WATER RESOURCES IN THE WEST BANK AND GAZA CURRENT AND FUTURE PROSPECTS

1. Introduction

West Bank and Gaza have surface areas of 5572 and 360 km2 respectively.  Both areas are enjoying a typical Mediterranean weather conditions dry and hot summer and mild and wet winters.  Rainfall occurs only during winter season, which lasts for approximately five months (November - March).  Average rainfall varies between 550 - 600mm/year in the West Bank and nearly 250 – 300 mm in Gaza. Rainfall is considered the main source of water resources replenishment in the West Bank and Gaza. Large proportion of which (approximately 68%) is being lost annually through evapo-transpiration, 2-3% flows as a surface runoff and the remaining 29-30% penetrates the surface deposits causing recharge to the groundwater aquifers.

The area is generally hilly with a cultivated area of more than 1,883 km2, and built-up and public infrastructure area of 334 km2.  The Gaza Strip with an area of 367 km2 (GTZ, 1995), (approximately 45 km in length and 7 to 12 km in width) is situated in the southern part of the coastal plain.

 

2. Water in the Regional Context
2.1  Conventional Water Resources

Despite the global resemblance in the climate and hydrologic conditions throughout the Jordan River Basin, temporal and spatial variation in these conditions has a tremendous impact on precipitation distribution and consequently on the natural distribution and availability of renewable fresh water resources. Precipitation only occurs during winter time (November – March). It is considered the only source of replenishment of all renewable water resources within the basin. The total volume of precipitation falls over the three countries is estimated at 16.4 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM). Only small part of it is available for use either in the form of surface water or groundwater. This is because large parts of the basin are desert, nearly 69% of the total surface area receives less than 200 mm/year of precipitation and almost 13% receives less than 250mm/year, NRC (2000).


Accordingly, total renewable fresh water available annually within the basin accounts for less than 20% of precipitation volume. It is estimated at nearly 2.8 bcm/year in the form of either shared or national surface and groundwater resources. This limited quantity is not being allocated equitably among the three countries of the LJRB.   For example, in the time that Israel uses 1.5 BCM, Jordan uses nearly 0.9 BCM and Palestinians are allocated only 0.25 BCM. Although, the total renewable groundwater resources originates within the Palestinian boundaries (West Bank and Gaza) reaches 750 MCM/year.


The scarce nature of the resources in the basin renders it as a water stress area and the available quantities will not be sufficient to meet all the conflicting demands.  The per capita water availability doesn’t exceed 300 m3/capita/year.  Meanwhile, the average per capita availability should be 500 m3/c/year in order to maintain an average requirement of good social and economic life conditions, Falkenmark (92).

NRC (99), have attributed the non- social and economic development within the West Bank and Gaza during the past four decades to the non - availability of sufficient fresh water quantities, unlike the neighboring countries.

Furthermore, the intensive development of these resources took place over the past five decades, to meet the needs of various social and economic development activities in some of the countries, have altered both their quantity and quality.

The combined impact of the natural scarcity conditions, conflicting demands as well as the shared nature of these resources increases the potential conflicts over their control and use among the riparian countries in one hand and among various sectors within each country on the other hand. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the exact magnitude of the resources with adequate qualities for various uses and consider some appropriate trade-offs among such uses. After that proper agreements will have to be reached among the riparians to organize the water use from the shared resources in a sustainable and equitable manner in order to eliminate the political friction encountered with not resolving this issue. This also implies that each riparian would seek their utmost efforts to utilize their available conventional and non-conventional national resources in the best possible way.

The scarce nature of the resources in the basin renders it as a water stress area and the available quantities will not be sufficient to meet all the conflicting demands.  The per capita water availability doesn’t exceed 300 m3/capita/year.  Meanwhile, the average per capita availability should be 500 m3/c/year in order to maintain an average requirement of good social and economic life conditions, Falkenmark (92).

NRC (99), have attributed the non- social and economic development within the West Bank and Gaza during the past four decades to the non - availability of sufficient fresh water quantities, unlike the neighboring countries.

Furthermore, the intensive development of these resources took place over the past five decades, to meet the needs of various
 social and economic development activities in some of the countries, have altered both their quantity and quality.

The combined impact of the natural scarcity conditions, conflicting demands as well as the shared nature of these resources increases the potential conflicts over their control and use among the riparian countries in one hand and among various sectors within each country on the other hand. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the exact magnitude of the resources with adequate qualities for various uses and consider some appropriate trade-offs among such uses. After that proper agreements will have to be reached among the riparians to organize the water use from the shared resources in a sustainable and equitable manner in order to eliminate the political friction encountered with not resolving this issue. This also implies that each riparian would seek their utmost efforts to utilize their available conventional and non-conventional national resources in the best possible way.

Total renewable fresh water available annually within Jordan, Palestine and Israel accounts for less than 20% of the total precipitation volume of 14 bcm, which fall over the entire surface of the three countries. It is estimated at nearly 2.8bcm/year.  Of which 1.36 bcm is in the form of shared surface and 1.44 bcm is in the form of groundwater resources. Part of these resources is considered shared resources.

Groundwater resources form nearly 52% of the overall renewable resources in the three countries while surface water accounts for 48% and represented mainly by the Jordan River system.

Almost 52-71% of the renewable surface water originates outside the boundaries of the three countries and 24% occurs in Jordan, 2% in the West Bank and 3 – 22% occur in Israel. Meanwhile, nearly 48.1% of the groundwater potential occurs in the West Bank while 29.5% and 22.4% occurs in Israel and Jordan respectively, Figure 3.

2.2   Non-Conventional Water Resources

Wastewater is considered the major non-conventional water resource that still misplaced in the three countries. It is not fully utilized. GTZ (96) estimated the total production of wastewater in the three countries at 450 mcm / year. Only, very limited quantity of treated wastewater of 213 and 59 mcm / year is being used in both Israel and Jordan respectively and no any use in the West Bank and Gaza. This is because minor percentage of the produced effluent is being collected in the West Bank and Gaza and almost non-of it is being treated.  Today’s conditions reflect that approximately 60 percent of the urban areas are being connected to sewerage systems, almost non of the rural areas and 40 percent of the urban areas are not yet connected.

It is anticipated that the wastewater generation in the three countries will be nearly 1.7 bcm in the future, NRC (99).

Furthermore, the exact magnitude of the other type of non-conventional resources is not yet well known especially the Fossil water potential.

2.3 Water Use in the Basin

The current water use levels in the basin reflect that the Palestinians are using almost 8.2% of the total available water resources in the Basin. In the meantime Israel is using 57.1% and Jordan is using 34.7%. Figure (4), shows the variations in the sectoral use in each country.

As can be noticed from the figure that agriculture is the prime user of the freshwater resources in the basin. Both Israel and Jordan are using nearly 60 and 71% of the total available resources for them, or 33.66% and 24.82% of the total regional water  respectively, in agriculture. In the mean time Palestinian agriculture uses 63% of the available water in Palestine while this accounts for only 5.2% of the regional water resources.
This variation is pretty much related to the variation in the available resources to each country. The current water use levels in Palestine doesn’t reflect the actual water demand levels it merely reflects a suppressed demand due to the political and physical constraints imposed on the supply allocation to the Palestinians.

The average regional per capita water use for all purposes is estimated at 257 m3/year. However, the average per capita water use in Israel is nearly 344 m3/year.  Meanwhile, it is nearly 93 m3/year in Palestine (given that 25% of the population still lack any running water supply) and it is almost 244 m3/year in Jordan, NRC (99). The domestic per capita water use, however, is estimated at 98 m3/c/year in Israel, 56 m3/c/year in Jordan and nearly 20 m3/c/year in Palestine, Figure (4).

 

4. Water Demand in the West Bank and Gaza

Table (1): Projected water demand in the West Bank and Gaza until the year 2040.

Note: Population projections are taken from the PCBS census of 1997 and the water demand projections are adjusted accordingly from the GTZ report.