The Euphrates-Tigris River basin

The Euphrates and Tigris rivers are two major rivers in western Asia, with a drainage area of 879,000 km2. Both have their headwaters in Turkey and run almost in parallel before they merge to form the Shatt al-Arab, which discharges into the Persian Gulf. The basin is shared by six countries: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Our work in the Euphrates-Tigris started in 2003-2004 as a consultancy for Tractebel EGI (Electricity – Gas – International). The main objective was to assess the impact of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) on energy fluxes in the Turkish hydrothermal electrical system. The focus then moved to downstream riparian countries, essentially Syria and Iraq, through several MSc theses carried out at UNESCO-IHE. In 2014, the entire river basin was analyzed within the framework of the FAO-funded project “Support Cooperation on Water Resource Management in the Lower Mesopotamia”. In partnership with Prof B. Zaitchik (Johns Hopkins University), a basin-wide hydro-economic model was developed to help water planners and managers identify trade-offs among competing objectives.

Euphrates River from the Tabqa Dam in Syria


  1. Rougé C., A. Tilmant,  B.F. Zaitchik,  A.K. Dezfuli and M. Salman., 2018. Identifying key water resource vulnerabilities in data‐scarce transboundary river basins. Water Resources Research. DOI: 10.1029/2017WR021489 
  2. Tilmant A., Q. Goor, and D. Pinte, 2009.  Agricultural-to-hydropower water transfers: Sharing water and benefits in hydropower-irrigation systems, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 13, 1091-1101 
  3. Tilmant A., D. Pinte, and Q. Goor, 2008.  Assessing marginal water values in multipurpose multireservoir systems via stochastic programming, Water Resources Research, 44, W12431, doi:10.1029/2008WR007024    
  4. Tilmant A., J. Lettany, and R. Kelman, 2007.  Hydrological risk assessment in the Euphrates-Tigris river basin: A stochastic dual dynamic programming approach. Water International 32(2): 294-309   
  5. Tilmant A., and R. Kelman, 2007.  A stochastic approach to analyze trade-offs and risks associated with large-scale water resources systems. Water Resources Research, 43, W06425, doi:10.1029/2006WR005094  

Book chapter

  1. Goor Q., A. Alia, P. van der Zaag and A. Tilmant, 2007. Impacts of the Southeastern Anatolia Project in Turkey on the performance of the Tabqa dam and hydropower plant in Syria. In: Changes in Water Resources Systems: Methodologies to Maintain Water Security and Ensure Integrated Management. IAHS Publ 315
Schematization of the Euphrates-Tigris River basin