European Commission Fifth RTD Framework Programme

A Future for The Dead Sea: Options for a More Sustainable Water Management

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Scenarios and the Scenario Management Tool


What Are Scenarios? A literary review by David Lehrer.

           “Scenarios are imaginative pictures of potential futures, but the future is just a means to an end.” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1) Scenario building practice is used by managers and leaders to help “themselves to see past their own blind spots.” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1) Herman Kahn developed the practice of scenario building to help people look at the possibility of a nuclear war at a time when no one could believe that such a thing was possible. His work was labeled “thinking the unthinkable” by Scientific American’s Gerard Piel (Kleiner, 1999).

           In the 70’s, Royal Dutch/Shell’s Pierre Wack used the method of scenario building to foresee the coming oil crises and helped Royal Dutch/Shell to develop strategies to cope with a future that was more turbulent than anything the industry had previously experienced (Kleiner, 1999). Scenario planning, however, is not an attempt to predict the future. It is an attempt to imagine the unimaginable, to envision and experience possible worlds in our imagination, in order to “prepare ourselves for whatever future does come to pass.” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1)

           “Scenarios offer an attractive alternative to the false precision promised by point-estimate forecasts.” (Schnaars, 2001 p.7) Many believe that a written scenario with its softer qualitative nature is more useful in thinking about the future than quantitative methods.

           It is important that managers actually experience the scenario building process. If they are not part of the process, they will probably not fully comprehend the results. The process takes time. “The zone in which scenarios can be useful is not very large and has to be carefully delineated in each exercise. It means that one cannot develop scenarios for someone else without their significant involvement” Heijden (1997)

           There is no one standard method of scenario writing. A number of authors have outlined their recommended methods. Here are two approaches:

I.  Art Kleiner in his article, “Scenario Practice”, written for the Whole Earth Quarterly, 1999 gives an outline of the steps involved in scenario planning:

1. “The Scenario Question” – “figuring out the key question is a crucial step” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1). It is also important to decide on a time frame. From what year will the scenario look back?
2. “Driving Forces (Predetermined elements and critical uncertainties)” – Planners must look at the major forces, which drive the system. A differentiation must be made between predetermined forces (such as how many 20 year olds there will be in the world 19 years from now) and unpredictable or uncertain forces. The “brainstorming” method is used to determine the driving forces.
3. “Converging into Scenarios” – The driving forces are then combined to create scenarios. A number of methods may be used, such as the creation of a matrix by combing the two most uncertain forces or the method recommended by Peter Schwartz in The Art of the Long View, looking for archetypal plots (patterns that have repeated themselves throughout history). The method used by Kleiner is based on choosing the three most uncertain elements and creating stories based on these elements being pushed to the extreme.
4. “Sub-groups and scenarios” – The group is broken into subgroups in order to flesh out the story lines.
5. “Strategy, rehearsal, and conversation” – The critical step, once the scenarios have been verbalized, is to discuss what these scenarios suggest regarding current strategy. Questions should be asked, such as are there scenarios we should try to avoid or are there scenarios we should try to strive for. Most importantly, the question should be asked, “With this new knowledge, what should we be doing differently than we are doing now?” (Kleiner, 1999)

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           Steven Schaars in “The Essentials of Scenario Writing” written for Business Horizons, July 2001 gives us a four-step method for writing scenarios:

1. “Generating a list of affecting trends or factors.” This step may involve interviews with experts and company officials as well as quantitative research and trends.
2. “Combing the variables into groups.” Planners try to create meaningful groups and identifying the critical drivers. Ranking and matrixing methods are typically used.
3. “Doing the writing.” Writing the stories that are the heart of the scenario.
4. “Creating scenario strategies.” Creating a company or organizational strategy or set of strategies in light of the scenarios.
(Schaars, 2001)

           A critical step in every scenario planning process is the determination of the Driving Forces. The driving forces should be chosen according to the following criteria: (Schwartz, 1991)

1. They will have order of magnitude impacts on the systems.
2. They are independent of each other (Uncorrelated)
3. They are highly uncertain.


           Whatever method is used, Peter Schwartz warns us that, “People’s minds can cope with only two or three possibilities.” (Schwartz, 1991) There are an infinite number of possible futures. The scenario planning process must be designed to focus in on a finite number of scenarios, which will be meaningful to the organization and have some effect on management decisions.


Heijden, K. (1997) Scenarios, Strategies and the Strategy Process. Nijenrode Research Paper Series -Centre for Organizational Learning and Change, No. 1997-01 pp. 22-24.
Kleiner, A. (1999) Scenario Practice. Whole Earth Quarterly, pp.1-6
Schnaars, S. (2001) The Essentials of Scenario Writing. Business Horizons, July, pp. 7-21.
Schoemaker, P.J.H. (1993) Scenario Planning: A Tool for Strategic Thinking, Sloan Management Review, MIT
Schwartz, P. (1996) The Art of the Long View. New York, Doubleday.


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The Role of Scenarios in the Dead Sea Project


           The role of scenarios is to create a number of realistic scenarios for possible futures of the Dead Sea Basin. These scenarios will reflect trajectories or future directions that differ from one another and therefore offer leaders and policy makers in the region the opportunity to test present strategies for water management and perhaps develop new ones. The role of the Scenario Management Tool (SMT) is to provide real numbers in order to flesh out the stories and help determine which scenarios were realistic enough to consider. The time frame of the scenarios is from 2005 to 2025.  Three driving forces were assumed to have an order of magnitude impacts on the system.  These were:

1. The level of Cooperation between the three riparian countries;

2. The role agriculture will play in the future; and

3. The type of investment in water related projects

           The following are brief summaries of the realistic scenarios.  It is worth mentioning here that the scenarios were the result of synthesis and deliberations first amongst the project partners and second of information collected in the Focus group Meetings and from participation in relevant conferences and workshops.


Scenario I Business as Usual

           The Middle East in 2025 is reminiscent of the present day situation. This is because after 20 years, very little has changed. The levels of cooperation between Israelis and the Palestinians remains low, plagued by cycles of violence followed by periods of quiet but not real peace. The lack of progress between Israel and the Palestinians affects the levels of cooperation between Jordanians and Israelis as well. Jordan’s relationship with Israel remains low key and secretive, while Jordan’s relationship with the Palestinians is cold and distrustful. The lack of cooperation creates short-term thinking on all sides. Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians compete for water resources, through over pumping and ill-conceived water projects. Agriculture continues to be protected and receive water at below market prices compounding water stress in the region. The economies in the area remain sluggish, though the world economy is bouncing back after years of slow growth.  The level of the Dead Sea is back on the rise, however, the environmental consequences of the ”Red-Dead Conduit” have yet to be fully digested. The gypsum precipitation caused by the mixing of sulfate rich Red Sea water with the calcium rich Dead Sea water has whitened the surface of the Dead Sea and is having an impact on the climate in the basin. The Sea of Galilee continues to be endangered by over pumping and the Jordan River is nothing more than an open sewage canal.

Scenario II A Water Stressed Out Middle East

           While a Water Stressed Out Middle East may look similar to Scenario I, this scenario describes a Middle East in the year 2025 that is ready to explode. Cooperation remains low as in the previous scenario, and the role of agriculture remains central, however, without the large addition of desalinated water from the ”Red-Dead Conduit”, water stress in the region is reaching unsustainable levels. Something has to give way. Israel, Jordan, and Palestine seem to be heading for an outright conflict over water in the region. The countries must either increase the level of cooperation allowing for a more efficient and equitable use of the water resources or vastly reduce the role of agriculture in the region in order to avoid the oncoming conflict.  The level of the Dead Sea is at an all time low, and still sinking. Large ecological systems around the shores of the Dead Sea have been destroyed. The continued violence in the Middle East, combined with sinkholes and a quickly receding shoreline, has decimated tourism in the area. A lack of water for irrigation has turned the farming villages on the Israeli and Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea into ghost towns. Jericho, the oldest city in the world, has the lowest per capita water consumption in the in the world.

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Scenario III A Low Impact Middle East

           A Low Impact Middle East would require a break from present trends. In order to reach sustainability by the year 2025, the leadership in the Middle East, as well as the United States, found a way to break the cycle of violence, which had plagued the area for the last 100 years. New levels of cooperation enabled the countries in the region to work together to find solutions to water stress and environmental problems. The countries looked for low impact solutions in order to create new water supplies while at the same time recognizing the need to limit agriculture to a more sustainable dimension. Low impact water systems such as rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling, and efficient water delivery systems created new water without major adverse environmental effects. It was necessary to build a large number of desalination plants in order to provide water to the growing population. However, the decreased size of irrigated agriculture, climate appropriate crops, and the improvement of irrigation systems in the region meant that treated wastewater could serve as the major source for water for farming.  The level of the Dead Sea is slowly rising. The decrease in the use of fresh water from the Sea of Galilee for Israel and Jordan has allowed the Jordan River to once again flow with clean water into the Dead Sea. Ecological systems that had been suffering for years in the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea are slowly recovering. Tourism in the area is flourishing, providing a boost to the economies of all three nations.  Ten years ago, in the year 2015, the leadership in Israel, Palestine, and the United States brokered a Geneva-like peace agreement entailing a total Israeli withdrawal to the recognized borders along the ”Green Line” (’67 Armistice Line) except for certain areas for which the Palestinians received one to one land compensation. Israeli settlements in the West Bank were evacuated and handed over intact to the new Palestinian state as a goodwill gesture from Israel. A number of Palestinian refugees returned to the state of Palestine. Jerusalem is a divided city with the Old City of Jerusalem under joint Palestinian/Israeli sovereignty. At the White House agreement signing ceremony, the United States President expressed satisfaction at being able to complete the work of previous administrations in the long struggle for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

Scenario IV A Supply Managed Middle East

            By the year 2025, the riparian nations around the Dead Sea have begun to feel the fruits of the peace agreement reached 10 years earlier. Israel, Palestine, and Jordan are all three experiencing better than average growth rates. With strong economies, stable political environments, a warm climate, and a proximity to Europe, the area has become attractive to international investors. Tourism and agriculture are the two main destinations of international capital. The Dead Sea Basin has become a focus for building large hotels and resorts aimed at the European market while all three nations are supplying more and more fresh fruits and vegetables to European markets. Water is the key to continued economic progress in the region and so, large water projects are a priority for both government and private investment. The “Peace” Conduit (Red-Dead Conduit) is providing 800 MCM of water annually to the area but with the rapid development of the region, the need for water continues to grow. Israel and Palestine are working together to increase their water supplies through large desalination projects of seawater and brackish water, dams in every available Wadi and wastewater recycling.  Rapid economic growth, large water projects, and the development of large tracts of land for agriculture are changing the face of the region. Pristine deserts, nature reserves, mountain Wadis, and the Dead Sea itself are being transformed beyond recognition. While the benefits of peace and development are clear, many are disturbed by the loss of much of the natural beauty and ecological systems.

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The Scenario Management Tool (SMT)


           At project inception, the SMT was thought of as a generic tool that can be utilized in other regions.  The scenarios team worked under a different assumption, that a non-generic Dead Sea Basin specific SMT would help determine the realistic scenarios. A compromise was reached where both the SMT and the Scenario Synthesis were combined in the sense that the product of the two will be a number of realistic scenarios, which will be discussed with the regional development authorities and communities and will be incorporated in the project synthesis process. The loss in this compromise is that the team is unable to produce a generic tool that can be used in other areas of the world.  The SMT is accordingly, an organizational model that incorporates a human knowledge- base and a logical framework. A scenario is defined by a set of indicators that changes over time. However, not all combinations of indicators are meaningful. There are some indicators that are positively or negatively linked to each other. The practicability of a scenario management tool is that it is able to organize such bundles of parameters (= indicators of scenarios that change over time), and to translate assumptions about certain developments into meaningful quantitative parameters. In its simplest form, the outputs of the model are tables with numbers for all driving forces  for all scenario years.  The SMT will only describe the possible behavior of a selected set of future indicators that can be logically deduced.  Only when the SMT is integrated into the Dynamic Synthesis Model, the behavior and sustainability of the Dead Sea as a whole can be simulated.  Examples of indicators the SMT will simulate include the number of tourists visiting the Dead Sea Basin, Area of Land administered by Palestinians, the Volume of Water from Jordan river available to Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, among others.


           The SMT is in its advanced development stages.  The output of the SMT is tabular data describing the behavior of each future indicator.  The table below is an example of a run of the SMT showing the impacts on the number of tourists visiting Israeli Hostels and Hotels in the Dead Sea Basin of two Scenarios; namely Scenario I "Business as Usual" and Scenario IV "A Supply Managed Middle East".

Table 1. Example of an output of SMT

  Number of Tourists visiting Dead Sea Basin (Israeli Hotels and Hostels) until 2025   
Time (Year) Scenario IV Scenario I
2005 1.104 M 1.104 M
2006 1.104 M 1.259 M
2007 1.235 M 1.367 M
2008 1.301 M 1.434 M
2009 1.366 M 1.463 M
2010 1.432 M 1.460 M
2011 1.498 M 1.431 M
2012 1.564 M 1.380 M
2013 1.629 M 1.311 M
2014 1.695 M 1.231 M
2015 1.761 M 1.144 M
2016 1.826 M 1.055 M
2017 1.892 M 970,270
2018 1.958 M 892,786
2019 2.024 M 828,499
2020 2.089 M 782,420
2021 2.155 M 759,564
2022 2.221 M 764,944
2023 2.286 M 803,574
2024 2.352 M 880,467
2025 2.418 M 1.000 M


           The Dead Sea Scenarios and the SMT will be used at future FGM’s and during the synthesis stage in the so called Integration FGMs (IFGMs). The Scenarios should be distributed to a wide range of experts and lay people – scientists, policy makers, NGOs, and local residents in order to create the kind of open feedback system used to develop climate change scenarios. This is an ongoing process that might continue after the conclusion of the project.


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