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Asymmetric Abstraction and Allocation: The Israeli-Palestinian Water Pumping Record

Zeitoun, Mark, Messerschmid, Clemens, Attili, Shaddad
Ground water 2009 v.47 no.1 pp. 146-160
agricultural industry, aquifers, basins, coevolution, drinking water, groundwater extraction, politics, pumps, risk, water allocation, water quality, water table, Jordan River
The increased attention given to international transboundary aquifers may be nowhere more pressing than on the western bank of the Jordan River. Hydropolitical analysis of six decades of Israeli and Palestinian pumping records reveals how ground water abstraction rates are as asymmetrical as are water allocations. The particular hydrogeology of the region, notably the variability in depth to ground water, variations in ground water quality, and the vulnerability of the aquifer, also affect the outcome. The records confirm previously drawn conclusions of the influence of the agricultural lobby in maintaining a supply-side water management paradigm. Comparison of water consumption rates divulges that water consumed by all sectors of the farming-based Palestinian economy is less than half of Israeli domestic consumption. The overwhelming majority of "reserve" flows from wet years are sold at subsidized rates to the Israeli agricultural sector, while very minor amounts are sold at normal rates to the Palestinian side for drinking water. An apparent coevolution of water resource variability and politics serves to explain increased Israeli pumping prior to negotiations in the early 1990s. The abstraction record from the Western Aquifer Basin discloses that the effective limit set by the terms of the 1995 Oslo II Agreement is regularly violated by the Israeli side, thereby putting the aquifer at risk. The picture that emerges is one of a transboundary water regime that is much more exploitative than cooperative and that risks spoiling the resource as it poisons international relations.