-out of Friday, April 22nd. If you would be interested in participating, please register here.  If you can't join us for the entire conference, you are also welcome to attend the Keynote lecture by Professor Kibaroglu on April 21st, by registering here

Partner: Hydropolitics Seminar Series on Water Scarcity and Water security, Esther Gottlieb and Bryan Mark, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies.

Co-sponsors: The Global Water Institute, The John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, The Ohio Water Resources Center, The School of Earth Sciences, and The Syrian Student Union.

Background Information

ETIC is a group of academics and professionals who have worked on knowledge-sharing activities, and aspects of transnational cooperation between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran in regard to water resource management.  ETIC knowledge sharing activities have entailed collecting publicly available data, training government officials in each of the riparian nations, and bringing together experts from different professions to harmonize their knowledge and analyze data for the benefit of people in the Euphrates-Tigris region. The last meeting was held in 2012 in Istanbul. 


One of ETIC's goals is to uncover the intersections between technical and traditional knowledge bases, and address the misunderstanding that arises due to conflicting epistemic perspectives. Dr. Kibaroglu has written an article on the value of engaging with and forming epistemic communities around practical issues and problem solving (2008). The majority of the participants have been academics from faculties of engineering and social sciences, but this year we welcome scholars in the humanities and social sciences who are familiar with the cultural contexts of the region. Academics were not the only participants in the ETIC activities, which included government professionals in ministries of water and energy, agriculture, etc. ETIC scholars trained government officials, and they cooperated on various knowledge sharing projects.  


ETIC activities have embraced perspectives coming from in and outside of academia for solving political and practical water management issues.  Concerned citizens were also included in the ETIC activities. Many of the technical people recognized the value of diverse ways of understanding of the place of water in people’s daily lives. They observed that local, traditional knowledge of water usage and management conflicts with modern technical views in many cases. At the same time locals often desire modernization if it means the improvement of their daily life. These local "folk" knowledge bases, however, continue to remain relatively untapped.

The importance of transnational, multidisciplinary, epistemically diverse cooperation on water issues goes beyond the Euphrates Tigris region.  Water scarcity and the dangers to clean water haunt not just arid lands or downstream nations, but places such as drought-stricken California, algae-poisoned Toledo, Ohio and recently Flint Michigan. Indeed, “80% of the world’s population is exposed to high levels of threat to water security” (Vörösmarty et al, 2010). Armed conflicts and civil wars are more likely to occur in situations of ethnic dominance when countries also contest water issues (Turkey, Syria and Kurdistan are  examples; see Mitchell, 2015).

Cited Sources:

Kibaroglu, A., & Scheumann, W. (2011). Euphrates-Tigris Rivers System: Political Rapprochement and Transboundary Water Cooperation. Turkey's Water Policy, 277-299. 

Kibaroglu, A (2008). The Role of Epistemic Communities in Offering New Cooperation Frameworks in the Euphrates-Tigris Rivers System. Journal of International Affairs, Spring/Summer 2008, vol. 61, no. 2.

Mitchell, Sara. (2015). “Cross Border Troubles? Interstate River Conflicts and Intrastate Violence.” Presented at the The Mershon Center for International Security Studies.

Vörösmarty, C. J., McIntyre, P. B., Gessner, M. O., Dudgeon, D., Prusevich, A., Green, P., … Davies, P. M. (2010). Global threats to human water security and river biodiversityNature,467(7315), 555–561.

Workshop Schedule

Thursday, April 21

Public Keynote Address on Transboundary Water Politics in the Euphrates Tigris Region

6:00 PM 
Reception and Keynote to Begin the Workshop
Location The Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 1501 Neil Ave
Open to the public - register here.
Transboundary Water politics in the Euphrates-Tigris Region
Aysegul Kibaroglu

  • Professor of Political Science and International Relations at MEF University Istanbul, Turkey
  • Founding Member Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation (ETIC) 2005 
  • Visiting Professor LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin 2015-16

Euphrates Tigris Water Issues Workshop

Friday, April 22

Please register here.  

This Workshop is for Faculty and Graduate Students

Mershon Center for International Security Studies Room 120

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM
Welcome Remarks

9:15 AM - 9:45 AM
Origin, Mission, and Activities of Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation (ETIC)
- Faisal Rifai, Executive Director of the Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation (ETIC), retired Professor of Water Resource Management from Aleppo University

9:45 AM  
Collaborative Planning and Knowledge Development 2008-2011
- Eblal Zakzok, Assistant Professor of Water Resource Management, The Ohio State University  
- Faisal Rifai, Executive Director of the Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation (ETIC), retired Professor of Water Resource Management from Aleppo University

10:30AM Comparative Transboundary Issues: Rio Grande and Euphrates Rivers
-Jurgen Schmandt, Professor Emeritus, Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) School of Public Affairs, University of Texas (UT) Austin

11:30 AM - 1:00 PM  
Open Round Table - Luncheon Discussion - Registration required

- Maria Fanis, Associate Professor of Political Science, Ohio University and Research Fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University 

Register here if you would like to join the discussion.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Concurrent Sessions 

  1. {C}{C}{C}Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Use During Times of War (Eblal Zakzok)
  2. Capacity building in transboundary water management: regional and local perspectives (Faisal Rifai)
  3. Urgent water issues in the ET basin: Case of Mosul Dam (Haytham Oueidat, LBJ School, UT, Austin)

2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Report from Concurrent Sessions

Whole group discussion
3:15 PM - 3:30 PM

Concluding remarks
- Alam Payind, Director of the Middle East Studies Center