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Palestinian Water I: Resources, Allocation and Perception

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Palestinian Water I: Resources, Allocation and Perception

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Transboundary water issues are not new; however, the Palestinian case represents a unique situation that is atypical from most transboundary water conflicts. This difference is marked most importantly by the issue of lack of domestic control over water resources within the Palestinian Territories. Since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Palestinian water policy has been dictated by Israeli control, which has resulted in an allocational shift in water distribution in the Palestinian Territories. In this article we review transboundary water practices and conflicts, water resources, allocation and consumption, water perception, and water reuse and conservation in the Palestinian West Bank in order to assess contemporary trends in water practices as well as recommend strategies for improving regional water management. Water use and perception are assessed based on an extensive unpublished research survey conducted by the Palestinian Hydrology Group in 2002. The final report from this survey focused on developing criteria and linking initial results from the survey to the design of a cost effective and equitable water delivery system that would provide all Palestinians with basic water needs. In this article, through a reassessment and statistical analysis of their data, we support the recommendations of this initial survey, including the implementation of an increasing block tariff system as a means of sustainably delivering water throughout the West Bank. However, any future water management cannot proceed in an effective manner unless some level of water control is relinquished by Israel.

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Miriam Lowi is a visiting fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, Princeton University. An earlier version of this article was commissioned by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences—University of Toronto, Peace and Conflict Studies Program, for their joint project on "Environmental Change and Acute Conflict." The final version of this article was written at the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, Princeton University. The author wishes to thank these institutions for their support, and the following individuals for their helpful comments on earlier drafts: Jeffrey Boutwell, David Brooks, Rex Brynen, Sharif Elmusa, Abdellah Hammoudi, Thomas Homer-Dixon, John Kolars, Charles Lawson, Zachary Lockman, Henry Lowi, Thomas Naff, Susan Ossman, Avrum Udovitch, Aaron Wolf, and the participants at the Water Resources Workshop, University of Toronto (June 15-17, 1991). 1. Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. 9, No. 604, pp. 1185-88. 2. Until recently, the linkages between resource scarcity and national security concerns attracted little interest in the social sciences. But see Sara Hoagland and Susan Conbere, "Environmental Stress and National Security," Center for Global Change, University of Maryland, February 1991; Thomas Homer-Dixon, "On the Threshold: Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict," International Security, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Fall 1991), pp. 76-116; R. Lipschutz, "Sustainable Resource Management and Global Security," Resources and Security Working Paper, No. 5 (Berkeley, Calif.: Pacific Institute, October 26, 1989); Miriam R. Lowi, Water and Power: The Politics of a Scarce Resource in the Jordan River Basin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Jessica Tuchman Matthews, "Redefining Security," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Spring 1989); Harold and Margaret Sprout, "Environmental Factors in the Study of International Politics," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1957), pp. 309-328; Richard H. Ullman, "Redefining Security," International Security, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Summer 1983), pp. 129-153. Moreover, the notion of environmental degradation of renewable resources such as water is only slowly being recognized as a potential source of conflict. Often a result of rapid population growth, over-exploitation of local resources, and external climatic phenomena, environmental stresses pose increasing challenges to traditional concepts of security. In the domestic arena, environmental degradation and societal unrest may result from demand for a resource exceeding its supply; Ted Gurr, "On the Political Consequences of Economic Scarcity and Decline," International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29 (1985), pp. 51-75. Thomas Naff makes a similar argument with regard to water resources in the Kingdom of Jordan: "Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East," The Middle East in the 1990s: Middle East Water Issues (Washington, D.C., June 26, 1990). At the international level, as well, patterns of resource use within or among countries, or a dwindling of the available regional or global supply of the resource, could result in competition, conflict, and threats to security. See, for example, Nazli Choucri and R. North, Nations in Conflict (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1975); Geoffrey Kemp, "Scarcity and Strategy," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 56, No. 2 (January 1978); Ronnie Lipschutz, When Nations Clash: Raw Materials, Ideology and Foreign Policy (New York: Ballinger, 1989); Arthur H. Westing, ed., Global Resources and International Conflict: Environmental Factors in Strategic Policy and Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). 3. The case of West Bank water is only one element of the water dispute in the Jordan-Yarmouk basin. Other conflicts include the utilization of the Yarmouk River, the question of a Mediterranean-Dead Sea or a Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, and the exploitation of groundwater south of the Dead Sea. 4. Moshe Inbar and Jacob Maos, "Water Resource Planning and Development in the Northern Jordan Valley," Water International, Vol. 9, No. 1 (1984), p. 19. 5. For a study of the Jordan waters conflict from its inception until the present day, see Lowi, Water and Power. 6. Syria, however, has retained its upstream status on the Yarmouk and so is party to discussions concerning Yarmouk River water. 7. Thomas Naff, "The Jordan Basin: Political, Economic, and Institutional Issues," in Guy LeMoigne, Shawki Barghouti, Gershon Feder, Lisa Garbus, and Mei Xie, eds., Country Experiences with Water Resources Management: Economic...
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Chapter
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The late Albian-Turonian Judea Group carbonate aquifer is one of the most important resources of fresh groundwater in the northern Negev and in the central part of Israel. Over three decades ago, various hydrological, hydrochemical, hydrometeorological and geological aspects of this aquifer were thoroughly investigated and served to build up the professional background and data base for the management of this resource. Notwithstanding the accumulating structural, hydrogeological and hydrochemical evidence, the conceptual hydrogeological model of the Yarkon-Taninim basin (which constitutes the western part of the Judea Group aquifer) has neither been questioned nor updated. Therefore, the existing and accepted model of this basin should in the best case only depict general features and trends. The present review critically examines the main hitherto accepted hydrogeological conventions, points out puzzling and contradictory phenomena and emphasizes questionable issues. Although the present review deals with problems related to a specific groundwater basin, the methods and effort for breaking long-established conventions may serve as an example for similar situations, in other places, in which water resources are managed according to long-established concepts and traditions without being periodically revised and reassessed in view of accumulating knowledge.
Article
International disputes over access to water resources can act as a catalyst for conflict or cooperation amongst nations. In the case of Israel and the occupied West Bank, water conflict further exacerbates preexisting political tension, and yet a peaceful and equitable solution between these countries could spark further negotiation. Within this context, the Palestinian Hydrology Group conducted a water questionnaire amongst Palestinian households in the occupied West Bank in 2001. The aim of the PHG’s survey was to investigate which water management system would be the most suitable in terms of equity, cost-recovery, and long-term development of the resource. Ultimately the water pricing system that was recommended was an increasing block-tariff system, which prioritizes the delivery of necessary amounts of water used for basic needs amongst all users before further allocating water to other uses. However, most of the work conducted by the PHG was qualitative and based entirely on descriptive statistics. Analysis regarding the relationships between water pricing, water consumption, and water needs, and how these relationships change over different scales, was not present in the final report. The purpose of this thesis to continue the research conducted by the PHG by analyzing the water questionnaire database as a means to further advise and direct water services within the occupied West Bank. In order to discern relationships between seasonal patterns of water pricing and consumption, an in-depth analysis of that data was conducted. In addition, perceived water needs were also examined. This analysis was performed at a variety of scales, including amongst districts, average monthly income levels, and connection/non-connection to a water network. Results indicate that some districts in the occupied West Bank are comparatively under-serviced. The economically poor district of Jenin seems to be in greatest need of stabilized and equitable water resources, followed by Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah. It was also observed that those within lower income brackets bear a disproportionate share of pricing fluctuations and, not surprisingly, low consumption levels. Connection/non-connection to a water network indicates that not only is consumption amongst non-connected households significantly low, but also that the difference between perceived water needs and water consumption is much greater than amongst connected households. This thesis supports the PHG’s recommendation for an increasing block-tariff system, since regression analysis indicates inequitable distribution and pricing amongst districts and income levels.
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