The Jordan River has been reduced to 2% of its historic size and is heavily polluted. Across Syria, rivers are shrinking, springs have dried up and the desert is spreading. The water crisis in the Middle East, the most water-scarce region in the world, is rapidly worsening, yet decision makers appear unwilling to acknowledge its severity and water remains low on the political agenda. How can this gap between the reality of growing scarcity on the ground and the continued illusion of plenty be explained? This is one of the key questions Francesca explores in her PhD thesis Vanishing Water Landscapes in the Middle East, a study that combines extensive research on the ground in pre-conflict Syria and across the region with historic data to show how high population growth, overambitious agricultural development projects and uncontrolled water use over the last 60 years have irreversibly disrupted the Middle East’s fragile ecological balance.