Dry Lands, Turmoil Provide Perfect Forum for Student Venture


CORVALLIS, Ore. – A group of students from Oregon State University who want to learn how to balance water management with conflicting interest groups are headed to one of the most arid, conflict-riddled regions of the world to see what lessons it can offer.

In March, 19 undergraduate and graduate students from varying disciplines will travel to Israel and Palestine for two weeks to see how water conflicts have been dealt with in a very dry region that has experienced one conflict or war after another for generations. Leaders of the expedition, which is being organized by two OSU student organizations, say it may be the perfect place for what they need.

“We’re going to see the geology, meet the people, and see what’s working in one of the driest parts of the world,” said Elina Lin, an OSU masters student in the Water Resources Policy and Management program. “It’s somewhat amazing that Israel and Palestine have found ways to cooperate on water issues when they can’t seem to get along on almost anything else.”

Most of the students, Lin said, have interests in science, policy development and conflict resolution. The group leader will be Aaron Wolf, an OSU professor of geosciences and an international leader in water resource management and conflicts. In studies of water conflicts through history and all over the world, Wolf has found that the very severity of water issues can bring conflicting sides and interest groups together – the issues are so serious that they simply demand cooperation.

In the region, the student group will be hosted by both Israeli and Palestinian institutions – the geography department at Hebrew University, and the geology program at Al-Quds University. The group will travel to several sites in the country to examine water use and management programs that are among the most effective in the world – despite the profound political, legal and cultural differences of the area.

“We want to see what we can learn in Israel, and then bring it back to Oregon and the United States and see how it might be applied here,” Lin said.

The group will explore saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers, visit the headwaters of the Jordan River, examine wetland draining and refilling, study ancient water management strategies, learn about the restoration of the Dead Sea ecosystem, and many other issues.

Students are also engaged in a variety of fund-raising activities to help support their trip, all of which are open to the public. These include:

• “A Middle Eastern Valentine’s,” a dinner with traditional Middle Eastern foods, music and poetry, at the Corvallis Senior Center on Feb. 14;

• A series of films from Israel and Palestine that explore culture, history, politics and art, on Monday’s at 7:30 p.m. in Owen Hall Room 103 on the OSU campus;

More details on these events and the project can be obtained by e-mail from Lin at line@geo.oregonstate.edu. Other donations to the project are also welcome, organizers say, and can be made by contacting the OSU Foundation at 541-737-4218.