Seawater Desalination Projects:
The Challenge and the Options
to Meet the Water Shortage
Water shortage and the threat of desertification are the major
regional challenges facing the countries of the Middle-East in the
Israel's water policy takes into consideration the need to share our
limited existing water resources with our neighbors. Currently, we
are supplying water to the Jordanians and the Palestinians as well.
Unfortunately, since the 1960's the current potential of fresh water
is being exploited to its utmost.
The region's water supply depends on fluctuations in rainfall, which
is in short supply. The countries in the region also suffer from lack
of storage capacity, to regulate the water supply and to bridge over
drought and dry cycles.
Israel is an arid country, with the desert occupying more than 50% of
its land area. Similar conditions exist in other countries in the
Despite the need to fight the encroachment of the desert on this
small and narrow country and meet the rapid growth of its population,
Israel has not increased its water consumption. The per-capita
consumption of fresh water for urban demand is 100 cubic meters (cm)
Our water demands projection is based on the assumption that
per-capita water consumption by our Palestinian and Jordanian
neighbors will equal ours, at a certain point in time after the year
In 1997, the quantity stored in our reservoirs was 1 billion cubic
meters (b.c.m.) compared to the average supply of 1.8 b.c.m. within
the "green line" boundaries (1967 borders) and 2-2.1 b.c.m. between
the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
A crisis of water scarcity will occur when the population between the
Jordan River and the Mediterranean reaches 10 million, (presently 8
million), the per-capita consumption of the Palestinians equals the
rate prevailing in Israel, and another dry cycle occurs. The
predicted time of this crisis is 2010.
Seawater Desalination Project Outline
The time needed for planning and construction of a desalination
project is not less than 5 years.
The calculated investment required for the desalination of 1 cubic/m
of water is 4-5 dollars.
The cost of desalination of 1 cubic/m, including investment recovery,
is 0.70-1.00 dollar.
The cost is beyond the purchase capability, of both the Palestinians
and Jordan, who also suffer from severe water scarcity.
The proposal for reallocation of the insufficient current resources
of water, coupled with the continued threat of desert encroachment,
will not solve the problem of water scarcity, neither for us nor for
our neighbors. It will only perpetuate the water shortage or place
the entire burden of desalination on the shoulders of Israel.
The solution, beside the general economic development of Israel's
neighbors, is to assist the neighbors of Israel to meet the cost of
seawater desalination for a period of a few years.
In the initial phase of the project:
Construction of a 50 million/cm desalination plant in Gaza for
drinking water and domestic consumption.
Desalination of 50 million/cm of brackish water for supply to
Jordan in the Jordan Rift Valley (JRV).
Desalination of 50-100 million/cm in a plant on the coast of the
In the main phase of the project:
Construction of a large-scale desalination plant of 800 million/cm of
water, utilizing the hydrostatic pressure obtained from the
difference of the level between the Mediterranean and the JRV for
production of electric power and desalination of huge quantities of
water for the use of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians. All
together the completed project will provide 1 billion/cm of
The proposed Regional Seawater Desalination project will be able,
over a period of 10-15 years, to provide 1 billion cubic meter of
desalinated seawater, and provide a solution to the current water
crises as well as meet the future needs of Israel, Jordan and the
Implementing this project will require a cooperative effort and
direct investment of the leading industrialized countries and the
international community at large, with active participation of Israel
and its Arab neighbors.
This long-term venture can become the "flagship project" of the
international community in achieving regional cooperation and
large-scale joint ventures, which will advance the Middle-East peace
Creating the mutual investment and interdependence of all parties
toward the success of such a project would provide a model and ensure
the enhancement of peace and coexistence in the Middle East.