Israel has a shortage of fresh water due to its semi-arid climate and over-pumping of its main fresh water source, the Sea of Galilee. The Israeli Water Authority announced recently that by 2070 it expects the sources of the Jordan River will be depleted.
The Israel National Water Co., or Mekorot, is the main developer of Israel’s water management technologies. Its projects include the world’s largest reverse-osmosis desalination plant, which began operating in 2006 in Ashdod, on the Mediterranean coast, supplying five to six percent of Israel’s total water needs, or 13 percent of its domestic usage.
The Administration for the Development of Sewage is currently overseeing the construction and planning of approximately 52 new sewage treatment plants around Israel.
ISRAELI RESTRICTIONS IN THE OPT
Israel's control over a majority of Palestinian water sources since it occupied Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 has aided discriminatory practices.
The Oslo accords created the Water Management Authority to facilitate coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities as part of a mutually-recognized need to share limited water resources available to the region. However, Israeli authorities have continued to drill wells extensively in the occupied territories for their own use, thereby rapidly lowering water levels. Due to restrictions placed by Israeli ministries on building new Palestinian wells; deepening existing ones; allowing access to fresh water springs and the Jordan river; permitting use of surface water and developing water infrastructures, Palestinians are forced to purchase water emanating from their own resources from Israel.
The Joint Water Committee (JWC), also a creation of the Interim Agreement, consists of Israeli and Palestinian representatives responsible for water and sewage related issues in occupied West Bank. JWC's decisions are only applicable to areas A and B as classified under the agreement. Development in Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the West Bank, requires approval by Israeli authorities. The PLO's Negotiation Affairs Department states that majority control by Israeli authorities has meant that Palestinians have access to 12 million cubic meters of water out of the 70 to 80 million that they were meant to develop as part of the interim agreement.
The water issue is interrelated to other factors of a peace settlement such as refugees, settlements, borders, movement restrictions and economic relations. A future Palestinian state will not be able to sustain its energy needs without reasonable access to its water sources.
WATER MANAGEMENT IN THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Established in 1995 as the regulatory body for water and the waste water sector in the occupied territories, the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) is vested with the task of facilitating "sustainable development" of water resources and management methods. However, the PWA has not been able to achieve long-term solutions to water shortages due to its limited control over resources.
Additionally, waste water collection and treatment have been largely neglected, leading to environmental pollution and unhygienic conditions. Only a few towns in the West Bank had water collection systems or treatment plants by the early 1970s. Most Palestinian villages have rudimentary water collection and treatment methods such as soaking pits. The lack of an advanced system of water purification has affected the quality of these villages' rain-fed cisterns.
GAZA WATER ISSUES
Gaza has suffered from grave water-related crises due to a combination of over-pumping, contamination of ground water coupled with restricted access to water and destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure as a result of Israeli bombing.
According to Euro-Mediterranean Water Information System estimates, as of February 9, 2009, 50,000 persons in Gaza were without access to water and close to 200,000 persons were receiving water supplies every five to six days. Additionally, spillage of sewage due to Israeli bombardment of waste water treatment plans such as that in Beit Lahia poses a health hazard.