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First of all, my son, see to it you are always camped upstream and your adversaries downstream
-- North American Indian Adage
In recent years the water problem in Israel has been increasingly thrust onto the public agenda. Up until the early '80s, debate on the subject was largely confined to professional hydrological and engineering circles. However, as the severity of the problem increased, it slowly began to attract the attention of ever-widening audiences. It is now common to find the topic debated in the media and academia not only in abstruse "hydro-technical" terms, but also in the wider context of the implications for the nation's strategic posture, the administration of its public policy and the conduct of its international relations.
This wider debate and growing public awareness is highly appropriate, albeit somewhat overdue. For today the Israeli water system is faced with daunting challenges of unprecedented severity, many of which can be traced to years of administrative (rather than professional) shortsightedness, arrogance and incompetence. In a special report on the State of Israel's water system written in 1990, the State Comptroller asserted that:
... the manner in which the water system has been managed over a long period is what caused it to degenerate into its present very difficult situation. The [current] predicament is not a result of an act of God or of one or even two successive years of drought, but of imprudent management over years.
(For a particularly scathing indictment of the administration of the water system - see Zaslavsky, 1997, pp. 14-20; Zaslavsky, 2000, pp. 11.) It is thus distinctly plausible that had the management of national water resources been subject to greater public scrutiny, much of the severity of the present "hydro-predicament" facing the nation may have been avoided - or at least attenuated.
Against this backdrop of growing scarcity, a net assessment of Israel's hydro-strategic position and a judicious evaluation of its future policy options and imperatives, is both timely and necessary. Indeed, in many ways Levi Eshkol's remark several decades ago, that water, more than anything else, is likely to be the "limiting factor on [the nation's] development" is more pertinent than ever.
The ensuing analysis of the national water problem will be structured in the following manner:
I commence with a definition of the problem, both in terms of its inherent geo-climatic origins, and in terms of its scope and severity, underscoring the growing imbalance between available natural supplies and increasing demand, much of which is largely inelastic (i.e., demand largely insensitive to price changes). Next I review in greater detail the state of the various natural sources, where the problem of the dwindling quantity of available water is exacerbated by a further (and often causally related) phenomenon of deteriorating water quality.
Subsequently, I broach the thorny hydro-political aspects of the problem. For the future of the national water system is heavily dependant on the final outcome of the peace initiatives between Israel and its Arab neighbors, particularly Syria and the Palestinians. Indeed, whatever one's political predilections may be, one hydrological implication is inescapable. If Israel implements the withdrawals from the Golan and Judea and Samaria implicit in the agreements discussed with Damascus and the Palestinian Authority, it will lose control over the fate of a very significant portion of the water supplies currently utilized by it - according to some estimates up to 65% of the currently available amounts. This significant, and possibly provocative, assertion will be explicated and substantiated in subsequent sections of this study. At this stage it will suffice to make the point that the structure and operation of the national water system in the new millennium will be radically affected in virtually all aspects, including the siting of installations and their energy requirements, the nature of supply sources and the configuration of conveyance networks, depending on whether or not Israel maintains effective control over the water sources in the Golan and Judea and Samaria.
Finally, I conclude the study with a policy-oriented analysis. In it I attempt to assess what Israel's hydro-strategic options and imperatives are, based on the prevailing hydrological and geo-political realities that face the country, and the likely interaction between them.
Note: Throughout this study I use the abbreviations "cm" and "mcm"
to denote "cubic meters" and "million cubic meters" respectively.
Ever since the latter part of the 1980s, there has been a growing awareness of Israel's dire water shortage. Today, although there may be some dissension as to the precise nature of the appropriate solution, there does seems to be an ever widening consensus as to the severity of the situation - at least in terms of the physical deficiencies involved.
Indeed, in many respects, the crisis is already so serious that it has exceeded the limits of an economic problem, in which an appropriate pricing system may serve as an adequate device for long-term allocation, and has assumed the dimensions of a strategic one, which impinges upon the very physical survival of the country.
For the principal purposes of the present analysis, I shall make the following distinction between a problem of economic dimensions and one of strategic dimensions: While a problem of an economic nature is one which pertains to the allocation of a given amount of available resources among various alternative (and therefore essentially optional) needs, a problem of strategic dimensions is one which pertains to the overall physical insufficiency of a resource necessary for the attainment of vital (and therefore essentially non-optional) objectives.
In policy-relevant terms, the significance of this distinction is that in the latter case, the point of departure is the essential objectives with operational efforts being focused on the acquisition of resources required for their attainment; while in the former case, the point of departure is the given resources with efforts being focused on their allocation among various competing activities (usually by means of a market- based pricing system).
This distinction is of crucial importance in understanding the severity of the water crisis in Israel, and the restrictions this places on the responsible policy options available to it. For given the socio-economic and political circumstances prevailing both in Israel's domestic and foreign environment, it can be shown that even the entire present supply of naturally occurring water is very likely to prove insufficient for the fulfillment of the country's most rudimentary (i.e., non-agricultural) needs. This is true not only for the long term, but the intermediate - and indeed perhaps the immediate - one as well.
Consequently, by its very nature, this is a problem which is "strategic" in the sense previously specified, since it cannot be resolved by the classic economic techniques of simple reallocation of existing stocks or by the introduction of a system of price regulated demand to curb consumption. For, as will be shown later, inelastic demand levels are overhauling maximum available supplies.
While a similar predicament prevails throughout much of the Middle East, where " ... both surface and ground fresh water resources [are] either unavailable or approaching exhaustion", it has especially grave implications for Israel because of the country's unique geo-political situation.
The intrinsic structure of Israel's water problem can be best portrayed as a twin predicament:
On the one hand, the country is located on the fringes of a desert, and is dependent entirely on the vagaries of the weather (i.e., natural precipitation) for its water supplies. On the other hand, if "western" living standards are to be maintained, the inherent long term inelastic demand will, as a matter of certainty, outstrip long-term natural supply.
Both maintaining western living standards and the inelastic demand are of substantive and interrelated significance and warrant further elaboration. As mentioned earlier, the first element of this predicament - that of climatic aridity - is not a difficulty that afflicts Israel alone. With the exception of the higher mountain regions in Lebanon, Turkey and the Maghreb, many Middle Eastern countries suffer from similar - indeed even higher - levels of aridity. Throughout most of the region, annual rainfall ranges from roughly 250 mm to 1000 mm. with much of the extensive desert regions receiving virtually none at all. Furthermore, not only is regional rainfall scarce, it is highly erratic as well.
As Anderson points out, 'the lower the total rainfall the more unreliable the rainfall becomes'.
However, the second element, that relating to the maintenance of western living standards and the inelastic demand is uniquely acute in the case of Israel and thus merits special emphasis. Israel is a country virtually devoid of any natural riches. It has no large tracts of land, no great rivers, forests or mineral deposits. The only resource of consequence at its disposal is the human resource. Accordingly, its future development, indeed its very survival, hinges on the quality and ability of its people. Necessarily then, one of its most vital strategic objectives is to generate a quality of life which can compete with that in other countries which constitute tempting, alternative abodes for talented Israelis with high earning capacity. Water is a crucial component in generating the living standards required by this segment of the population, which in effect is no less than the sine qua non for the future viability of the country.
The importance of this point cannot be overestimated. It is virtually inconceivable that in any feasible scenario in the foreseeable future, Israel could sustain itself as an independent political entity without developing and maintaining the prowess of an advanced "western" country in terms of scientific, technological and organizational capabilities. The development and maintenance of such prowess require the development and maintenance of a commensurately advanced population in terms of its scientific, technological and organizational skills, talents and abilities. This is especially true in view of the previously mentioned dearth of natural wealth in the country, which leaves human ability the only resource on which to draw. To grasp fully the veracity of this statement, one need only imagine how Israel might have fared in contending with the tremendous challenges it faced over the last five decades, had the capabilities of its people not given it a qualitative edge against its adversaries despite the overwhelming quantitative disadvantage it suffered.
However, it is clearly unfeasible to sustain such quality population over time without providing an adequate standard of living roughly comparable to that which an individual of appropriate ability could attain elsewhere. This is becoming particularly true in an era in which the force of secular ideologies (on which the Zionist movement drew heavily in Israel's initial years) is waning, and in which population mobility is extremely high (especially in the case of individuals endowed with skills that are in great demand).
Clearly, such a satisfactory standard of living includes adequate levels of personal hygiene, water-related recreational amenities, environmental aesthetics and so on. Frequent bathing, swimming pools, well groomed gardens and public parks all involve water consumption, without which adequate standards of modern life cannot be attained. It is therefore not surprising to find that there is a very strong (monotonously increasing) functional correlation between living standards and water consumption.
Accordingly, given the maintenance of Western living standards as a strategic objective, it follows that at any given period, the average per capita non-agricultural demand for water will tend to be largely inelastic at minimum required consumption levels. The late Professor Gideon Fishelson, in his study of the demand for water in the Israeli household sector, takes an essentially similar position to that presented above, asserting that:
...even at very high water prices, household consumption of water would hardly decline... Any attempt to lower the domestic water consumption below this level would be rather unsuccessful and its costs in terms of welfare might be quite high.
Other scholars, such as Shaul Arlosoroff, have also recognized an inherently inelastic component in the demand for water, as I have done in some of my previous work.
The crucial question therefore is how this minimum, largely inelastic, demand compares with the total overall physical availability of water in the country.
The nation's water supplies derive from several naturally occurring reservoirs (mainly of subterranean ground water), spread across the country from the Galilee in north to the Arava valley in the south, and from the Mediterranean coast in the west to the slopes of the Jordan valley in the east). Although there is some variation in the estimates of the total amount of available fresh water in the country, most informed assessments put the figure at around 1500-1700 mcm - with some of the more pessimistic evaluations being as low as 1200-1400 mcm, and the more optimistic being as high as 1800 mcm. However, the overwhelmingly predominant proportion of Israel's urban and industrial water demand, most of which is largely inelastic, is supplied from three major sources, which comprise what is known as the National Water System (the NWS):
(a) The northern potion which discharges into the Jezreel and the Beit Shean valleys;
(b) The eastern portion which extends beneath the eastern slopes of the Judean and Samarian hills towards the Jordan Valley;
(c) The western -- and by far the most important -- portion, which constitutes Israel's principal source of high quality drinking water.
For each of the three sources comprising the NWS, hydrologists have set "red lines" that demarcate the levels below which it is considered unsafe to continue extraction. Depleting a source below these levels creates a risk that extensive and irreversible salting or other forms of contamination (see Section D) may begin to occur, irreparably endangering the future of the entire source (or major portions of it) as a reservoir of potable water.
Accordingly, in any given period, and depending on the prevailing conditions, there is a maximum permissible output or "safe yield", which is the quantity of water that can be extracted from the respective sources without breaching these "red lines".
The permissible output (or safe yield) of these sources varies according to the amount of annual rainfall. In this regard, the supply from the Kinneret has been especially volatile, fluctuating over a period of a few years from critically low levels necessitating the virtual cessation of pumping, to levels necessitating the opening of the flood gates to prevent the inundation of the lake's shores, and allowing the excess waters to flow south to the Dead Sea. In dry periods such as 1991, this safe yield may be barely 650 mcm.
For much of the late 1980s and early 1990s, this has been in the range of 650-950 mcm.
Compared to these quantities, the annual non-agricultural demand has reached a level of over 800 mcm, and is rising steeply.
According to some estimates it will reach 1300 mcm by 2020.
Hence, even at prevailing levels of population and per capita consumption rates, almost the entire safe yield of the NWS is required to satisfy current non-agricultural demand. This means that under the existing conditions of the surface and ground water resources comprising the NWS, significant quantities of water can be provided to the agricultural sector only by over-exploiting its capacity beyond safely sustainable extraction levels. Indeed, according to hydrological estimates in recent years, annual demand has exceeded permissible supply by 100-300 mcm.
Professor Dan Zaslavsky has given an even more severe estimate that "the annual deficit relative to the average recharge that already exists or will be reached within a very short period of time is 500 mcm" and warned that in dry years this could result not only in the drying out of considerable agricultural areas but also in "a real difficulty in providing even for urban and industrial use".
In the light of these figures it is not surprising that Israeli agriculture has become increasingly dependent on recycled sewage and other types of low-grade waters unsuitable for drinking purposes.
(This policy and its drawbacks are discussed in greater detail later on - see Section G.) Moreover, to a large degree, the foregoing analysis cuts the ground from under the often-expounded claim that Israel could resolve its current water crisis by re-allocating water presently used for agricultural irrigation to the non-agricultural sector. This point was underscored by former Israeli Water Commissioner, Menahem Kantor, who cautioned that:
... we will face an imminent shortage of water of drinking quality in the near future... There will be no water of drinking quality for agriculture in a few years time. There will be no user [i.e., the farmer] whose demand we can reduce so as to allocate more [water] for household usage... There [will be] no agricultural water in the areas of [urban] demand which can be transferred to drinking water.
This assessment is supported by yet another former Water Commissioner, Dan Zaslavsky, who warned:
Fluctuations in the availability of water due to the occurrence of drought, together with the increase of consumption...will almost certainly result in a shortage of drinking water...
The assessment of the hydrological service... was that, as early as 2005, the occurrence of successive droughts could bring about a situation in which it will not be possible to supply sufficient water for household consumption, since it will not be possible to obtain adequate amounts by reducing water supplies to agriculture as was done in 1991/2.
At this juncture, the point should be made that, by western standards, the Israeli urban sector is in no way extravagant in its consumption of water. Present levels of average per capita urban consumption in Israel are in the range of 111 cm per annum.
By comparison, the urban use in southern California, a region of similar climate, ranges from 250 to 300 cm per capita per annum.
However, beyond the relative thrift of the non-agricultural consumer in Israel, the underlying significance of the foregoing analysis is ominous. For if Israel's population, which at the beginning of 1999 was just over 6 million (excluding Judea, Samaria and Gaza), were to reach 7-7.5 million and the urban demand were to approach the lower levels of such demand in affluent Western states, the country's entire safe yield of fresh water (including sources not presently incorporated in the national system such as the aquifers in the Arava, Beit Shean and the Jordan Valley) would be required to satisfy the urban demand alone.
In this regard it is highly significant to note that even analysts such as Arlosoroff, who appear to believe that annual urban demand per capita can be limited to 110-120 cm, see the inelastic demand overhauling the natural supply capacity within two decades. He estimates that "[i]nelastic consumption of fresh water will amount to approx. 1200-1650 million cm per year (in 2020)".
This figure of 1200-1650 mcm is, it will be recalled, roughly equal to the total overall amount of fresh water available to the country from all naturally occurring sources. Thus, in economic terms we are fast approaching a situation in which fixed supply will equal the level of inelastic (i.e., price insensitive) demand.
This clearly reduces the effectiveness of price as a demand-regulating device and implies that solution to the water problem cannot be attained by usual economic methods of reallocation of existing supplies via the simple operation of the pricing mechanism.
Finally, to conclude this survey of the overall supply and demand situation, it is important to note that with regard to the NWS, the arithmetic sum of the individual capacities of the different sources is not the only factor of concern. The NWS is designed for operation as an integrated supply system. In this regard, the State Comptroller explains:
The National Water System was designed with the purpose of [facilitating] the transfer of surplus waters from the Kinneret ... to the central and southern part of the country, in order to create a mutual support system between the various regional sources. By means of this system, it is possible to convert annual [water] reserves into multi-annual reserves by storing them as ground water in the aquifers.
Thus maintaining ability for overall, coordinated and sustainable management over all component resources is vital. This significance of this feature, especially in the context of possible future political scenarios, will be elaborated on later.
Insufficient quantities of naturally occurring water to satisfy demand are not the only obstacle to sustainable, rational management of the Israeli water system. An additional - albeit often causally related phenomenon - represents a perhaps even greater and more urgent cause for alarm.
As a general rule, when the quantity in any given water source is reduced, the level of salination, as well as chemical and biological pollutants, tends to increase. Years of over-exploitation of the ground and surface stocks have resulted in serious degradation in water quality. Judicious, sustainable management of water resources requires that the extraction rate be significantly less than the average annual recharge rate. Zaslavsky is most emphatic on this point, warning that:
Under no circumstances should the extraction rate equal the average recharge rate of the aquifer. Such a level of extraction will not leave any water to wash out the aquifer. There is a definite danger of brine infiltration and hence salination because of the lack of adequate drainage to wash out [the aquifer].
In practice, quite the reverse has occurred over the years in Israel. Pumping in excess of recharge rate in most of the country's water resources has prevented the natural cleansing process that would allow salt and pollutants to be washed out of them. For instance, in the case of the Coastal aquifer, where the situation is particularly severe, and where depletion of the volume of fresh water has resulted in the significant advance of the interface between it and the sea water, the State Comptroller's Report prescribed, over a decade ago that:
Each year tens of millions of cubic meters should be allowed to flow out of the aquifer along the coastline so as to prevent the infiltration of saline sea water and to wash out the salt and pollutants and to prevent their accumulation in the source.
The level of salting and other pollutants in the water has reduced the quality in numerous sites to below that permissible for drinking water.
Hydrological forecasts warn that by 2010 many existing wells will be forced to shut down, further exacerbating the situation. For example, in 1994 Kliot warned that:
Overpumping of water from the coastal aquifer has caused a steep reduction in its water level and, as a result, sea water has penetrated into it causing it to become salinated over a 4 km wide belt leading to the closing of many wells. Pollutants are accumulating within the aquifer and wells are being shut down because they contain too much salt, nitrates from fertilizers and heavy metals from sludge. About 10 per cent of the coastal aquifer already exceeds the national limit for chloride salts and by 2010, if pumping continues, 20 per cent of the water will exceed the limit.
Six years later, Zaslavsky reaffirmed this position, stating:
In the overwhelming majority of the aquifers, not only has the salination continued, but also the salination rate has actually increased with time. In the Coastal aquifer, north of Zikim, almost 20% of the wells are unfit for use according to the Israeli standard of 400 milligrams of chlorine per liter. The average salt concentration of the water pumped from the Coastal aquifer has reached 190 milligrams chlorine per liter and the rate of salting is approaching 3 milligrams a year... There is increasing pollution of water sources, not only by common salts. For example, according to the required standard for nitrate concentration in drinking water, about 60% of the Coastal aquifer is not suitable for use. One must expect to find growing amounts of a large number of an-organic and organic solutes in the water. The kind and number of pollutants is on the rise.
Although many experts consider the situation of the Coastal aquifer to be the most serious and worrying, there is little room for complacency with regard to the Mountain aquifer and the Kinneret. In both sources the "red lines" have been breached. This is particularly dangerous in these two sources where there is a danger of very large and rapid intrusion of saline waters if water levels are reduced below the "red lines".
With regard to the Mountain Aquifer, the State Comptroller warns that:
...breaching of the red lines is extremely dangerous, and is liable bring about the ruin of pumping locations in the aquifer through infiltration of saline water into them [from the sea and from other subterranean salt concentrates - MS]. It should be noted, that the rate of flow in the Mountain aquifer is much higher than in the Coastal aquifer (because of the type of rock of which it is composed), and therefore the intrusion and spread of saline water is far more rapid and dangerous... If salting occurs in the pumping locations of the aquifer, it will cause severe and irreversible damage to the nation's supply of drinking water and grave harm to the economy of the state.
Kantor underscores the seriousness of this hazard, warning that:
Continued over exploitation [of any given source] will impair the quality [of the water] beyond repair. Recent history has taught us that the years of abundant rainfall that follow a period of aridity, may restore water levels, but do not improve the quality, and indeed may even cause further deterioration. These processes are not reversible in nature.
It seems that these warnings have gone unheeded and significant overexploitation has continued unabated.
The Kinneret too has often been at dangerously low levels in recent years. Indeed, at the time of writing (November/December 2000) the lake was about 80 centimeters Below its designated "red line" - see below.) The quality of the water has been -- and is -- continually endangered by chemical and biological pollutants in the lake.
Such processes constitute an on-going threat to the suitability of the Kinneret's waters for both agricultural and domestic use, and even today constitute a source of salting of soil and ground water.
The capacity of the Kinneret as a source of fresh water is limited to an operating range of about 4 meters determined by the constraints of a maximum level (of 209 meters below sea level) and a minimum level (of 213 meters below sea level). On the one hand, the upper limit is necessary to avoid inundation of the lake's shores including farmlands, tourist locations, roads and other installations, as well as important historical sites of renowned archeological and religious significance, not to mention portions of the city of Tiberias located on the lake's south-western shore.
On the other hand, the lower limit constitutes a hydrological "red line", below which extraction is liable to result in accelerated infiltration of saline waters into the Kinneret, chiefly from the numerous saline springs that well up into the lake and whose flow tends to increase as counter hydrostatic pressure of the lake decreases.
Thus, lowering the level below the permissible minimum is liable not only to cause damage to pumping installations and fishery, but may also endanger the entire lake due to increased biological activity and salt concentrates in the reduced volume of liquid, thus rendering its waters unfit for either drinking purposes or for agricultural irrigation. Moreover, as Hillel points out, depleting the lake significantly below its presently set lower level during the summer months could leave Israel with insufficient water reserves to cope with a possible drought in the subsequent winter.
The growing severity of the dwindling quantity and deteriorating quality of the nation's water generates an additional problem, that of the reliability of supply. This is looming as a threat of increasing gravity to the uninterrupted delivery of water even to domestic and industrial consumers. For it is not sufficient for the availability of water to be on average adequate to satisfy vital minimal demands. If there are periods in which supply falls below levels facilitating supply of this quantity, delivery to consumers will be disrupted. Thus to ensure reliability over time, three minimal measures must be taken:
(a) elimination of the current accumulated deficit in the sources due to continued over-exploitation over the years, by recharging them with artificially produced water (see Section H).
(b) Creation of an "operational stock" which will facilitate permanent operation of the water system above the "red line" danger levels
(c) the creation of a stand-by supply system for use times of unusual severity. (For a detailed exposition of the subject and prospective methods of overcoming the problem - see Zaslavsky, 2000.)
Disruption of regular urban water supplies, which is usually a distinctive characteristic of Third World developing nations, will in turn wreak major disruptions in many walks of life in Israel. This includes not only periodic halts in industrial activity and higher output costs, but also a "sharp fall in living standards, in the ability to maintain high levels of personal hygiene and every day conveniences, as well as a detrimental effect on tourism, and immigration".
Zaslavsky points out that unreliable water supply, rather than the perennial lack thereof, is one of the major if not the major cause of famine related deaths and illness.
The reliability of supply, and the potentially devastating effect its disruption may have, is a somewhat complex concept and not always well understood even by some in professional circles, not to mention policy makers in the political echelon. However, even from this brief synopsis of the problem it should be clear that the continued over-exploitation of Israel's natural water sources, and consequent degradation of the quality and the quantity of the stocks in them, is one of the most severe threats on Israel's claim to the status of an advanced industrial First World country.
As mentioned earlier, the NWS is not structured merely as an aggregate of the three major water sources (The Kinneret, the Coastal aquifer and the Western Mountain aquifer), but as a single integrated entity in which water from one source may be conveyed to other sources should the need arise. Consequently, the responsible management of the system requires careful and considered coordination of the exploitation of the different sources, so to as to minimize the potential danger of serious damage to any one of them. For if in any one year, a certain source is in a critical condition, extraction from it may have to be drastically reduced (such as in the case of the Kinneret in the early 1990s) in order to prevent irreparable damage to the entire source, while utilization of another source is increased to make up the shortfall.
As noted in the previous section, excess extraction from any one of the sources comprising the NWS has a deleterious effect not only on the quantity of its water, but also -- and perhaps more seriously -- its quality. Clearly, shrinking quantities and deteriorating quality in one water source necessarily increase the importance of other sources in the system. This interdependence between dwindling quantities and deteriorating quality underscores the need for a comprehensive policy for the overall management of the NWS as a single integrated unit. This, as mentioned, may entail drastically reducing pumping from a source which may be in grave condition in a given year, to prevent irreparable damage to it, while extraction from another source is boosted to compensate for the deficiency. Subsequently, the latter source may be replenished from surpluses which may accumulate in the former once its situation improves. It should be noted that such coordinated compensation in times of crisis is feasible only if control and authority over all component sources are maintained. As will be come apparent later this is a point of cardinal significance in the context of the Arab-Israeli peace talks.
In this regard, the Mountain Aquifer, portions of which extend into Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"), plays a unique pivotal role in the functioning of the Israeli water system, not only as a major source itself but in conjunction with the Kinneret as a vital element in the coordinated management of local surpluses and deficits and hence in maintenance of the NWS as a whole. Recognition of the crucial importance of the Mountain aquifer, particularly in the light of severe deterioration in the levels of both quality and quantity in the Coastal Aquifer was expressed in the Israeli State Comptroller report on the country's water system:
The Mountain aquifer, extending eastward from the Coastal aquifer, from the slopes of Mt. Carmel to Be'er Sheva and from the crests of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria to the coastal plain, serves as the principle reservoir of drinking water in the country. It supplies drinking water to the Dan region, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva. Today it is the most important long-term source in the [national] water system -- due the serious condition of the Coastal Aquifer, both with regard to quality and quantity -- and is intended to store excess winter flood waters from the Kinneret.
In this regard it should be stressed that the importance of the aquifer as a regulatory element in the NWS is increased even further by the fact that the artificial recharge of the Coastal aquifer with Kinneret surplus flood water -- a measure deemed of importance for the latter's restoration --must be conducted via the Mountain aquifer. On this aspect the State Comptroller remarks:
In the program for the restoration of the Coastal aquifer, emphasis is placed...mainly on the artificial recharge of the aquifer (mostly with winter flood waters from the Kinneret...)... [However] the winter waters of the Kinneret are murky because of tiny algae [in colloidal suspension], which clog the recharge drilling sites. In order to overcome this problem, "a double recharge" [process] is conducted -- [an initial] recharge into the Mountain aquifer (in which there is no such clogging phenomenon as in the Coastal aquifer) and then re-extraction for recharge into the Coastal aquifer.
This difference in the clogging tendencies of the Mountain and Coastal aquifers is due to the difference in their geological composition - i.e., the karstic limestone/dolomite composition of the former, as opposed to the sandstone composition of the latter. The term "karstic" refers to a geological structure made up of porous limestone (a rock composed of calcium carbonate) and/ or dolomite (a rock composed of calcium-magnesium carbonate), characterized by deep fissures and sinkholes, irregular surface features and underground caverns and subterranean water flows. The fact that the ground water in the Mountain aquifer occurs in these subterraneous rock fissures, cracks and crevices, rather than in saturated sandstone, also explains why clogging of drill sites, due to colloidal suspension in the Kinneret flood water, does not occur during artificial recharge operations - as it does in the Coastal aquifer.
Consequently, three principal factors -
(a) the over-exploitation and accumulating pollution of the Coastal aquifer,
(b) the unreliable volatility of the Kinneret as a source of supply, and
(c) the dual function of the Mountain aquifer, both as a receptacle and as a (secondary) source of Kinneret recharge flood water for the Coastal aquifer, in addition to its own importance as a primary source of high grade ground water
underscore the crucial role of the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer in the maintenance of Israel's water system as a whole.
It is for this reason that a somewhat more detailed discussion of the general structure of the aquifer is merited. In somewhat simplified terms the aquifer can be envisaged as being comprised of an inclined layer of permeable water-bearing rock lying between layers of impervious rock, and which outcrops (i.e., is exposed at the surface) in the higher portions of the Judean and Samarian Hills. It is this outcropping area that constitutes the major recharge zone of the aquifer. Hydrological studies indicate that between 80-90% of the total subterranean water in the aquifer originate from precipitation falling on permeable outcrops in Judea and Samaria.
The overall direction of the subterranean flows within the aquifer is naturally in the direction of the incline of the water bearing strata. This means a generally east to west flow in the western Yarkon-Taninim portion, west to east in the eastern portion, and south to north in the northern portion. Similarly any source of pollution on the recharge zone - whether domestic sewage, toxic industrial effluent or agricultural run-off containing fertilizer or insecticide residuals - which seeps into the aquifer, will flow in the same direction as the ground water, i.e., along the incline of the water-bearing strata from the more elevated areas to the lower lying ones. This phenomenon is which is particularly crucial in the case of the western Yarkon-Taninim portion of the aquifer.
With regard to salting in the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer, the direction of the saline infiltration is generally the opposite - i.e., from west to east. As the amounts of sweet water are reduced due to excess exploitation, salt water is liable to penetrate into the aquifer via its interface with the sea, as is saline water from adjacent subterranean salt concentrates. As mentioned earlier because of its karstic nature, the aquifer is characterized by high transmissivity.
The relatively fast flow of the water in the underground spaces and crevices is liable to cause a rapid spreading of the salt water through the aquifer, endangering pumping locations.
The sensitivity of the Mountain aquifer to dangers of salination and pollution, coupled with its vital role in the overall viability of the NWS in its present configuration, inevitably raise the question of who will administer the aquifer and who will have the authority to make and enforce policy as to its future management. This leads unavoidably to the impact that the Arab-Israeli peace process will have on the nation's hydro-strategic future.
Some Methodological Clarifications.
Politics in Israel is a highly charged and emotional issue - particularly in any context that impinges on the Arab-Israel question. Consequently, in an effort to remain strictly within the bounds of scientific objectivity, I shall endeavor throughout this analysis to eschew partisan connotations of the word 'politics' (and its adverbial and adjectival derivatives), and rigorously restrict its intended meaning to that ascribed to it by David - i.e., to 'the authoritative allocation of social values'.
Accordingly, hydro-politics would be defined as that branch of politics that deals with the authoritative allocation of social values that pertain to hydrological resources. In this sense, the hydro-political implications of the Arab-Israel peace negotiations would refer to the effects of this process on the allocative authority and control of the various participants in the Israel-Arab conflict over the hydrological resources in the region. This is an issue, which irrespective of personal political predilections, cannot be excluded from any serious analysis of the nation's water problem.
It is a generally undisputed hydrological fact that the territorial concessions which Israel is being called upon to make to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and to the Syrians in the Golan would create a situation in which up to 50-65% of the water sources currently supplying the country would come under total or partial Arab control - i.e., between 750 mcm according the more optimistic estimates, and over 1 billion cm according to the less optimistic ones, out of a total of 1.5-1.8 billion cm (see below).
This is clearly a major hydro-strategic consideration which must be assessed by those charged with responsibility for the future of the nation. Indeed, the future of Israel's water system will be radically affected by whether it retains or relinquishes its control over such a significant proportion of its present supply. For although it is undeniably true that even if Israel retains total control over all water supplies presently under its jurisdiction, it would still face a grave water problem, forgoing authority over more than half to two thirds of present sources would, in somewhat understated terms, exacerbate the predicament immensely.
To grasp the dimensions of the potential hydro-political implications, we refer to a comprehensive study conducted by TAHAL (Israel Water Planning Authority) for the Jaffee Center in 1991, entitled "Water in the Middle East: Solutions to Water Problems in the Context of Arrangements between Israel and the Arabs."
In the study, significant tracts of north and western Samaria and north-west Judea which overlie the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer, the environs of Jerusalem, and virtually the entire area of the Golan Heights, which constitutes a major portion of the Kinneret's drainage basin, were designated vital hydro-strategic areas for Israel. These are areas in which hydrologically pertinent activity (extraction or pollution) could crucially affect Israeli water supplies within 1967 borders.
According, if Israel wishes maintain its ability to determine the future of its national water system, it must maintain its control over such activity in these areas.
However, in any feasible form of a final status agreement with the Palestinians and under any conceivable accord with Damascus on the Golan, most if not all of these vital hydro-strategic areas will be transferred to Arab control. Thus should Israel indeed conclude an agreement based on such territorial concessions, it will be compelled either to (a) entrust the fate of its water supply to the goodwill of the Arab authorities who will control these areas; or (b) undertake a dramatic restructuring of its entire water system far beyond the changes at present under discussion, in order to free itself of dependency on sources which it no longer controls. As will be seen later, these basic parameters generate a set of three policy options for the structuring of Israel's future water system (see Section H). To comprehend the potential impact that the issue of control over these hydro-strategically areas is liable to have on the nation's water supply, we now take a more detailed look at the major parameters of the problem.
Control of the Mountain Aquifer: Hydro-Strategic Implications.
The Mountain Aquifer extends physically into Judea and Samaria, straddling the 1967 "Green Line". Thus, any activity affecting the ground water on one side of this line will, by the Principle of Connecting Vessels, affect the waters on the other side.
Moreover, the areas designated for transfer to the Palestinian entity envisaged in the Oslo Accords are situated upstream of the subterranean flows and constitute almost the entire recharge zone of the aquifer. Consequently, extraction operations sited on the western slopes of the Judean and Samarian hills lying east of the "Green Line", and/or uncontrolled flows of sewage or industrial effluent emanating from them, are liable to result in depletion, salination and/or pollution of the "principal long term reservoir in the water system, and source of drinking water for most major [Israeli] cities".
To grasp these dangers, one may visualize, as a schematically simplistic but instructive analogy, a vessel containing liquid, cut by an imaginary line. Extracting liquid on one side of the imaginary line lowers the level of both sides of the line. Likewise, pollution on one side will spread throughout the entire body of liquid, contaminating it on both sides of the imaginary divide.
Israeli authorities, irrespective of party-political affiliation, have long been aware of the crucial importance of control over the water sources in the Judea and Samaria. For example, former Labor Party Minister of Agriculture Avraham Katz-Oz broached the issue in a letter to former premier Yitzhak Shamir, dated 14/5/89, entitled "The Security of the State of Israel's Water Today and in the Future". In it Katz-Oz, then the minister responsible by law for the fate of the water system, proposed that the Israeli government take steps to "prevent any increase of the pumping operations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza" and urged it to "prepare a legal and political basis to ensure continued Israeli control and administration of the water sources in Judea and Samaria, whatever the political situation in the future [sic]" (Emphasis added).
In the same month, the Water Commissioner issued a report to the Israeli Government underscoring just how vital the issue of authority and control over the water sources in Judea and Samaria is for the country's future. The report entitled Political Arrangements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and their Influence on the Security of the Water of the State of Israel states
The water sources of Judea and Samaria are intimately interconnected with the principal water sources of Israel ... the quantities reaching Israel are exploited entirely as high quality groundwater, and constitute approximately half [sic] of the country's supply of drinking water.... It is physically possible to increase the rate of pumping in Judea and Samaria in the north and west regions to such a degree so as to cause the cessation of pumping operations inside Israel.... An additional danger to the groundwater in Judea and Samaria arises from sewage and other sources of pollution which will contaminate the water in the western regions...
Former Water Commissioner Menahem Kantor echoes this position, remarking that:
As long as we lived in the period prior to the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, we could allow ourselves to adopt a policy of maintaining the existing status quo. Today such a possibility no longer exists. Even without knowing the specific details of the negotiations, the agreements and the engineering and technical proposals, there are certain assumptions and undisputed facts which should be emphasized:
- There is no way that the water systems in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea can be separated. Whatever the future agreements may be, we are situated on the same "pool" of water.
- In spite of the difference in living standards and water consumption per capita [domestic consumption is about 110 cm in Israel and 35 cm for the Palestinians], long term planning must take into account that consumption rates in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria will be similar to those in Israel.... The situation is most complicated in the western portion... There is a danger of pollution of the water sources in the Mountain area. Flows of sewage of any kind towards the coastal plain is a development which cannot be accepted under any circumstances. 
This view was reiterated by Dan Zaslavsky of the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion), just prior to his appointment as Water Commissioner of Israel. In an interview in the Israeli business daily Globes (22.8.1990), Zaslavsky warned:
There is no doubt that the two populations, one inhabiting the mountains ridges [of Judea and Samaria] and the other inhabiting the coast, are supplied from the same water source. Those charged with the responsibility for the water system and its planning must take account of this fact... The concern is not only about unrestrained exploitation by those inhabiting the mountains. There is also a problem of the pollution of the water. The population of Judea and Samaria has no central sewage system or sewage treatment. There is no doubt that this sewage contaminates the sources of water used by us.
In his most recent treatise on the water problem Zaslavsky gives an even blunter assessment of the situation, warning that:
As they do not have any other source of water, there will be an irresistible urge for the Palestinians to pump more and more [from the Mountain aquifer] below the red line. There is thus a possibility, indeed a certainty [sic], of a very rapid process of inundation of the aquifer by seawater. The conclusions to be drawn regarding the aquifer are unequivocal, without any political bias at all ...There is no way that we can prevent the Palestinians from doing this. Even a few wells around Kalkilya, Jenin and Tulkarem can preclude water supplies to Israel from the Carmel [in the north] to Beer Sheba [in the south].
Developments on the ground seem to indicate that these fears are well founded. Following the transfer of the major population centers in Judea and Samaria to Palestinian control, there have been reports of both the establishment of unauthorized drilling sites and intensified pollution of Israeli water supplies. For example, Ha'aretz reported that the Palestinians had initiated numerous illegal drilling operations in areas evacuated by the Israel Defense Forces. Gideon Zur, then incumbent Water Commissioner, warned that such activities are "liable to cause heavy damage to Israeli ground water supplies".
Similar accounts of unauthorized Palestinian drilling sites were carried several weeks later by Ma'ariv.
With regard to pollution hazards, Yedi'ot Aharonot quoted official Israeli sources describing the situation as "really critical". Under the banner headline "Palestinian Sewage Endangers the Public Health in Israel" the newspaper investigation confirmed that "the major portion of the Palestinian sewage flows into wadis, and infiltrates into ground water which is used for drinking purposes in Israel".
These reports are not the only accounts pointing to the potential threat to Israel's water sources as a result of its withdrawal from territories comprising the aquifer's recharge area. Other experts such as Professor Avner Adin, of Ben Gurion University, confirmed the seriousness of the potential dangers inherent in the current situation.
In an address to the Knesset (4.12.96), then incumbent environment minister Raphael Eitan, complained of Palestinian disregard toward their obligations vis-á-vis the water issue, particularly with respect to sewage.
Such developments, coupled with the intense interdependence and scarcity of water supplies, accentuate further the severity of the problem of defining the authority of the various parties over the resources raised by Katz-Oz. Indeed, under the prevailing hydrological conditions, the problem of allocating such a vital and scarce shared-resource would make disputes almost inevitable. For in any form of final settlement, numerous thorny - indeed, virtually irresoluble - questions will necessarily arise - as underscored by both M. Kantor and Zaslavsky.
For example: Who would have the final say as to where drilling sites were to be located; who would determine how much water is to be pumped from them without irreparably damaging the aquifers; who would decide where potentially polluting industries should or should not be established within the evacuated areas; who would have the final decision as to the acceptability of treatment and disposal of sewage, whose westward flows down the slopes of the "West Bank" hills could imperil Israeli water sources? How could Palestinian compliance with agreed restrictions on pumping and standards of pollution treatment be verified without Israel retaining not only a physical presence in the Palestinian areas, but also wide-ranging powers, both to monitor Palestinian adherence to treaty terms and to enforce these terms in case of violations?
Moreover, on such issues, written agreements will often be of little avail. For it is clearly impossible that such a document could foresee all possible eventualities and potential sources of friction. Therefore, in cases of disputes as to the interpretation of the agreement, whose will would be imposed on whom? How could Israel secure its vital interests without imposing impossible restrictions on the Palestinians' freedom to determine their own domestic matters? Conversely, how could the Palestinians be given freedom to conduct their legitimate domestic affairs without gravely endangering Israel's vital interests? This is a predicament which has been referred to by both Palestinians and Israelis. Thus, on the one hand Sharif Elmusa, advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team on water issues, points out that continued Israeli monitoring and control of water related activities within the territories administered by the Palestinians after the interim period will constitute a violation of their national right to self-determination.
Indeed, Elmusa is quite specific on this point. While he acknowledges that Article 40 of the Oslo II interim agreement "empowers Israeli personnel on the Joint Water Committee to inspect (jointly with Palestinians) hundreds of Palestinian wells scattered across the West Bank", he clearly sees this as a very temporary condition. For he goes on to assert (with a significant degree of justification) that:
[This] blatant one-sidedness, which might be rationalized as a reflection of the abnormality of the interim phase, [is] an arrangement which would visibly violate Palestinian sovereignty in the future.
On the other hand, Dore Gold, formerly of the Jaffee Center of Strategic Studies and later Israel's ambassador to the UN, poses the following question:
What will the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] do if unauthorized wells are drilled on land where the PA [Palestinian Authority] has been given virtually full control. Will the IDF intervene in order to put a stop to the exploitation of water that the PA views as a national right?
All of this augurs ill for any prospect of "joint management" of the aquifer, a proposal often aired as a format for future conduct of Israeli-Palestinian administration of the Mountain aquifer. Indeed, in this specific regard, Aluf Benn, the political correspondent of the Ha'aretz daily, reported on 7.11.1999 that the National Security Council (NSC) recommended to Premier Barak that "Israel retain the control of the main reservoir of ground water (the western Mountain aquifer)" and that it "should consent to joint management of the water sources of the West Bank only after an extended interim period...[in which] the Palestinians will have to prove their ability to administer water resources".
According to Benn:
the NSC report warns against agreeing to joint management of the western Mountain aquifer. The principal danger arises from the scant ability of the Palestinians to effectively impose the terms of the agreement, and from the consequent proliferation of unauthorized drilling sites which will reduce the quantity and quality of the water in the aquifer.
Control of Golan Heights: Hydro-Strategic Implications.
The issue of control and authority raised by former agriculture minister Katz-Oz in the preceding section regarding the Mountain Aquifer, is no less relevant with respect to the Kinneret, which is Israel's only major surface water reservoir. To comprehend the hydro-political context of the Kinneret, it must be realized that the fate of the lake is crucially dependent on the winter recharge it receives from precipitation in its drainage area (December to April), and which compensates for the intensified consumption and evaporation of the summer (May to November).
However, as an important portion of the Kinneret's drainage basin falls within the Golan Heights, whoever controls these Heights, controls the fate of the Kinneret.
This fact of course raises issues of great consequence for Israel in light of political initiatives which entail its evacuation of the area and its transfer to Syrian rule. Indeed, even proponents of regional cooperation and joint ventures between Middle Eastern countries, such as Kally and Fishelson, acknowledge that:
... a change in the sovereignty over this area and its return to Syrians ...[who] have not placed the peace issue in a prominent position on their national agenda ...would raise problems of the need to ensure the existing user rights which depend on the Israeli Sea of Galilee inflow ...
Clearly, were Israel to relinquish its control of the Heights and withdraw its military from the area, it would no longer be able to ensure the future of the Kinneret and consequently the future of its entire water system in its present configuration - since it would also no longer be able to ensure its capacity to recharge the aquifers with Kinneret surpluses. For example, an Israeli evacuation of the Golan would leave the Syrians free to re-implement large-scale projects for the diversion of the upper Jordan.
This is not a question of mere hypothetical import. For concern in this regard is not without a basis in historical precedent. In 1965-66, following a decision by the Arab League, Syria began to implement a large scale project for the diversion of the Jordan head waters directly into the Yarmuk, which is the Jordan's major tributary, joining it just south of the Kinneret. The plan was designed to thwart the operation of the National Water Carrier, which began in 1964, conveying water from the Kinneret to the central and southern parts of Israel. Since prior to 1967, Israel's eastern border was not the lower Jordan but the so-called 'Green Line', running 25-50 km west of the river, the implementation of the diversion would have deprived both the country, and the Kinneret, of the waters of some of the Jordan River's majors sources - including the Banias and Hasbani.
Indeed, it is widely held that the intensification of the water-related hostilities was a major factor leading to the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War.
Israel's victory, which established its control over the Golan Heights, severely reduced the chances of Arab attempts to deprive it of the head waters of the Jordan and dramatically improved its hydro-strategic position.
As Naff and Matson point out, "[t]he ability of the Arab riparians to proceed with unilateral schemes decreased in proportion to Israeli gains."
Several analysts warn that the danger of Syrian attempts have not subsided. For example, certain US military sources warn that the Damascus regime may still intend to divert some of the upper Jordan sources into its own territory.
Moreover, the TAHAL report warns that in the event of Israel withdrawing from the Golan:
A renewed threat of the diversion of the Jordan sources will arise. Under these conditions, it is possible to divert, by means similar to those of the Arab plan of the sixties, the water of the Snir (the Hasbani) and the Hermon (Banias) rivers and transfer them to the Yarmuk.
Zaslavsky enumerates the powerful motivations that exist today for such a Syrian initiative that are totally divorced from its relations with Israel, such as friction with other neighbors and local water shortages. He warns that these together with Damascus' poor record for honoring agreements (see below) mean that renewed Syrian attempts, in one form or another, to unilaterally appropriate the waters of the Golan cannot be discounted.
A recent confidential report written by the National Water Corporation, Mekorot, entitled "Background Material for the Peace Talks on Water Issues between Israel and Syria: Situation Assessment and Risk Analysis," also broaches the subject of unilateral Syrian action on the Golan. The report refers to the effect such action is liable to have both with regard to the quantity and the quality of the Kinneret waters. With regard to the former, it warns that unilateral Syrian activity could preclude up to 15% of the total available fresh water supply to Israel, compelling it to find alternative sources to replace this amount, probably by desalination.
However the qualitative aspects are even more serious. The report points out that:
... the water precluded from the Kinneret [i.e., from the Golan] would be of a very low salt content, while the inflow of high salt content water (mainly from submarine wells in the lake) would not be commensurately reduced.
As a result, the report warns that:
If such unilateral actions are taken by Syria and Lebanon, they will cause not only a reduction of the specified quantity in Israel's overall balance of water, but also a worsening in the quality of the water in the Kinneret. In the long run the salinity of the water will reach levels that [...will make it] impossible to use the Kinneret waters directly, without mixing them with water of a very low salinity so that the mixture will be suitable for use. This means that supply will have to be suspended not only to the areas in the immediate environs of the Kinneret but also along the sector of the National Water Carrier from the Sapir site via the Netofa valley up to a point where it can be diluted with desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea, on a large scale. This will require the construction of a parallel system that will convey the waters suitable for use back from the coast to the Kinneret including a ring circuit system for supply to the environs around the lake. In our view, it can be said with certainly that the Israel water system will not be able to cope with the full extent of this kind of exigency.
The Mekorot document thus recommends that if Israel cannot arrive as some "reasonable arrangement with Syria" the details of which the authors do not specify, it must "refrain from evacuating the Golan [sic]".
Although the possibility of purposeful malice on the part of the Syrians cannot be totally dismissed as excessively alarmist, it is not a precondition for the devastation of the Kinneret. Such a danger could quite well arise as a result of unintentional environmental mismanagement, lack of ecological awareness, lack of resources to maintain adequate environmental standards or to deal with unforeseen mishaps.
Thus the TAHAL report warns of the ecological hazards involved in an Israeli withdrawal, cautioning that 'the Golan constitutes a source of potential pollution for the Kinneret'. Hillel concurs on this point, observing that:
If the Syrians resettle and industrialize the Golan plateau after Israel's evacuation, the area might become a source of pollution endangering the water quality of the Sea of Galilee.
Zaslavsky is more forthright on this matter, remarking that:
The Syrians have announced that they intend to settle the Golan, after it has been returned to their control, with half a million people. The burden of pollution to be expected from this population, given the level of environmental protection and waste management in Syria, will turn the Kinneret into an odious foul-smelling pond, unsuitable as a tourist attraction and certainly unable to supply drinking water without thorough and expensive treatment.
Thus, Syrian development of agriculture, construction of infrastructure systems, and the building of industrial zones and residential areas in the Golan are likely to result in uncontrolled flows of chemical pollutant and sewage into the Kinneret drainage system (much as occurred in the reported cases of the Palestinian pollution of the Israeli water sources discussed in the preceding section), thereby upsetting the delicate ecological balance in the lake and endangering its viability as a source of potable water. The sensitivity of this aspect can be gauged from the fact that even the damming operations conducted by Israel and local demand of the Israeli settlements on the Heights themselves, have a potentially deleterious effect on the Kinneret's recharge.
These, however, are factors which can be controlled and whose extent can be determined by Israel as long as it maintains its physical presence over the drainage area. Indeed the TAHAL report refers specifically to this point, observing that at present:
Minhal Ha'Kinneret [the Kinneret Authority] operates to prevent pollution in the Golan Heights, including by means of garbage collection and sewage purification. In the said scenario [i.e., Israeli evacuation] these activities would cease.
Former Water Commissioner Meir Ben Meir, in an appearance before the Knesset State Control Committee, made the following blunt statement:
If the Syrians settle hundreds of thousands of people on the Golan, without appropriate means for treating the sewage and other sources of pollution, it will mean the end of the Kinneret - beyond any shadow of a doubt.
All of this hardly bodes well for the future. For were Israel to transfer control of the Golan to Syria, the "mere" lack of purposeful ill-will on the part of Damascus would not be sufficient to safeguard the Kinneret. This would in fact require the exercise of purposeful goodwill on its part. In order to prevent great damage being inflicted on the lake, Syria would, on the one hand, have to willfully abstain from certain routine activities which would cause little direct detriment to itself; and, on the other hand, make a conscious effort to execute other activities which bring little direct benefit to itself. Thus, the Syrians would have to invest considerable efforts in sewage and waste treatment (well above the usual level in their country) to ensure that the quality of water that flows out of territory under their control, and into Israeli territory will not impair the quality of Israeli water - even though the effect on Syrian water is likely to be minimal. Likewise, the Syrians would have to refrain from activities such as damming or diverting of winter run-off which helps replenish the Kinneret's stock after the extensive summer losses, or at least only conduct such activities in coordination and agreement with Israel. For any significant reduction in the winter recharge will threaten the capacity of the Kinneret as a source of supply to Israel and confront it with a decidedly unpalatable dilemma: (a) either diminish or curtail pumping from the lake, so as not to breach the "red line", thus drastically reducing the amount of available water in the country; or (b) continue pumping below the "red line" thus endangering the quality of the waters of the entire lake.
Thus, in the event of Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, both the quality and the quantity of water flowing into to the lake will in effect be left, in large measure, to the discretion of the regime in Damascus. This type of situation, in which the fate of a vital interest of one nation is almost entirely dependent on the goodwill of another, is as Kliot correctly points out, "a geopolitical limitation which sovereign nations only reluctantly take upon themselves".
The seriousness of the predicament can be gauged by the words of Ya'acov Tsur, who served as Minster of Agriculture under both Rabin and Peres during the periods in which the Oslo Accords were signed and evacuation of the Golan was seriously negotiated:
The water sources on the Golan [are] a critical, vital and even a fateful matter in terms of the future of the State [of Israel]. I have to say that I am not aware of any replacement for this water.
Reduction of Fresh Water Supply to Agriculture
One of the oft-quoted "solutions" brought up for a quick and "painless" resolution of Israel's water shortage is the reduction of the supply of fresh water to agriculture and transferring it to urban and industrial use. While there may appear substantial prima facie logic in such a proposal, deeper analysis will show it to be fraught with deficiencies, which seriously impair it effectiveness.
Firstly it should be remembered that significant portions of the water utilized by agriculture that are not included in the NWS (such in the Arava, Jordan Valley and Bet Shean area) are not currently available for urban and industrial use, since no conveyance system exists to bring them to the metropolitan urban centers. Thus cutting back on the supply of these waters to farmers will not produce a single additional liter of water for urban use in the short to medium run - even if the construction of such infrastructure were deemed economic relative to the option of desalination, which is doubtful.
Secondly it should be realized that reducing water to Israeli farmers would not reduce demand for agricultural produce. It is thus highly likely that this demand will be supplied, at least partially, by Arab farmers in the Palestinian areas, many of whom draw their irrigation waters from the same sources which supply Israeli farmers. Thus, water saved by reduced supply to Israeli growers, may well be used by Palestinian growers, who by and large, use less water-efficient irrigation techniques than their Israeli counterparts. Accordingly unless Israel can control the use of water by farmers in Palestinian controlled territories it is likely that overall reduction in agricultural activity will be less than expected and that relatively more water will be required to sustain it. Another serious risk is that agricultural produce not grown by Israeli farmers may be grown by Palestinian farmers using untreated sewage. M. Kantor warns that it would be impossible to control such a phenomenon, which would be likely to develop into a severe health hazard.
Thirdly, the proposals that call for the drastic reduction of agriculture often rest on the claim that this activity constitutes a very small percentage (around 3%) of the GNP. However, in practice, a far higher economic price would probably be incurred. For the reduction in agriculture would hit not only the livelihood of the farmers alone, but also all those industries that supply them with "pre- and post-harvest" goods and services - i.e., industries "upstream" or "downstream" of agriculture proper.
These include the chemical industry (fertilizers, insecticides etc.); packaging materials (plastic, paper, cardboard etc.); engineering and machinery (manufacture and maintenance of equipment for irrigation, cultivation and harvesting); transport (land, sea and air); and processing plants (fruit juices, vegetable extracts, purees, wineries etc.). Reducing the scale of agriculture implies reducing the scale of these industries' operations as well. Thus even without taking account of other considerations such as Zionist values, ecology, food security and so on, the extent of the economic damage that will result from the diminution of agriculture is far greater than the direct damage to the producers of agricultural products alone. Indeed, study of the contribution of Israeli agriculture in the value added chain reflects this point quite emphatically (see Table 1):
|Output (in $ million)||2,631||2,981||3,488|
|No. of Employees||21,6800||68,800||19,596|
|Export (in $ million)||816||548||322|
The enhanced overall weight of the "agricultural aggregate" in the GNP (over and above the commonly quoted estimates) is underscored by the fact that the in the year of the study (1993) the total Israeli GNP was around $70 billion according to World Bank estimates. By some assessments the overall effect of a drastic reduction in agricultural activity could reach 10% of the GNP.
Use of Recycled Sewage Water
Another frequently cited proposal is that recycled sewage water can be used to solve the water shortage in Israel by replacing the fresh water used by agriculture. Here too, there are serious limitations to this measure that severely impair the scope of its feasibility as an overall solution. Both M. Kantor and Zaslavsky give detailed descriptions of the prospective danger and damage that would be incurred by wide-spread use of recycled waste water for agricultural irrigation.
Both experts underscore that strict restrictions must be observed as to what crops can be irrigated by such water and as to where such water can be used for irrigation. Zaslavsky is particularly elaborate in detailing the potential detriments - both economic and environmental. In his latest analysis of Israel's water problem he lists nine reasons why extensive use of recycled sewage should be avoided. A summary of the major arguments are presented below:
International Cooperation and Regional Solutions
It is common practice for many works dealing with the water issue in the Middle East to devote attention to a discussion of the possibility of resolving the problem in an overall regional context. This usually involves international cooperation between states of the area with the support of the global community.
There appears, however, to be no real consensus as how to best go about defusing the region's water shortage, with proposals ranging from the seemingly pragmatic (such as joint large-scale desalination plants using proven technologies) to the patently preposterous (such as the towing of icebergs to the region from the polar circle). Yet no matter what the eventual details of such a solution may be, one thing seems reasonably certain. Given (a) the overall physical shortage of water in the region, and (b) the dependency of supply on natural precipitation in a climatically arid part of the world, any effective attempt at resolving the problem will have to involve the long term development of enterprises aimed at increasing the overall supply of water to the area by means which are independent of the vagaries of the weather.
Almost inevitably therefore these enterprises will include projects for the artificial augmentation of water supplies over and above those provided by nature. For it is only by the introduction of reliable man-made sources of supply that it will be possible to free the region from reliance on the fickle whims of weather for the provision of adequate amounts of the life-giving liquid. As just mentioned, various international projects toward this end have been suggested. However, at this juncture it is not my intention to examine the details of any specific proposal in terms of its economic or technological feasibility. (I have conducted a more elaborate discussion of this topic elsewhere.) Instead, within the context of a national net assessment, I focus attention on the overall feasibility of the concept of international cooperation and regional solutions in general, given the prevailing geo-political milieu of Middle East today.
For whatever the economic or technical details of these proposals, nearly all of them tend to studiously ignore the fact that the very structure of the regimes in the Middle East - the vast majority of which are military dictatorships in one form or another - is hardly conducive (if not unequivocally inimical) to the creation of the kind of conditions necessary for regional stability and international cooperation. The movement across frontiers, whether of human beings, goods, ideas or capital is usually highly restricted - at best heavily regulated, at worst totally forbidden. It is thus not surprising to find that international cooperation of any kind in the Middle East is a phenomenon of some considerable rarity. In this regard Soffer observes that:
... regional cooperation and mutual trust are not among the prominent features of [the Middle East... [T]he states of the region do not generally cooperate with each other - whether on water or other issues. The only case of cooperation in the Middle East is the cooperation among the Arab states in creating various coalitions in their war against Israel. Apart from this there is no significant cooperation between the states comprising the Arab League. Indeed, hostile relations, which sometimes result in bloodshed and even war, prevail between [many] Arab states. As for cooperation between the Arab states and the three non-Arab states in the Middle East (Iran, Turkey and Israel), there has never been in the past nor is there in the present any cooperation in economic or other matters.
Essentially the same views have been echoed by other Middle East analysts. Amikam Nachmani for example advises against investing any effort towards the implementation of joint ventures, declaring that "[n]either time, money nor hope should be wasted on regional water development projects."
Others have cautioned that not only is significant international cooperation in the Middle East non-existent but may indeed be undesirable or at least imprudent. Thus, in testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress (21 October 1997), Professor Eliyahu Kanovsky warned that Israel should be extremely wary in entering into ventures with other Middle Eastern states, invoking the Iranian precedent, in which the then new Islamic regime abruptly terminated all economic and other ties with the Jewish state, after seizing power in 1979. He counseled that:
... the Iranian experience should teach Israel to go slow, and be wary about larger joint projects which might make Israel, or important parts of Israel, subject to sudden cutoff, or subject Israel to blackmail.
An essentially similar approach is echoed by Clawson. Referring to his experience at the World Bank he warns that:
Financial disputes have been an irritant in joint international projects around the world, even when the countries involved are on good terms; they are likely to be all the worse when the partners start out being suspicious of each other.
With regard to the regional water projects designed to promote the cause of stability in the Middle East, he was even more pessimistic, stating that:
Such projects will not cement the recent [Oslo] peace accord. They are almost sure to be accompanied by dispute-provoking cost overruns which will strain relations between the partners.
Indeed, even fervent proponents of Arab-Israel understanding on hydrological problems express decided skepticism regarding the advisability of joint enterprises. For example, Aaron Wolf questions "whether greater interdependence is actually an impetus to greater cooperation or ... in fact, the opposite, leading to greater conflict". He goes onto caution that:
Many of the hostilities that have occurred in the region over water seem to have come about precisely because the water destined for a downstream user was controlled by an upstream party. Many "co-operative" projects might only provide additional opportunity for suspicion and potential for contention.
There thus appears to be a large body of professional opinion which questions the prudence of basing the solution to Israel's water problem on the chimera of international cooperation and regional collaboration.
Artificial Production of Water and the Imperative of Large-Scale Desalination.
It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that (a) the supply of natural water available to Israel is undeniably inadequate to satisfy Israel's future (and indeed even its present) needs; (b) additional supplies will need to be generated by artificial means that will free the country from the fickle vagaries of the weather in a region of arid to semi arid climate. As mentioned earlier, a wide variety of solutions has been proposed to contend with this problem. Such proposals range from overland and/or submarine pipelines from Turkey or the Nile, through trans-border canals across Syria, to water filled "Medusa bags" towed behind ships.
However, as creative and innovative as some of these suggestions may be, there are serious question marks as to their practical feasibility - whether the reasons for this be economic, technological or political or a combination of all three.
There does however seem to be wide-ranging consensus among sober and experienced experts that the most feasible method to adopt, and one which is based on proven and ever improving technologies, is that of desalination. Indeed there seems little dissension that large-scale desalination is a vital imperative for the country. Note that the dire need for large-scale desalination exists irrespective of any territorial concessions that Israel may be called upon to make within the parameters of a future peace settlement with its Arab neighbors. However, such concessions are highly likely to exacerbate both the urgency and the scale of the problem - as will be discussed below.
In a study of this nature which addresses the net assessment of Israel's hydro-strategic situation on an overall national scale, the subtleties of differentiating between the desalination of brackish water, recycled sewage and sea water and the question of which should be undertaken first, seems somewhat inappropriate. While these are issue of considerable operational and engineering consequence, in the larger strategic frame they are only of secondary significance. For although desalination of brackish waters and treated sewage would be considerably cheaper, they are limited in quantity. Thus sooner or later Israel will have to embark on large-scale seawater desalination, probably by means of the reverse osmosis process, which is considered today to be the cheapest available technique (about 25-35 cents per cm for brackish water and 70-85 cents for sea water).
In this regard, it appears that Israeli government cognizance of the scale of the problem is totally out of touch with reality. The recent government decision to establish a desalination plant with a capacity of 50 mcm over the next three years seems hopelessly inadequate and is possibly no more that one tenth of the real present requirement. Zaslavsky estimates that there is an immediate need for an additional 500 mcm of desalinated water - roughly 50-60 % of which is needed to reduce the current deficit and the rest to begin reduction of the accumulated deficit and build up an "operational stock" to ensure reliability of supply in years of drought (see Section D above), as well as to reduce the danger of salting.
In addition, desalination will have to expand at about 35-45 mcm a year to cope with the expected annual growth in demand.
These orders of magnitude underscore why desalination of seawater would eventually be inevitable. For even if relatively large quantities of desalinated brackish water were produced (say 250 mcm per annum or 5 times the present scale of government desalination plans), this would be entirely absorbed by the growth in demand within a few (5-7) years.
However, while there seems little dissension among authoritative experts that large-scale desalination is an imperative for the future of Israel's water system, the problems that would inevitably arise from implementation of an enterprise of the required scope and complexity should not be underestimated. For the conversion of the water system from one that is completely dependent on natural supplies to one that is largely dependant on artificially generated (i.e., desalinated) water will involve far-reaching changes in the structure of the water system beyond the mere establishment of the water producing plants themselves. These will include, among others, significant modifications to the conveyance and distribution systems, as well as the preparation of additional storage facilities. With regard to the latter Hillel observes:
Since a desalinization plant, to achieve maximal efficiency, must be operated continuously throughout the year, whereas water demand fluctuates seasonally, some system of storage will be necessary.
As this policy option would necessitate the production of very large quantities of water, commensurately large storage facilities would have to be made available. On this point, Zaslavsky also stresses the future importance of storage:
Storage volume will be no less necessary when the quantity of desalinated water increases. The demand for water varies seasonally. In order to operate the desalination equipment continuously, a storage volume of approximately 20% of the overall annual output is required.
This would seem to make surface storage facilities unfeasible, for such a measure would require the submergence of extensive areas, and involve high losses due to evaporation. Locating suitable sites, especially if located reasonably close to the areas of high demand, would, to say the least, be an extremely remote possibility. Accordingly, the most obvious, if not the only, choice for such storage locations would be the aquifers themselves. Hillel endorses this view, enumerating other advantages of such subterranean storage:
... underground storage is preferable to surface storage, since it entails smaller losses due to evaporation and seepage...
Another aspect often overlooked by desalination proponents, is that of the energy requirements that such a large-scale project would entail. Desalination is an energy-intensive process and energy costs account for up to 40% of the cost of the water.
Authoritative estimates of the energy requirements for the desalination of 500 mcm using reverse osmosis techniques put the figure at 2 billion Kwh or about 5% of the overall national consumption of electricity. The energy required for the production of an annual increase of 40 mcm of desalinated water would entail an estimated additional increase of almost ½% in Israel's present electrical consumption. The consequences of territorial withdrawal implicit in peace agreements may make far higher volumes of desalination necessary and hence impose far higher energy requirements. As pointed out above, such withdrawal implies the transfer of control over 750-1000 mcm of natural water sources to Arab authorities. Thus in worst case scenarios, the desalination - and hence the energy - requirements may grow by 200-300% of the figures quoted above.
This is a matter which must be given serious consideration. There is growing awareness in the world of the damage caused by the combustion of fossil fuel and the emission of greenhouse gases. Although there is still a long way to go before any compulsory, sanction-enforced emission levels are introduced (as the recent failure of the Hague conference shows), this is something that cannot be dismissed in the longer run. Indeed if life on the planet is to be sustained it is difficult to see how it can be avoided. Thus if Israel is dependant on energy intensive methods for producing an increasing proportion of its water needs, it would be very prudent of it to strenuously pursue endeavors to develop methods of renewable clean energy. For if international emission levels are enforced, and between 5-15% of Israel's energy consumption is devoted to water production, the implications could be extremely grave. As such emissions levels are almost certain to impose significant reductions in fossil fuel combustion, without new means of energy generation, the country will be faced with a cruel dilemma. It will either have to (a) significantly reduce water production (which would not be the case if it were more dependant on natural sources); or (b) significantly reduce energy consumption in other sectors (i.e., significantly reduce economic activity and living standards; (c) or face severe international censure and sanction.
Thus while desalination appears to be a definite and unequivocal imperative for the future of Israel's water system, there are formidable challenges that have to be overcome before it can be implemented and integrated as a major component into the nation's water supply. As hinted at above, one of the major factors affecting the required scope and urgency of desalination will be the outcome of the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations and the territorial withdrawals Israel will be called upon to make in the Golan and Judea and Samaria. In the following section we examine the manner in which the peace process is liable to influence the policy options and imperatives regarding the future of the nation's water system.
From the analysis of the prevailing supply and demand trends, it is clear that even without forgoing any of her present sources, Israel would be compelled to find methods of artificial production of water in order to complement insufficient supplies of natural water. However, compliance with the withdrawals called for in the Arab-Israeli peace process implies the loss of control over a major of portion of the country's natural water originating in the Golan and Judea and Samaria to Arab authorities. Thus under these conditions, the desalination imperative assumes a new and enhanced dimension. Analysis of Israel's options under these conditions seems to suggest that three major policy approaches are available to it. These different archetypal policy approaches are generated by two major Israeli decision parameters: (a) the decision to honor Israel's contractual obligations vis-à-vis territorial concessions; (b) the willingness to trust Arab intentions to honor contractual obligations and not to infringe on Israel's hydrological interests which would come under Arab control following the implementation of these territorial concessions.
Let us now examine the hydro-strategic significance of the various options.
Option I. Compliance with the withdrawal implicit in the peace process and planning future development of the county's water system on continued large-scale reliance on natural sources transferred to Arab control, under the assumption that the Arab counter-signatories to a peace treaty (and any potential successors) will indeed continue to respect Israel's hydrological interests- even if these may run counter to their own.
This is an option fraught with risks and uncertainties, and one against which many have warned -- in both a general context and in a more specific hydro-strategic one. It would be prudent for Israel to be mindful of Henry Kissinger's skepticism regarding the binding nature of agreements between sovereign entities, when he observed that "one of the attributes of sovereignty is the right to change one's mind".
Such caution should be compounded by Shimon Peres' long-forgotten caveat that:
The major issue is not [attaining] an agreement, but ensuring the actual implementation of the agreement in practice. The number of agreements which the Arabs have violated is no less than number which they have kept.
In a more "hydro-specific" context, Israeli policy makers would do well to heed the previously cited words of caution regarding the vulnerability of the waters of the Mountain aquifer and of the Kinneret, should Israel relinquish control over these water sources:
As they do not have any other source of water, there will be an irresistible urge for the Palestinians to pump more and more [from the Mountain aquifer] below the red line. There is thus a possibility, indeed a certainty [sic], of a very rapid process of inundation of the aquifer by seawater. The conclusions to be drawn regarding the aquifer are unequivocal, without any political bias at all ...There is no way that we can prevent the Palestinians from doing this. -- Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 72.
If the Syrians settle hundreds of thousands of people on the Golan, without appropriate means for treating the sewage and other sources of pollution, it will mean the end of the Kinneret - beyond any shadow of a doubt. -- Meir Ben Meir, Testimony before Knesset State Control Committee, 3.1.2000.
Indeed, it would seem to require a giant leap of faith in the selfless altruism of the Arabs to believe that they would give priority to honoring commitments to preserve Israeli hydrological interests (which require restricting consumption rates to prevent depletion of Israeli supplies) to the detriment of their own interests (which require increasing consumption rates to supply Arab consumers at the expense of Israeli ones, especially - at least in the cases of the Palestinians - as this could be seen as addressing the allegedly hitherto discriminatory allocation of the water in favor of Israel). Moreover, it should be remembered that purposeful Arab ill-will is not a necessary pre-condition for a threat to materialize. As stressed above, grave dangers could quite well arise due to a lack of environmental managerial skills, of ecological awareness, or of physical and financial resources to deal with unexpected contingencies.
Aversion to surrendering control over water supplies to an alien power should not be considered a uniquely (nor an unfounded) Israeli angst. Indeed, as Hillel points out, the great "reluctance [of sovereign states] to place themselves in a state of [hydrological] dependency upon the continuing goodwill of an outside power with which their nations had a long and not entirely happy relationship" is reflected in the skepticism and lack of enthusiasm which many of the intended beneficiaries expressed over the Turkish "Peace Pipe Line".
Kliot sees this dependency upon the goodwill of foreign countries as a contravention of an independent state's "sovereignty imperative".
In a similar vein, Soffer denigrates the idea that nations can trust other nations with the fate of their water supply, especially in the Middle East.
Nasser, for example, enunciated the rationale behind Egypt's construction of the Aswan Dam in the following terms: " It is inconceivable that Egypt abandon its fate to the countries of the Upper Nile".
In assessing the viability and prudence of Option I, these are all considerations which should be carefully weighed. Indeed, it would seem that circumspect analysis of this policy option cannot be unmindful of Kliot's previously cited observation that a situation in which a vital interest of one nation is almost entirely dependent on the goodwill of another is "a geopolitical limitation which sovereign nations only reluctantly take upon themselves".
Option II. Compliance with the withdrawal called for in the peace process, and restructuring the entire water system so as to make Israel independent of all water sources under potentially hostile Arab control.
In order for this option to fulfill its purpose of making Israel independent of water sources under Arab control, artificial water production would have to be designed to fulfill at least two fundamental conditions (a) it would have to be planned to contend with worst case scenarios; (b) control of production would have to be under exclusive Israeli authority.
To contend with the worst case scenario the artificial production would have to be of a scale able to supply all the water in sources transferred to Arab control and which could be permanently or temporarily suspended, whether as a result of purposeful malice (such as intentional over-exploitation or pollution), objective exigencies (such an extended drought) or unforeseen misfortunes (such as accidental ecological damage). As already mentioned this means that that artificial production would to have to have an annual capacity of at least 700 mcm and possibly even 1000 mcm - over and above the 500 mcm capacity needed to cope with current deficits and for the restoration of the deficit accumulated in the aquifers over the years. This is clearly a task of very substantial proportions and would confront Israel with very stiff engineering, logistic and economic challenges in a number of fields. As discussed earlier this includes addressing questions of adequate storage facilities, huge energy requirements, and restructuring the conveyance and distribution infrastructure.
These admittedly are issues that would arise even if all water sources remain under Israeli control. However, the loss of Israeli control over such significant sources of supply could compound the severity of the difficulties by two to three fold. It is also a task that would require a lengthy period of time to execute. Although some experts are optimistic regarding the time span required, estimating that no more than 3-4 years would be necessary, it is difficult not to be somewhat skeptical as to such assessments. As a yardstick, it should be recalled that the government decision to set up a desalination plant with a capacity of a mere 50 mcm is planned to take three years. Moreover, although the decision was taken over twelve months ago final tenders have not yet been completed, and at the time of writing, even the most basic preparations for the commencement of construction have not been initiated. Thus while it is true that it is unlikely that Israel would be immediately cut off from all waters transferred to Arab control, it is eminently likely that it could be denied the use of considerable portions of the water well before the system is able to supply commensurate quantities by desalination - leaving the country in a dire hydro-strategic predicament.
Another problem liable to arise from the sudden conversion of the national water system to extensive, in fact primary, dependency on desalination is that of its consequent vulnerability in times of war and to terrorist sabotage. This would be especially true if, as envisaged by Soffer, the system were composed of large-scale plants. This would make a great number of consumers dependant on a single installation. While it is true that many elements of any water system, such as pumping stations, pipe-lines and dams, are also exposed to similar damage, there seems little dissension among analysts that dependency on desalination plants is liable to increase this vulnerability significantly. For then, as Soffer, Starr and Hillel point out, not only conveyance and storage facilities would be under threat, but also the production facilities themselves.
Regarding the question of control of the water production facilities, two major development strategies may be pursued, one oriented toward international cooperation, the other towards national autarky. However, whichever option is adopted, if the water producing installations are to fulfill their strategic rationale (of freeing Israeli water supplies from potentially hostile control), they would have to be under exclusive Israeli control. This would seem to diminish the feasibility of the cooperative option. For given the prevailing political parameters in the region, it seems indeed a remote possibility that any Arab regime would be keen to entrust a significant portion of its water supply to wholly-controlled Israeli installations. (The reluctance of the Arabs to entrust the Turks with control over their water supplies in the case of the "Peace Pipeline" mentioned earlier appears to substantiate this point.) Indeed such an arrangement would seem to be a blueprint for tensions and dissension rather than harmonious coexistence. Thus, for example, Shuval points out that the Palestinians resent Israeli supply of water to their communities, seeing this as a form of control over their lives.
Pearce reports similar sentiments regarding Israel "controlling the tap" supplying Palestinian consumers.
It appears, then, that prudence militates in favor of eschewing emphasis on cooperative endeavors, and of preferring more autarkic-orientated efforts. Nachmani endorses this position, counseling that "each of the Middle East states [should be encouraged] to act independently and to desalinate as much water as possible".
In this, he seems to echo the spirit of Wolf's previously cited caveat that:
Many "co-operative" projects might only provide additional opportunity for suspicion and potential for contention.
Option III. Non-compliance with the withdrawal agreed to in the peace process, either by (a) bilateral negotiated agreement; or (b) by unilateral repudiation.
This option is particularly relevant in the Palestinian context where withdrawals have already been agreed upon and partially executed; but it could also be relevant with regard to the Syrians as well, should a similar circumstances materialize on the Golan. Clearly the former variant (of negotiated agreement) would appear to be extremely unfeasible as the Palestinians (or any other Arab party) are most unlikely to consent to giving up their achievements retroactively, simply because the Israelis have had belated second thoughts as to the prudence of their commitments -- especially as any withdrawal limited enough to ensure Israeli water supplies, will deny the Palestinians access to almost all the major water resources in the Mountain aquifer.
The second option will almost inevitably provoke vigorous Palestinian resistance. Crushing such resistance forcibly risks turning Israel into a pariah-state, bringing with it the threat of international censure, sanction and possibly isolation - as well as the danger of military intervention by neighboring Arab states.
While the final decision as to the outcome of the Arab-Israel peace process is not likely to hinge on the hydrological issue alone, but rather will be dictated by a broader complex of considerations (including diplomatic, political, economic and military aspects) is nevertheless imperative that the policy makers be alive to the hydro-strategic and hydro-political implications of any option which they decide to adopt, and weigh the relative risks entailed in each of them judiciously.
Israel is facing a looming water shortage of critical proportions. This is true not only for the long term, but the intermediate - and indeed perhaps the immediate - one as well. Although the severity of the crisis has been compounded by poor administrative decision-making and shortsighted public policy, the basic fundamental origins of Israel's water problem are rooted in a dual predicament of a largely objective nature. On the one hand, the country is situated in a region of arid, at best at best semi-arid, climate. On the other hand, if adequate living standards are to be maintained, inelastic demand will, without a doubt, outstrip the entire supply of naturally occurring water available. For Israel, the maintenance of high living standards, comparable with those in the advanced industrial world, is not a question of indulgent pampering. It is rather an essential requirement for sustaining a population of the quality and qualifications necessary to ensure the survival of the state, which apart from human ability, has no other resources of consequence to draw on. Water is an essential factor in the creation of such standards of living, which include elements of high personal health and hygiene, environmental aesthetics, and water related recreational facilities.
Burgeoning demand and insufficient natural supplies have resulted in years of over-exploitation of the country's water resources (i.e., extraction in excess of natural recharge by precipitation). Consequently, today Israel is facing a twin menace to the viability of its water supply - the dwindling quantities and the deteriorating quality of available stocks.
In order to free the nation's water system from its dependence on the vagaries of the weather and to be able to generate adequate and reliable long term supplies needed to fulfill its most vital requirements, it is imperative that Israel embark on an immediate and large-scale initiative for the artificial generation of water. In this regard, a wide variety of solutions has been proposed to contend with this problem, ranging from overland and/or submarine pipelines from Turkey or the Nile, through trans-border canals across Syria, to water filled "Medusa bags" towed behind ships. However, as creative and innovative as some of these suggestions may be, there seems to be a wide-ranging consensus among sober and experienced experts that the most feasible method to adopt, and one which is based on proven and ever improving technologies, is that of desalination. Although desalination of brackish waters (and treated sewage) would be considerably cheaper, they are limited in quantity. Thus sooner or later Israel will have to commence large-scale sea-water desalination, probably by means of the reverse osmosis process which is considered today to be the cheapest available technique (about 25-35 cents per cm for brackish water and 70-85 cents for sea water). Unfortunately, Israeli government cognizance of the scale and urgency of the problem is totally out of touch with reality. The recent government decision to establish a desalination plant with a capacity of 50 mcm over the next three years seems hopelessly inadequate and is possibly no more than one tenth of authoritative estimates of the real present requirement. An enterprise of an appropriate size and scope constitutes a significant challenge for the country on the engineering, economic and logistics levels, and the problems that would inevitably be entailed in the implementation of an enterprise of the required scale and complexity should not be underestimated. These include an extremely high energy requirement in an era in which the reduction of fossil fuel combustion is becoming a global concern of increasing urgency, the need to provide adequate storage facilities, and the restructuring of the existing conveyance and distribution infrastructure.
One of the most significant factors overhanging the future of Israel's water system and its hydro-strategic vulnerability is the Arab-Israeli peace process and its eventual outcome. For if the territorial concessions in the Golan and in Judea and Samaria discussed hitherto in the negotiations are indeed implemented by Israel, it will mean losing control of anything between 750-1000 mcm (i.e., up to 65% of presently available supplies) to Arab authorities. This is an element that cannot be ignored in any responsible assessment of the country's future and in the planning of its water system in the coming decades. Indeed, the future of Israel's water system will be radically affected by whether it retains or relinquishes its control over such a significant proportion of its present supply. This has special relevance for the overall scale of the planned desalination facilities needed to cope with present and future shortages. For although it is undeniably true that even if Israel retains total control over all water supplies presently under its jurisdiction, it would still face a grave water problem, forgoing authority over more than half to two thirds of present sources would significantly exacerbate the predicament. To contend with the worst case scenario, the artificial production would have to be of a scale able to supply all the water in sources transferred to Arab control and which could be permanently or temporarily suspended, whether as a result of purposeful malice, objective exigencies or accidental misfortunes. This means that that artificial production would have to have an annual capacity between double to treble that required were control of resources to remain in Israeli hands. Thus, the attendant problems of storage, energy requirements and restructuring of the conveyance and distribution infrastructure would be amplified accordingly.
In effect, the prospective provisions of any Arab-Israeli agreement would constitute a major hydro-strategic constraint on Israeli policy makers, confronting them with a choice between three basic policy approaches:
It is of course true that in the final analysis, Israeli policy
regarding the retention or transfer of authority and control over the
territories in the Golan and in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to the Arabs
will not be determined by hydrological considerations alone, but of a
weighted complex of security, strategic, diplomatic, political and
economic factors. It is however imperative that the policy makers be
alive to the hydro-strategic and hydro-political implications of any
course of action which they decide to adopt, and weight the relative
risks entailed in each of them judiciously.
1. "Israel State Comptroller, Report on the Management of the Water System," Government Press Office: Jerusalem, 1990, p. 13. (Hebrew.); also see pp. 27 & 52.
2. D. Zaslavsky, "Sustainable Development of the Water System and the Fate of Agriculture," Haifa: The Faculty of Agricultural Engineering, The Technion, 1999; and "The State of Water in Israel (Pnei Ha'Mayim)," Haifa: Technion, 2000.
3. L. Eshkol, "Land Water and Development," in The Uphill Road (B'mahale Ha' Derech). Tel Aviv: Einot 1966, pp. 6-25. (Hebrew).
4. See for example Zaslavsky, 1999 and 2000; M. Kantor "Water in Israel: A View Towards the Beginning of 2000", Research Paper No. 9504, Rehovot: The Center for Agricultural Economic Research, 1995, pp. 4-5 (Hebrew); H. Shuval, "Towards Resolving Conflicts Over Water: The Case of the Mountain Aquifer", Israel Affairs, Vol. 2(1), 215-237, 1995; S. Arlosoroff, "Managing Scarce Water: Recent Israeli Experience", Israel Affairs, Vol. 2(1), pp. 239-50, 1995; B. Wachtel, "Water: the Sad Facts and the Dire Politics," Link, Vol. 6 (52), 68-73, 1996; Israel State Comptroller.
5. For an overall perspective of the strategic aspects of the water shortage in the Middle East in general, see E. Anderson, "Water: The Next Strategic Resource", in The Politics of Scarcity: Water in the Middle East, Joyce R. Starr and Daniel C. Stoll eds., London: Westview, 1988, pp. 1-22.
6. For a detailed discussion of the water situation in Israel and its effects on price as a demand regulating device in conditions where both the demand and supply curves are highly inelastic - i.e., both almost vertical - see M. Sherman, "Expanding Israel's Water Supply: A Strategic Approach", Shalem Center Policy View, Jerusalem, No 2, July 1994.
7. Anderson, p. 4.
8. Anderson, p. 1.
9. Anderson, p. 2.
10. "G. Fishelson, Israeli Household Sector Demand for Water," Tel Aviv: The Armand Hammer Fund for Economic Cooperation in the Middle East, Tel Aviv University. 1993, p. 23.
11. S. Arlosoroff, "Managing Scarce Water: Recent Israeli Experience", Israel Affairs, Vol. 2(1), 1995 pp. 239-50, p. 240; M. Sherman "Expanding Israel's Water Supply: A Strategic Approach", Shalem Center Policy View, Jerusalem, No 2, 1994.
12. Zaslavsky, p. 15; N. Kliot, Water Resources and Conflict in the Middle East, New York: Routledge, 1994, p.234; A. Soffer, Rivers of Fire: The Conflict of Water in the Middle East, Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1993, p. 172 (Hebrew); Israel State Comptroller, p.19.
13. Kantor p. 4.
14. Israel State Comptroller, pp. 19-21. Also D. Hillel, Rivers of Eden: The Struggle for Water and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, p 202.
15. The term "aquifer" refers to a subterranean water-bearing geological stratum in which supplies of ground water collect and are stored (derived from the Latin aqua = water and ferre = to bear).
16. H. Gvirtzman, "Securing the Water Sources in Judea and Samaria", Nativ, Vol. 51 (4), 1996, (Hebrew).
17. "Political Arrangements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and their Influence on the Security of the Water of the State of Israel" (1989) -- Water Commissioner to the Israeli Government, pp. 1-2. (Hebrew); Israel State Comptroller, p. 26, (Hebrew).
18. Kantor, p. 5.
19. According to a document issued by the Israel Water Commissioner to the Minister of Agriculture "Water Potential Available for 1991," February 14, 1991, (Hebrew).
20. See the special report on the Israeli water system issued by the State Comptroller in December 1990, which stresses the perilous state of the sources and the minimal reserves available above the respective "red lines". Israel State Comptroller, pp. 7-9, 22-23; see also pp. 30-31. The annual potential of the coastal aquifer is estimated at 240-300 mcm, the Yarkon-Taninim 300-350 mcm. (See Z. Grinwald, "Water in Israel 1962-1989," Tel Aviv: Water Allocation Dept. Israel Water Commission, 1989, pp. 25 & p. 27; Kantor, p. 4; "The Hydrological Service, Development, Use and State of the Water Sources in Israel up to Fall 1999," Jerusalem, 2000, p. V, (Hebrew).) The remainder is supplied from the Kinneret via the National Water Carrier. Although the average capacity of the Carrier is 350-420 mcm, this is very volatile. In dry years, the Kinneret receives only 100-200 mcm, forcing extraction to be reduced accordingly. For example, in the four year period 1990 -1993, the average amount of water that passed through the National Carrier was about 260 mcm, reaching a low of 117 mcm in 1991. Soffer, p. 135, Kliot, p. 237 and See also "The Statistical Abstract of Israel -1995," Jerusalem: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. In recent years 1996-98 this average has been about 380 mcm ("Statistical Abstract of Israel -2000"; http://www.cbs.gov.il/shnaton51) but it should be remembered that the lake is now (i.e., December 2000) well below its "red line", indicating that these levels cannot be sustained under prevailing conditions.
21. Municipal consumption in 1998 reached 671 mcm, and over the last 13 years has increased by almost 60% (from 423 mcm in 1986). Industrial consumption reached 129 mcm, up almost 25% (from 104 mcm) in the same period mcm. Total non-agricultural consumption reached 800 mcm, up over 50% (from 527 mcm) in same period. Hydrological Service, p. VI. Also see "Statistical Abstract of Israel -2000."
22. D. Zaslavsky, The State of Water in Israel (Pnei Ha'Mayim B'Yisrael), Haifa: Technion, 2000, p. 29 (Hebrew) Assuming a population 8.6 million and domestic consumption rate of 130 cm per capita.
23. Kliot, p. 240.
24. Zaslavsky, 1999, p. 31.
25. For example, the oft-maligned cotton growing industry, frequently cited by Israel's critics as a glaring instance of her imprudent and wasteful use of water resources, uses virtually no drinking quality water for irrigation. Recycled water is utilized for almost 90% of the area under cultivation, which itself has been reduced dramatically from a peak of over 620,000 dunams at the beginning of the last decade, to just over 160,000 dunams in 1994. Statistical Abstract of Israel -1995.
26. Kantor, pp. 4-5.
27. Zaslavsky, 1999, p 29
28. "Statistical Abstract of Israel -2000"; (See - Water and Energy -Table 15.6, Population Table 2.1). Fishelson cites a figure of 110 cm per annum -- p. 23.
29. Bulletin 160-93, "The Californian Water Plan Update", Vol. II, South Coast, http://rubicon.water.ca.gov/v2/SCR.html, 1994, p. 5.
30. "Statistical Abstract of Israel -2000" (Population - Table 2.1).
31. Arlosoroff, p. 240.
32. Israel State Comptroller, p. 21.
33. Y. Schwarz and A. Zohar, Water in the Middle East: Solutions to Water Problems in the Context of Arrangements between Israel and the Arabs, (Tel Aviv, 1991), p. 15., Zaslavsky, 1999 & 2000 passim.
34. Zaslavsky, 1999, p. 16.
35. Israel State Comptroller pp. 28-29.
36. Israel State Comptroller pp. 24-5, (Hebrew).
37. Grinwald, pp. 25-6.
38. Kliot, p. 237.
39. Zaslavsky, 1999, p. 22.
40. Zaslavsky, 1999, p. 18.
41. Israel State Comptroller, p. 27. The influence of the rock type on recharge capacity is explained subsequently.
42. Kantor, p.5.
43. Israel State Comptroller, p. 28.
44. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. B (Summary) & p. 7.
45. Hillel, p. 166.
46. Hillel, p. 167.
47. E. Kally with G. Fishelson, Water and Peace: Water Resources and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process, Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993, p. 50.
48. Hillel, p. 167.
49. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 33-39. Zaslavsky also sees the fresh water supply to the agricultural sector as an important portion of the "operational stock". Since reliability of supply to agriculture is less critical than to the urban sector, the supply of fresh water to it can be cut back and transferred to urban consumers in times of crises. Zaslavsky holds that this is one of the cheapest methods of ensuring reliability of supply, and far less expensive than conveying recycled sewage large distances from urban centers to irrigate far-off fields.
50. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 33.
51. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 34.
52. Israel State Comptroller, p. 20. Also see p. 26.
53. Israel State Comptroller, p. 24.
54. Shuval, pp. 215-6 & 223.
55. Zaslavsky, 2000, pp. 68-9.
56. See Israel State Comptroller, pp. 9 & 26.
57. D. Easton, A Framework for Political Analysis, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Praeger, 1965, p. 50.
58. Hydrological Service, p. V; Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 72.
59. Schwarz and Zohar, op. cit.
60. Schwarz and Zohar, p. 104, 115 With regard to the Mountain aquifer the report specifies that territories (a) north of the Jenin-Zebabda-Barda'le line, (b) west of the Mei Ami-Dir Sharaf-Jensaphot-Beit Likiya-Sorif-Adana line, and (c) in an area of approximately 10-20 km around Jerusalem reaching Bidu-Muhmas-Ayn Fara-Abu Dis-Herodian-Beit Fajr-Gilo, should remain under Israeli control, p. 122.
61. M. Hagai, Water Management in Israel: Views on National Planning, Tel Aviv University, 1989, (Hebrew).
62. Israel State Comptroller, p. 26.
63. Up until 1996, the minister charged with responsibility for the water system was the minister of agriculture. With the establishment of Benjamin Netanyahu's government in June 1996, this responsibility was transferred to newly created ministry of national infrastructure. Note that this is a measure which is in line with the spirit of recommendations made by the author in July 1994. Sherman, 1994, p. 10.
64. pp. 1-2.
65. Kantor p. 10.
66. Globes, 22.8.1990.
67. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 69.
68. Ha'aretz, 21.12.1995.
69. Ma'ariv, 7.1.1996.
70. Yedi'ot Aharonot, 1.12.1996.
71. Israel Television morning news - 4.12.1996.
72. S. Elmusa, Negotiating Water: Israel and the Palestinians, (Washington, 1996), pp. 43-45.
73. Elmusa, p. 43.
74. Elmusa, p. 43.
75. Jerusalem Post, 14. 7. 1995.
76. Haaretz, 7.11.1999.
77. Kally with Fishelson, p. 49.
78. Kally with Fishelson, p. 51.
79. Kally with Fishelson, p. 51.
80. Kliot, pp. 204 -8; Hillel, pp. 162-3.
81. T. Naff and R. Matson, Water in the Middle East - Conflict or Cooperation, (Boulder, CO, 1984), p. 44; Hillel, pp. 162-3.
82. Soffer, pp. 152-3. See also Kliot, p. 208; Naff and Matson, p. 44.
83. Naff and Matson, p. 44.
84. US Army Corps of Engineers, Water in the Sand, US Army, prepared by W. Robertson, J. Priscoli, and R. Brumbaugh, 1991, quoted in Kliot, p. 222.
85. Schwarz and Zohar, p.113.
86. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 73.
87. Mekorot, "Background Material for the Peace Talks on Water Issues between Israel and Syria: Situation Assessment and Risk Analysis," Tel Aviv, 1996, p. 19 also see p. IV of "Summary and Recommendations".
88. Mekorot, p. 19 also see p. IV of "Summary and Recommendations".
89. Mekorot, p. 20 also see p. V of "Summary and Recommendations".
90. Mekorot, p. 20 also see p. V of "Summary and Recommendations".
91. Schwarz and Zohar, p.113.
92. Hillel, p. 289.
93. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 72.
94. Naff and Matson, p. 47.
95. Schwarz and Zohar, p.113.
96. Testimony before Knesset State Control Committee, 3.1.2000.
97. Kliot, p. 204.
98. Jerusalem Post, 27. 12. 1995.
99. Kantor, pp. 9-10.
100. I. Spharim, S. Shalhevet, Nava Haruvy, Israeli Agriculture in a Changing Environment, Bet Dagan, Rishon Le'Zion: Dept. of Rural Development Economics, Volcani Center, Ministry of Agriculture, July 1999.
101. Spharim, et alia, p. 3.
102. Kantor pp. 7-8; Zaslavsky, 1999, pp. 40-45; Zaslavsky, 2000, pp. 40-43.
103. Zaslavsky, 1999, p. 41.
104. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 41.
105. Kantor, p. 7.
106. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 41.
107. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 40.
108. Kantor p. 7.
109. See for example, B. Wachtel, op. cit; M. Murakami, Managing Water for Peace in the Middle East: Alternative Strategies, (Tokyo, 1995); Hillel; Kally with Fishelson Chs. 9-11& 13; A. Soffer Ch. 7.
110. M. Sherman, The Politics of Water in the Middle East, London: Macmillan, 1999, pp. 67-92.
111. Soffer, pp. 218 & 231.
112. Jerusalem Post, 1.9. 1995.
113. E. Kanovsky, "Has the Peace Process Reaped Economic Dividends?", in Israel at the Crossroads, Arie Stav, ed., Tel Aviv: ACPR, 1997, p. 53. (This article was presented as part of a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress on various defense and economic trends in the Middle East, held on 21.10. 1997.)
114. P. Clawson, "Mideast Economies after the Israel-PLO Handshake," Journal of International Affairs, Summer, 1994), p. 154.
115. Clawson, p. 150.
116. A. Wolf, "Hydropolitics Along the Jordan River: Scarce Water and its Impact on the Arab-Israeli Conflict," (New York, 1995), pp. 109-10.
117. Soffer, pp. 213-7; Kliot, p. 113, Hillel, p. 246; Kally with Fishelson, pp. 64-71.
118. Wachtel, op. cit.
119. See Wachtel, pp. 72-3; Soffer, pp. 222-3; Kliot, p. 240, Hillel, p. 250.
120. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 52.
121. Zaslavsky, 2000, pp. E (Summary), 29-30.
122. Zaslavsky, 2000 pp. B (Summary), 29, 51. Then incumbent Water Commissioner, Ben Meir presented a figure of 35 mcm. per annum, to the Knesset State Control Committee 3.1.2000.
123. Hillel, p. 255.
124. Zaslavsky, 1999, p. 37.
125. Hillel. p. 255.
126. Zaslavsky, 2000, p. 51.
127. Kissinger, White House Years, Little, Brown: Boston, 1979, p. 346.
128. S. Peres, Tomorrow is Now, Jerusalem: Keter, 1978, p. 255. Subsequent developments can hardly have enhanced confidence in the reliability of contractual obligations in the region. Since this pronouncement, numerous breaches of Middle East treaties have occurred.
129. Hillel p. 246.
130. Kliot, p. 133.
131. Soffer, pp. 230-3.
132. Soffer, p. 231. Also see Hillel, p. 123; T. Little, High Dam at Aswan: The Subjugation of the Nile, London: Methuen, 1965. p. 40.
133. Kliot, p. 204.
134. Soffer, p. 221; Hillel, p. 252; J. Starr, Jerusalem Post, September 1, 1995.
135. Shuval, p. 224.
136. F. Pearce, "Wells of Conflict on the West Bank," New Scientist, 1 June 1991, p. 39.
137. Jerusalem Post, September, 1, 1995.
138. Wolf, pp. 109-10.
139. Gvirtzman; Schwarz and Zohar.
This paper was prepared as a policy paper for the 2000 Herzliya
Conference in December 2000 and was published April 2001 by the Herzliya
Dr. Sherman writes, "I am greatly indebted to Shmuel Kantor and Dan
Zaslavsky for their wise counsel and unending patience."
Dr. Martin Sherman is in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He has written extensively on water, including "The Politics of Water in the Middle East," London: Macmillan, 1999. He was a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Institute in Herzliya and Academic Coordinator of the Herzliya Conference in 2001 and 2002. He is currently Academic Director of the Jerusalem Summit.
This paper was prepared as a policy paper for the 2000 Herzliya Conference in December 2000 and was published April 2001 by the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
Dr. Sherman writes, "I am greatly indebted to Shmuel Kantor and Dan Zaslavsky for their wise counsel and unending patience."
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