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Ada Rustow

University of Pennsylvania

Water in the West Bank

Much has been written regarding the role of water security in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Since the creation of the Joint Water Committee at the time of the second Oslo Accords, the issue of managing water resources across geo-political boundaries in a water-scarce region has been discussed from a variety of viewpoints. The onset of climate change, and resulting increase in severity of droughts has made this conversation all the more pressing. This reading list attempts to approach this discussion utilizing several key themes and examining contemporary research into aspects of water issues between Israel and Palestine including: water security issues in the Jordan River basin; drought and scarcity risks as a result of climate change; regional water management opportunities and failures; local water management strategies; opportunities presented by resource cooperation and the water-energy nexus; and innovations and opportunities with water management in the West Bank.

This list was created in conjunction with an independent study at the Weitzman School of Design by Lily Cheng and Ada Rustow.

  • Designing a New Water Future for Israelis and Palestinians. In Supplementary Approaches to Shared Transboundary Water Management

    Transboundary Water Issues in Israel, Palestine and Jordan River Basin

    Brooks et al review water management and governance in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, as well as the involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private entities in water management in the region. The authors also provide an overview of active organizations working in the region, focusing on the work of EcoPeace Middle East (formerly Friends of the Earth Middle East), the Arava Institute, and the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI). They note a decline in cross-regional cooperation in recent years and point to the drawbacks of a quantitative allocation approach to sharing water, which promotes securitization and discourages negotiation and compromise. Rather than use a neo-liberal approach towards maximizing utilization of water, Brooks et al encourages focusing on extreme climate risks and risk minimization when looking at long term planning for water management. They argue that the proposal put forward by EcoPeace uses this approach. The EcoPeace proposal, assembled in 2010 and revised in 2012, essentially recognizes water, specifically in the transboundary region of the Jordan River, as a flow that is subject to continuous monitoring and ongoing mediation for sustainable water management. They point to the need for switching focus from supply to demand-side management, as water conservation measures are often more cost effective and just as effective, or more, than increasing desalination capacity. They also mention that subsidies for agricultural and industrial uses of water can be reduced enough to influence pricing for farming and manufacturing decisions.

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    Desecuritisation of Water as a Key for Water Diplomacy

    Ensuring Water Security in the Middle East: Policy Implications

    Using the Jordan River Basin as a case study, Frohlich provides different interpretations of the relationship between water and security, and separates these into national, international, human and ecological security discourses, each with different levels of “(de)-securitisation.” In particular, she emphasizes the social, material, and symbolic aspects attached to water as a resource in the Jordan basin. She argues that the Jordan basin is a promising opportunity to better understand the role of “(de)-securitisation” for successful water diplomacy, and that better understanding the structures and dynamic underlying water conflict can help identify ways to achieve more sustainable water management in the basin. Frohlich defines securitization as a framing of an issue as a matter of security, thus moving the issue outside of “normal” political action, and normalizing emergency measures including violence that exceed typical rules of social interaction. She defines desecuritisation as the reverse process, changing discourse away from framing of contentious viewpoints so that agreement and mutual understanding can be possible. Frohlich points to the Israeli-Palestinian Good Water Neighbours (GWN) project as a good example of cooperation existing in the region. According to Frohlich, GWN promotes de-securitization by framing discourse around water as a means to sustain life in general, with an ecological understanding of security that is not limited to national or political boundaries. They advocate for a transnational water commission that would be responsible for all transboundary water resources in the region and focused on common water resource management rather than just national allocation or quality.

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    Assessment of water governance in the West Bank, Palestine

    International Journal of Global Environmental Issues

    This paper applies a governance matrix to the context of the West Bank, breaking down the framework of water governance as dealing with the steering, organization and guidance of water resources management. The authors’ framework includes 13 dimensions -- of these, water quality and responsibilities and resources were marked as being in the least need of improvement, while political status and social status were the most. Political status was identified as the most restrictive aspect of the Palestinian water sector, largely as a result of the of the Israeli occupation, which prevents Palestinians from accessing water resources in their territory and restricts license and permits for water infrastructure such as wastewater treatment and desalination plants.The authors describe Palestine’s economy as highly dependent on donations from countries and international organizations and point to lack of Israeli approval in the Joint Water Committee as an inhibitor to implementation of many water plans and laws in the West Bank.During a focus group conducted as part of the study, participants stated that water law enforcement would be improved by upgrading historical water laws form the Ottoman, Jordanian, and Egyptian Era.

  • An analysis of the framings of water scarcity in the Jordanian national water strategy

    Water International

    Hussein explores the framing of water scarcity within iterations of Jordanian national water strategy. The article seeks to show the evolution of water scarcity framing in two phases of Jordanian water strategy, from 2008-2022 and 2016-2025. The 2008-2022 national water strategy “Water for Life” frames water within seven key areas: population growth, immigration and refugees; unfair water sharing with neighboring countries; climate change as an additional pressure; low precipitation and aridity of the region; non-revenue water due to leakages and physical losses; NRW due to illegal wells and illegal use; and unsustainable agricultural water use. The strategy is comprehensive in its examination of the causes of scarcity and promotes both supply and demand side strategies. The 2016-2025 national water strategy focuses on integrated water resources management (IWRM) and reiterates the need to consider water in a holistic and sustainable manner. It also focuses more on global discourses than its precursor, framing global water discourse within the regional context.

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    A main driver or an intermediate variable? Climate change, water and security in the Middle East

    Global Environmental Change

    Feitelson and Tubi explore the nexus of climate change and violent conflict in this article, advancing a conceptual framework to link climate change induced droughts and conflict. This article utilizes the examples of two Middle Eastern basins during the 2007-2010 period of drought: the Euphrates and Jordan River basins. The authors explore the causal links between drought and the experience of violent conflict and mass migration in the Euphrates, and the relative lack of conflict in the Jordan River basin. Feitelson and Tubi conclude that a society’s adaptive capacity with regards to drought and other climatic perturbations is crucial in determining the presence or lack of conflict, and that this is largely determined by economic and institutional structures as well as institutional capacity. The authors also highlight the importance of an economy’s dependence on agriculture, and high-water use sectors in determining adaptive capacity.With regard to the Jordan River Basin, the authors identify vulnerable populations within the three riparian states as well as institutional structures and interdependencies. Palestine is identified as the country worst affected during the 2007-2010 drought period, with Bedouins in the OPT particularly vulnerable due to their nomadic and agrarian lifestyles. Despite these population’s vulnerabilities, the Jordan River Basin is highlighted as an instance in which the relations between riparian states, and specifically the degree to which the upper riparian states were able and willing to adjust their behavior, contributed to the maintenance of peace. Israel, being the upper riparian or water hegemon in this case, executed a form of what Zawahri calls unstable cooperation (2008) by increasing water supply to Palestinians.

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    Tackling the Trickle: Ensuring Sustainable Water Management in the Arab Region

    Earth's Future

    In Tackling the Trickle: Ensuring Sustainable Water Management in the Arab Region, sustainable water management is identified as a defining issue for the SWANA region in the 21st century. The authors specify access to water services and water quality as the main categories of water issues in Arab states. They further link water scarcity and population growth as well as economic development and impacts of climate change more broadly. Among the main challenges identified by Borgomeo, Fawzi, et al. are high water stress, floods and the unsuitability of conditions in the region surface water storage, the impacts of desalination processes on surrounding marine environments and challenges with unplanned reuse (which is the most common kind of reuse in the region).The authors also identify eight major trends with potential to shape the region’s water outbreak including population growth; urban sprawl; armed conflict and its link to displacement; shifting agricultural and food security policies; climate change; and state-citizen relationships and educational policy.

  • Water Scarcity as a Non-traditional Threat to Security in the Middle East

    India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs

    In this article Mustapha Kamel El-Sayed and Rasha Soheil Mansour examine water within the securitization matrix, exploring the related securitizing acts, actors and triggers. The authors identify water scarcity as a trigger for water securitization in the Middle East, and more specifically the causal link between water scarcity and limitations on developing. Utilizing the framework for securitization provided by the Copenhagen School, the authors identify non-governmental organizations, human rights activists and national bodies as securitizing actors in the case of the West Bank Aquifer. They explain that water is securitized through three main mechanisms: structural securitization via physical infrastructures that serve to protect the water resource; institutional securitizations which may be evidenced through the inclusion of military or foreign affairs officials in basin authorities; and linguistic securitization, also referred to as speech acts which frame water within historic and cultural metaphors as well as water conflict. The authors specify that many water conflict situations arise from the asymmetric balance of power and the existence of hydro-hegemony. El Sayed and Mansour identify Israel as a hydro-hegemon and explain that Israel is able to justify its water policies through a series of securitizing acts that link water security with broader national security. These acts have allowed Israel to achieve uncontested control over both the Jordan River and Mountain Aquifer, and include the occupation of the Golan Heights, where many of the Jordan River’s headwaters are concentrated, as well as in the securitized portrayal of Lebanese development of the Wazzani Springs in 2002.

  • A Financial, Environmental and Social Evaluation of Domestic Water Management Options in the West Bank, Palestine

    Water Resources Management

    Evaluating domestic water supply management options towards achieving water sufficiency in domestic water use for the West Bank, Palestine. Using Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA), Nazer et al show that introducing a combination of domestic water management options can lead to a substantial decrease in water consumption of more than 50%. The authors find that some options were more financially attractive with a quicker payback period on the investment (faucet aerators, low-flow shower heads, dual flush toilets) than others (rainwater harvesting, greywater reuse and dry toilets). The authors also propose a future domestic water use scheme according to a “use-treat-reuse” approach.

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    Design of Efficient Water Pricing Policies Integrating Basinwide Resource Opportunity Costs

    Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management

    In ‘Design of Efficient Water Pricing Policies’, the authors explore the estimation of water policies as includes opportunity cost of water use. Pulling from the framework identified by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) the authors cite the need for implementation of a pricing policy that provides incentives for efficient water use for environmental objects. Ignoring the opportunity cost of water leads to the undervaluing of water and misallocation of the resource, especially damaging in conditions of water scarcity. This paper presents a methodology for the simulation of water pricing policies linked to water availability, as well as the design of efficient pricing policies that incorporate the basin-wide marginal values of water incorporating the three components of “non-accounting” opportunity cost. These include the basin-wide marginal value of water at the source, the “marginal use cost” or opportunity cost of water use over time, and the marginal capacity cost from limited infrastructure.

  • Cost of water for peace and the environment in Israel: An integrated approach

    Water Resources

    Ward and Becker analyze the role that Israel’s desalination capacity can play in determining the cost of allocating water to the Palestinian peace process as well as meeting environmental demands towards restoring the Lower Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The authors apply a mathematical modeling framework to analyze three water management alternatives for Israel including: supply side management (supply expansion); demand side management (demand reduction); and integrated management (combination of demand and supply adjustments to avoid shortages). The paper indicates that integrated management is the most cost effective method, and that recent decreases and projected future reductions in the cost of desalination have allowed Israel greater capacity to supply water towards the two overarching goals of securing water to supply towards environmental restoration and a possible peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
    The authors identify Agriculture as the most price-sensitive water user in Israel. The optimization model builds off that employed by Fisher et al (2005) which showed that by calculating the economic value of water and viewing water as a tradable asset, water disputers may understand that there is more to be gained from cooperation than from arguing over ownership.

  • Greywater reuse: towards sustainable water management


    Al-Jayyousi’s 2003 article explores the history of greywater reuse in semi-arid regions, looking specifically at the Jordanian context. Although technology in greywater re-use has greatly evolved since its publication, the article provides a useful history for types and issues with reuse both in Jordan and internationally. It iterates the four criteria that greywater must meet in order to be utilized in instances of reuse including hygienic safety, aesthetics, environmental tolerance and technical and economic feasibility.

  • Sustainable wastewater management for small communities in the Middle East and North Africa

    Journal of Environmental Management

    Bakir’s article explores the potential for distributed wastewater systems in the MENA region, based on the crucial need to supply accelerated wastewater services to small communities across the region in particular. Bakir makes the case for distributed systems based on the high rate of urbanization causing additional stress to existing water systems, the current treatment of wastewater’s high use of freshwater resources and the current informal use of untreated wastewater which has negative health and environmental effects. Wastewater management must effectively protect public health and meet the demand for convenience as well as protect scarce water resources. In order to do so, Bakir writes, the solution should be tailored to the social, cultural, economic and environmental circumstances as well as being cost effective and affordable to communities and national economies alike. Wastewater must also be acknowledged to be a part of the larger water cycle and integrated within water management processes, as well as being kept to the smallest possible feasible footprint. Muscat, Oman is cited as a relevant example of decentralized wastewater systems in the region which has achieved this in the context of a capital city. Bakir then illustrates the typologies of wastewater technologies, providing specificity regarding potential types of on-site wastewater systems and sewerage systems.

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    The multifaceted outcomes of community-engaged water quality management in a Palestinian refugee camp

    Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

    Bishara et al. study how an interdisciplinary coalition of organizations and residents focused on community-engagement can creatively address multi-faceted aspects of environmental justice, starting with water quality, in the Palestinian Aida Refugee Camp. The authors argue that water concerns require a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach because water scarcity has health, economic, social and political implications. They also examine the limits of this approach. While unable to address the structural issue of limited water supply, the interdisciplinary collaboration has contributed to water quality testing, point-of-use water treatment, rooftop gardens, political advocacy, and environmental education.

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    Assessment of the Urban Water Security in a Severe Water Stress Area–Application to Palestinian Cities


    Jabari et. al create a semi-quantitative risk-based approach for assessing urban water security in cities across the West Bank. Their methodology highlights the variance between cities across the West Bank, looking to water resources, water services and water governance to assess water security. Among key factors to water security, the authors cite the importance of collaboration across different types of governance, the need for risk management strategies to reduce water hazards as well as the vulnerability and exposure of water infrastructure. Urban water security is differentiated from general water security as it corresponds to high population density, dependence on external water resources and complex and fragmented water governance. The authors also explore the causal link between water resource degradation in the West Bank and rapid urbanization. Local systems have been largely uninvolved with water system evaluations and decision making, which the authors highlight as one of the main issues causing urban water insecurity across the West Bank.

  • Rainfed agroecosystem resilience in the Palestinian West Bank

    Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

    Tesdell et al explore the long-term resilience of a rainfed agro-ecological landscape in the West Bank, arguing that the study area, a hill region village in the central West Bank, has experienced a high level of resilience for at least 70 years, due to dynamic practices including changes in cropping system and labor structure, that have allowed cultivators to adapt to political-economic and environmental shifts. Rainfed agriculture is a planting strategy that uses soil moisture for growing crops, without irrigation. The authors argue that the local term and method for rainfed production, “ba3li”, reflects a way of life that includes water harvesting techniques to capture rainwater for watering crops in dry months. This method of farming plays an essential part in the economic growth of the West Bank, as the majority of agricultural land in the West Bank is rainfed. The authors’ study suggest that agroecosystem resilience depends on dynamic change, and the three central points of dynamism found in the study area include: (1) the agroecosystem becoming more diverse in species and crop diversity over time, (2) the shift towards perennial crops rather than annual; and (3) the restructuring of the agricultural labor from men to women.

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    The geopolitics of cross-border electricity grids: The Israeli-Arab case

    Energy Policy

    Fischhendler et al. situate regional electricity coordination efforts within the prism of geopolitics in this article, determining that success in establishing electricity grids requires identifying how geopolitical dimensions interplay with physical dimensions. The authors also illuminate how Israel has used electricity geopolitics as both as a platform for deeper international cooperation and as a stick against neighboring states. Among the expected benefits of electricity coordination (and more specifically grid interconnection) iterated by the article are reducing capital expenditures, reducing electricity costs and enhancing system reliability, as well as more efficient resource allocation and power production in addition to various social benefits. However, the author also identifies a variety of geopolitical bottlenecks to electricity coordination, including the perception of geopolitical coordination as a zero-sum game, grid dependency aversion, political relations and trust as well as the energy security-economy dilemma.
    The authors highlight how desalination has been used as a carrot in energy cooperation, especially with regards to Israel’s existing desalination technology and its potential in neighboring water scarce regions. The grid more broadly has also been used in negotiations between Israel and the PLO,. The Palestinian Authority has attempted to achieve an independent electricity system in Palestine, and several linkages to the broader Arab grid have been attempted both by Palestinian Authority and Israel. Of the ten attempts made between 1991 and 2015 to connect Israel to the larger Middle Eastern Grid, the authors explain, each was stymied by geopolitical bottlenecks and illustrate how tensions this kind of cooperation is especially difficult, in part due to its reliance on the construction of shared infrastructure.

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    Micro-Grid Solar Photovoltaic Systems for Rural Development and Sustainable Agriculture in Palestine


    This article focuses on the potential for solar micro-grid systems in rural areas in the West Bank. Examining the two case studies of Al-Birin and Dir-Ammin in the Hebron and Ramallah governates respectively, the authors makes the case for micro-grid solar photovoltaic systems for rural development and sustainable agriculture, with special attention paid to the impact of these systems on the water-energy nexus. Due to the centrality of agriculture in rural development, Ibrik suggests that micro-grid systems can enhance food and water security by providing access to reliable energy sources for agricultural irrigation. Micro-grids also significantly enhanced quality of life and development potential in the two case studies, as enhanced energy systems work to ensure water availability. The climate in the west bank is well suited to distributed renewable energy generation and these systems are especially advantageous when the geopolitical situation is taken into account, as the proximity of small rural villages in the West Bank to Israeli settlements presents particular challenges in connecting to larger existing electricity grid. The authors analyze the suitability of different parts of the micro-grid system, as well as the social impact of installing these systems in rural areas of the West Bank.

  • Assessment of Palestinian Water Sector Strategy Under Different Energy Sources Using Water Allocation System “WAS”

    Najah University Dissertation

    Jallad's thesis provides an assessment of the Palestinian Water Sector Strategy (2014) developed for the coming 30 years is provided using a Water Allocation Strategy (WAS), as we as an evaluation of the feasibility of the water-energy nexus. Jallad utilizes three scenarios, an existing situation as of 2015 (the date of publication), and two future scenarios for 2030, coming to the conclusion that it will be necessary to create fresh water links between the different Palestinian governates in order to stabilize pricing and ensure ease of water access in all parts of the West Bank and Gaza. Jallad focuses on wastewater reuse as a potential future water resource and speaks to the potential for solar energy production in the West Bank to provide renewable energy in order to efficiently power desalination in Gaza. Jenin and Nablus are highlighted as especially vulnerable to high shadow pricing, and local management solutions are proposed to decrease the price of urban, agricultural, and industrial demand for water.

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