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Water in Israel: Case Study of the Middle East Water Resources Working Group

(Updated May 2002)


The Middle East Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources (MWGWR) a case study of the "From Vision to Action" theme adopted by this international forum on water. Almost a decade ago at the Madrid Peace Conference, a vision for the Middle East was articulated. This conference launched the formation of a multilateral framework to address a number of issues in the Middle East, one of them being regional water issues. The fundamental objective of the multilateral track has been to lay the foundations for a just and sustainable peace by creating a dialogue that transcends the scope of bilateral negotiations. From the outset, the purpose was three-fold:

Support the bilateral talks of the Peace Process;

  • Explore solutions to key regional problems; and

  • Build confidence among the parties to create a dynamic that reinforces cooperation and peace.


The Middle East multilateral peace process and its bilateral track began with the Madrid Conference in October 1991. Although the stated objective at Madrid was to begin a process to resolve the Middle East conflict, this objective was viewed in the broadest possible perspective. From the outset, the conference pursued a peace settlement that extended beyond the normalization of relations between warring parties. The message underlying the Madrid Conference was that the time had come to shed the old paradigms of the Middle East conflict and focus on the future.

The peace process partners agreed to establish a multilateral track in addition to the bilateral track. The two-track model adopted at the Madrid conference reflected the commitment of the participants and co-sponsors to build an additional dimension into the peace process. The decision to launch both a bilateral and multilateral track was not just the result of compromise between opposing approaches to negotiations. The bilateral track was designed to concentrate on the political issues of territorial control and sovereignty, border demarcations, security arrangements, and the political rights of the Palestinians. The multilateral track was established to examine a range of more technically oriented issues that extend across national boundaries and the resolution of which, is essential for the promotion of long-term regional development and security. The focus of the bilateral process would deal with problems inherited from the past, and the multilateral track would focus on issues that would shape the future of the Middle East.

A framework for the multilateral track was established in January 1992 at the Moscow Multilateral Middle East Conference, a forum that included thirty-six delegations from around the globe. There was consensus to establish five multilateral working groups and a steering group to coordinate the activities of the various working groups. The Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources (MWGWR) is one of these five groups.


The model for cooperation incorporated in the multilateral peace process is premised on the vision of creating synergies through awareness of common problems, such as water. By concentrating on the common problem of regional water scarcity, the participants in the process have been able to transcend the realm of competing interests and create a situation in which, all parties share benefits. The central focus is placed on creating a positive dynamic that will lead to tangible results in solving common water problems and that will foster actions that will translate I into effective regional cooperation. This dynamic is self-reinforcing. Regional awareness and sensitivity to common needs lead to the conceptualization and definition of regional problems. This leads to a search for regional solutions, which then are channeled back into the process of bilateral problem solving between parties, and promotes synergetic regional cooperation. Once tangible milestones of regional cooperation are achieved, regional awareness is reinforced and the momentum is perpetuated.

Characteristics of the Multilateral Model

The model of cooperation exhibited in the multilateral framework has been a model-in-the-making. No preconceived limitations or requirements were developed or applied. At the same time, however, a common ground was fostered and reinforced by specific organizational and behavioral practices. The process has been gradual, deliberate, and, at times, laborious, requiring procedural definition, ratification of decisions by each of the participating regional parties, and the support (financial and otherwise) of the various donor parties involved. The progress that has been achieved, both in terms of project completion and confidence, building, can be attributed to a number of important factors:


  • Articulated goals: Goals were articulated in broad terms by the regional participants themselves, and great care was taken to maintain the general nature of these goals throughout the various stages of the projects. The fundamental approach by all participants was technical in nature.


  • Seeking a common denominator: The parties realized that the process would be gradual, and that the ultimate. goal was to find a common. denominator among the various positions rather than to focus on furthering national interests at the expense of the other parties. This action kept the focus of discussions on the future and led to a situation in which the success of the multilateral track was not contingent exclusively on progress made in bilateral negotiations.


  • Participation of the international community: The support and participation of the international community was strong and, at times, crucial to the continuation of the process. The role of the donor nations was proactive and not limited to financing or occasional mediation. It reflected an international commitment to create a long-term solution to Middle East water problems that would be based on cooperation rather than mere compromise. While the international community role in "shepherding" new projects was essential early in the process, a sign of the success of the multilateral track is that their role has changed to that of a project funding donor and a partner with the participating parties. A further measure of success is that during a period of comparative stagnation in the peace process, multilateral water activities have continued to achieve, and even expand, their original objectives.


  • Orientation on results: Program emphasis was placed on agreeing to pragmatic measures for future implementation. High priority was placed on activities that provided visible, positive results tot encourage public acceptance of the process. All sides endeavored to attain tangible, recognizable achievements or measures that could be translated into action when political circumstances permitted.


  • Consensus decision-making: Decision-making was by consensus which means that the outcome of deliberations reflected acceptance by all the parties. This approach does not require that all parties enter with similar objectives or that all parties are equally committed to the outcome, but it does require that all parties can live with the decision. It also injects a basic equality into the process, as each individual party has the ability to veto a given proposal. Moreover, it allows issues to be raised openly as a focus of discussion rather than bargaining. Ultimately, consensual decision-making fosters mutual sensitivity to the, needs of the other parties. In order to be effective, veto power is used sparingly to reject only those proposals to which a party has a strong objection. This differs from traditional bilateral modes of negotiation where each side tries to gain an advantage by seeking optimal solutions for themselves.


  • High-level participants: The Working Group was comprised of high-level decision-makers in the water sector who were able to forge long-term personal and professional relationships. In most cases, these professionals represented their respective governments in other international forums, such as the Barcelona Process, and were able to leverage regional contacts to further international networking for themselves and the constituencies they represented.


  • Comparable technical capability: Early in the process, consensus was reached that special attention should be paid to capacity building in the Palestinian Authority. This was an absolute requirement for Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian participants to be able to establish and maintain a comparable technical and scientific level.


  • Project flexibility: Most of the projects were designed to be flexible in order to allow the inclusion of additional regional participants and project elements with time. Follow-on, complementary activities also could be incorporated easily within a given project or activity in a manner that promoted organic growth and synergy.


  • Informal atmosphere: Generally, multilateral activities were conducted without a protocol - a situation that encouraged participants to speak freely and openly. Multilateral discussions were low-key, and rarely allowed to attract public attention. Decisions reached did not formally commit participating parties to a specific course of action, and the projects undertaken were pragmatic rather than declaratory in purpose. This informality became particularly important when the formal multilateral framework was suspended. The Group's legitimacy essentially resulted from its activity.


  • Public/private sector cooperation: Not only were many participants in the multilateral track technical specialists, rather than politicians or diplomats, but several came from the Private sector. This was particularly, but not exclusively, the case in project activities carried out under the aegis of the MWGWR and applied not only to technical experts from outside the region, but also to experts from within the region.


As in many regions. of the world, water in the Middle East has been a point of contention for many years. The demand for quality water in the region historically has been a major issue of concern. The interdependency among the parties on common water resources only complicated matters. The scarcity of quality water in the region was designated by the multilateral track as one of five key issues that should be addressed on a regional level. It was felt that if the inherently bilateral issues, such as water rights and the allocation of existing resources, could be set aside, water could serve as a catalyst for cooperation and the advancement of peace. The multilateral framework enabled the regional participants to create positive scenarios from what was essentially an inwardly focused negotiation. This added dimension to the bilateral track of peace negotiations accentuated the positive and set the stage for capitalizing on potential synergies arising from the peace process.

The MWGWR was established with the vision that water could become a source of cooperation rather than contention. By focusing on the big picture, i.e., addressing the gap between the supply and demand for water in the entire region both east and west of the Jordan River, the parties could create a positive dynamic that would help the region enhance water resources and, at the same time, add substance to the peace process.

Essentially, the idea was to move the focus from an internal need to control the limited water resources to a concern for the greater good of the regional population. In the 8 years that have passed since the Conference in Madrid, the MWGWR has succeeded in shifting the focus and in laying the cornerstone for regional capacity building in the field of water management. This shift has contributed to practical collaborative solutions to the Middle East's common water problems within existing political reality. The organization and human dynamics behind the multilateral process provides a model for regional cooperation that can be emulated in other regions in the world.

The initial membership in the MWGWR was comprised of 47 delegations, which included 15 regional parties and 32 extra-regional or donor nations, institutions, and organizations from around the globe. A number of the participants were water professionals with little or no previous formal experience in politics or diplomacy.

The primary aim of the Working Group on Water Resources is to create an awareness of water issues from a regional perspective. More specifically, the Group's objectives as articulated in Moscow, are to foster cooperation and coordinate efforts to ameliorate water problems through activities done under the group's four agenda items:


  • Enhancement of water data availability;

  • Water management practices, including conservation;

  • Enhancement of water supply; and

  • Concepts of regional water management and cooperation.

    While the direction of the multilateral track was established in Moscow, there was no certainty at the outset of the process that the multilateral track would succeed. No clear guidelines as to the organization or formal procedures that would govern the group were formulated before the launching of the multilateral track. There also was no clear indication as to the specific character or scope of the projects that would be undertaken in this new framework. In fact, some of the parties declined to participate in the multilateral discussions believing that they were premature. Despite this, a sense of common purpose did develop over time and structural norms were established. General goals were translated into clearly defined projects and specific on-going activities.

    The activities initiated and sponsored by the Working Group varied in character and scope. They included regional studies; the establishment, upgrading, and standardization of regional water data networks; a multifaceted training program; a regional desalination research center; workshops; and various local projects. Some of the projects were structured as a cluster of specific activities that could be enhanced modularly and adjusted with time. Other activities were more strictly defined and focused on specific regional and local activities. All projects conformed to the Moscow agenda and many encompassed more than one of the four specified MWGWR agenda items. They emphasized pragmatic operational measures that either would be implemented as part of the original project activities or could be applied expediently at some time in the future. These projects lay the groundwork for future collaboration by preparing the building blocks from which cooperation could be realized. In this sense, the MWGWR projects represented initial steps towards regional capacity building; i.e., the creation of mechanisms for action on a regional level where none existed previously.

    Between 1992 and 1996 the MWGWR convened formally nine times, both within and outside the MENA region. The last Working Group meeting was convened in Hammamet, Tunisia, in May 1996. Between plenary meetings, the Working Group held intersessional activities on a frequent basis. These intersessional activities rendered continuity to the collaboration among the parties and served as the engine driving the MWGWR's programmatic progress.

    Since 1996, despite the lack of formal MWGWR meetings, work has continued unabated on the original projects with a modest expansion of project activity to meet emerging needs and increasing capacity for regional cooperation. The Major Elements of the Water Problem in the Middle East Several major elements can be identified that characterize the nature and scope of the water issue in the Middle East.


  • Chronic Water Scarcity: There is an ever-widening gap between the demand for quality water and the existing supply. This fundamental problem cannot be addressed by the allocation of existing resources. "New" sources of water must be created in order for all parties in the region to meet their growing water needs. Enhancement of water supply through technology and efficient water management at the regional level are essential components to addressing water scarcity. Structural changes in regional economies also will be necessary to control the ever-increasing demand for water.


  • Interdependence on Water Resources: Water is a shared resource. Ninety percent of the surface water in the region transcends at least one border and ground-water resources are shared between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This system creates interdependencies that require cooperation between the parties if optimum use is to be achieved.


  • Social, Economic, and Political Differences: The parties in the region have distinct social, political, and economic systems and water regimes. Differences between the basic outlook and agendas of the various parties must be acknowledged and overcome if water problems are to be confronted and resolved at a regional level.


  • Political Volatility: The pattern of relations among the parties can be described as variable, ranging from open hostilities to full negotiated peace. Although the momentum for peace has been set in motion, the process is not complete and the relations among the parties are subject to a high degree of fluctuation.


  • Undefined borders: Despite some progress during the peace process, many of the borders in the region are not recognized internationally. As a consequence, the rights to access water resources within those borders are undefined and can be a contributing factor in regional tensions.

    Although these elements characterize circumstances in the Middle East, they are common, to some degree, to other regions of the world. The scarcity of quality water, whether resulting from limited availability or uninformed management, rarely respects political boundaries. Water resources often are shared between different political entities, and riparian claims can impair otherwise normal peaceful relations between states. Disparity between socioeconomic and political systems, also is common between neighboring states, and all regional" water systems are affected somewhat by politics. Accordingly, the adoption of an approach that looks beyond divisive issues and attempts to create common ground for effective water management on a regional scale is not unique to the Middle East.


Projects undertaken by the MWGWR were chosen based on their contribution to the four agenda items outlined at Moscow: a) enhancement of water data availability; b) water management practices, including conservation; c) enhancement of water supply; and d) concepts of regional water management and cooperation. Each project fell under at least one of these agenda items, While, some, fit into more than one category. The projects were designed to provide technology transfer and to achieve pragmatic results. Conclusions included recommendations for institutionalizing regional cooperation in some form by either implementing joint infrastructure projects, building regional institutions and training centers, or preparing the elements necessary for regional action.

Initially, projects generally involved participating regional parties and a donor nation or institution that served as a shepherd or facilitator. The original projects generally were initiated by the donor party, with consensus acceptance by the participating regional parties. As time went by and collegial relationships developed, the participating regional parties assumed a more active role in proposing additional activities and refining proposals made by the other members of the MWGWR. For the first time, the participating regional parties were able to articulate in a consensual manner the nature, scope and needs of regional water issues. A joint statement issued in February 1998 summarizes their newly developed awareness concerning regional water problems. "Although, each core party has some limited potential of unexploited local water resources and can improve the efficiency of water use, the future water gap can only be covered through the provision of new and additional water to the region."

The major projects undertaken by the MWGWR are outlined below:


The project portfolio of the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources

Enhancement of water data availability


  • Regional Water Data Banks

    Water management practices, including conservation


  • Public Awareness & Water Conservation

  • Optimization of Intensive Agriculture under Varying Water Quality Conditions

  • Comparative Study of Water Laws & Water Institutions in the Region

    Enhancement of water supply


  • Regional Water Supply & Demand Study

  • Middle East Desalination Research Center

    Concepts of regional water management & cooperation


  • Water Sector Training Program

  • Declaration on Principles for Cooperation Among the Core Parties on Water Related Matters & New and Additional Water Resources

  • Water Atlas

  • Waternet


Enhancement of Water Data Availability

Regional Water Data Banks Project

The three participating regional parties, with support from Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, The Netherlands, and the United States are implementing a project to establish, upgrade, and standardize regional data banks of hydrologic data. Norway also has made a substantial contribution to the Palestinian Water Authority that supports the goals of the project. The project is an ongoing capacity-building measure to enhance future cooperation in water management. It was approved in 1994 and launched in January 1995 with the formation of the Executive Action Team (EXACT), a regional oversight group consisting of members from the participating regional parties and representatives from active donor countries.

Thirty-nine priority recommendations were identified and agreed-upon by the participating regional parties, plus Work Package A, which is a series of actions designed to establish and promote capacity building within the Palestinian Water Authority. Examples of work undertaken by the Regional Water Data Banks Project the creation of regional directories of water resource professionals, institutions, publications, and projects and studies, compatible geographic reference systems, standardized data collection procedures and forms, standardized laboratory analytical methodology, development of mobile laboratories; participation in a regional laboratory quality assurance program, access to a wide area network, and joint training in a wide variety of hydrologic topics. These activities have resulted, in several publications as well as the adoption of standardized procedures among the three participating regional parties.

Additional actions that have been undertaken within the regional Water Data Banks Project include significant hardware elements that have enhanced the ability of the parties to monitor water systems. Specific local infrastructure projects that have been completed as part of the MWGWR initiative include:


  • Mobile laboratories to locate and monitor polluting agents;

  • Telemetry equipment for early warning of natural disasters; and

  • Computer and communications equipment.

    The original project profile made possible the expansion of ongoing initiatives, even though the formal operation of the multilateral framework was suspended in 1996. The success of the early project initiatives opened opportunities for more comprehensive cooperation and has provided an Opportunity for the participating regional parties to dialogue focused on common water issues. Effective, teamwork among the Working Group members, in particular the participating regional parties, contributed immeasurably to the continued success of the MWGWR programs and their ability to attract donor assistance.

    Over the past 5 years, eleven EXACT meetings have been convened. In addition, there have been scores of meetings among the participating regional parties to implement the project recommendations, keep the activities pertinent to regional needs, and to examine desirable expansion of ongoing activities. At the meeting held in Amman in May 19,99, five additional projects were approved by EXACT:


  • Rehabilitation of field equipment for flow measurement and upgrading laboratory equipment to enhance regional compatibility - in conjunction with the European Union.


  • Initiation of a regional pilot project for the real-time collection and transmission of hydrological data - in conjunction with France.


  • A pilot project to treat polluted local water sources - in conjunction with The Netherlands,


  • Development of hydrological models for the infusion of marginal water to underground aquifers - in conjunction with The Netherlands, and


  • Establishment of a regional data base on high intensity precipitation events - in conjunction with the United States.

Water Management Practices, Including Conservation

Public Awareness and Water Conservation Project

At the 1996 MWGWR meeting held in Tunisia, the Working Group initiated a project to focus on awareness programs for water conservation. Regional participants included Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia. The U.S.led program includes technical assistance in determining the best practices for establishing public awareness campaigns and educational programs. Public awareness campaigns for water conservation were run simultaneously in Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia. The local campaigns of Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority then were compiled into a video depicting the regional problem of water scarcity and the means to address the problem. As. the next phase, Israeli, Jordanian, and the Palestinian representatives agreed to extend activities by introducing an educational program on water and water conservation into their school systems. Unlike previous school curricula, this educational program will approach the issue of water from a regional perspective. The project was adopted May 1999, and incorporation into the school curriculum is planned for September 2001. This project signifies the first time the Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian school systems will teach a jointly developed and identical regional program.

Optimization of Intensive Agriculture Under Varying Water Quality Conditions

This project was initiated in 1996 by Luxembourg and involves the Palestinian Authority, Morocco, and Israel. The aim of the project was to set up a demonstration farm in Beit Hanoun for technology transfer in the field of water use. The focus of the project activities is placed on developing the use of saline and brackish water for sustainable fanning in Gaza. Project implementation is led by Al-Azhar University of Gaza.

Comparative Study of Water Laws and Water Institutions in the Region

A comparative survey outlining the legislative, regulatory, institutional, and pricing framework of water-resource management in various Middle Eastern countries and territories was conducted by the Norwegian government through the Center for Environmental Studies and Resource Management, a non-governmental organization known as "CESAR." In the first stage, common denominators among the various water management systems were identified. The detailed comparison among the various water regimes established a potential starting point for consensual formal cooperation in the future. The study's appendices included a compilation of English translations of the various water laws and water authority by-laws as presented by each party.

Enhancement of Water Supply

Regional Water Supply and Demand Study

This three-stage study was sponsored by the German government. The first stage, completed in 1996, involved collecting current and projected data for the years 2010, 2020, and 2040 from the three participating regional parties. Demand was compared with supply and water quality data, and the magnitude of the gap between supply and demand was calculated and modeled for these periods.

The second stage examined alternative strategies for bridging the gap: seawater desalination, conveyance via pipelines from fresh water sources near the region, and conveyance by sea from outlying sources, such as Turkey.

Each regional participating party examined a different strategic alternative. Desalination was found to be the alternative that best met the criteria of technical and economic feasibility. The third stage of the project where the participants identified priority activities for implementation, was completed in February 1998. The key recommendation arising from this study is the proposal for joint development of prototype desalination plants on the Mediterranean and Gulf of Aqaba coasts. It is estimated that this project could be implemented within 3 years at a cost of $30-$50 million. The participating regional parties have approached the German government for assistance, and discussions currently are being held on this matter.

Middle East Desalination Research Center

The Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) was proposed by the government of Oman in 1994, endorsed by the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources, and inaugurated in Muscat in December 1996. The United States, Oman, Japan, Israel, the European Union, and Korea contributed financial resources to fund its establishment and initial operation. The Center's mission is to conduct, facilitate, promote, coordinate, and support basic and applied research in water desalination and supporting fields; and to raise the standard of living in the Middle East and elsewhere by reducing costs and improving the quality Of the technical processes involved in water desalination. It coordinates and sponsors basic and applied research, initiates training programs in desalination, promotes electronic networking, and encourages regional cooperation towards the development, and improvement of desalination technology.

Objectives of MEDRC are:


  • Discovering, developing, and improving methods of desalination through basic and applied research.


  • Initiating training programs in the field of desalination to develop expertise as well as technical and scientific skills.


  • Promoting electronic networking communications to improve the dissemination of technical information on desalination.


  • Establishing regional cooperation and work to foster progress in the development, improvement, and use of water desalination and related technical areas.

    MEDRC has co-sponsored seminars and workshops worldwide with partners from the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, and has constructed a website at as well as a data bank and on-line bulletin board to promote partnering in research projects.

    To date, five Requests for Proposals have been announced, generating seventy project proposals. Seventeen multinational research projects have been awarded resulting in twenty-seven organizations in twelve countries working on projects primed and assisted by MEDRC. Together, this represents a total project budget of 2.4 million dollars.

Concepts of Regional Water Management and Cooperation

Water Sector Training Program

The MWGWR undertook a regional water sector training needs assessment to identify human resource technical requirements and to develop skills required to effectively manage regional water resources. As a result of the need for assessment, approximately 275 water resource personnel from the region were trained in seminars and courses held in Australia, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Oman, the United Kingdom and sponsored by the donor parties of the MWGWR. The participants came from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Declaration on Principles for Cooperation Among the Core Parties on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water Resources

Following the 1995 completion of the Norwegian-led Comparative Study of Water Laws and Water Institutions in the Region, participating, regional parties entered into discussions to develop a Declaration on Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water. In initialing the formal Declaration, the participating regional parties jointly resolved to cooperate in the development of new and additional water resources. They recognized the importance of:


  • Developing regionally compatible legal, economic, and institutional frameworks, and


  • The ability of the participating parties to cooperate based on identified common denominators among their respective water management systems.

    In addition to documenting the common denominators among the systems, the Declaration details avenues for potential cooperation in developing new water resources and in other water-related matters, should the participating regional parties decide to move the process forward.

    Water Atlas Project

    Initiated by the Norwegian government, the Water Atlas is a comprehensive data base of historic, scientific, technical, legal, and economic literature (occupying some 850 pages) regarding water resources and related issues of Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian interest. This database was provided to the participating regional parties to use as a tool to facilitate future discussions and activities.

Miscellaneous Activities Completed

Waternet Project

The Waternet Project, established by the Norwegian Government in 1996 is the first joint initiative by the participating (Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian or "Core") parties to implement parts of the Declaration on Principles. The project has three main parts. First, Waternet-Local establishes a computerized information system to display relevant local water information. It is designed to meet internal objectives related to water information. The initial focus of the Waternet Information System (WIS) is on the development of a module called Water Library and Information Navigator" which features water-related bibliographic information. Three computer node sites have been established by each party.

Waternet-Regional, the second part of the Waternet Project, will assist the participating parties to form a shared, computerized regional water information system. It is designed to link the Parties' local nodes, thus permitting regional sharing of water information.

The third part of the Waternet Project is establishment of a Regional Waternet and Research Center in Amman, Jordan. The objectives of the Center, which is expected to begin operation in 2000, are to develop and maintain the Waternet, to stimulate regional cooperation on water-related matters, to initiate new regional and joint activities, and to promote cooperation among the Core Parties as outlined in the Declaration on Principles. The Waternet Steering Group, consisting of regional representatives, Norwegian project implementers, and technical experts as needed, meets regularly to lead, monitor, and evaluate the project. A Local Steering Group and a Local Technical Group provide further assistance and support.


Demonstrating the "ground-up" approach by the regional party members over the years, they have compiled a list of priority projects that require a source of funding. I This list focuses on expanding the preliminary work already accomplished and includes, in some cases, the, procurement of selected field equipment for various regional water projects.


  • Pilot artificial recharge studies.

  • Waste water treatment for small communities.

  • Digital geological mapping of the region to facilitate data analysis, modeling, and monitoring.

  • Identify sources of water pollution and waste water reuse.

  • Estimation of groundwater recharge taking account of soils and geology.

  • Development of brackish ground water.

  • Water treatment and artificial recharge.

  • Instrumentation and equipment - modern monitoring equipment could enhance reliability and accuracy of water data.

  • Geophysical methods.

  • GIS - application and linkages to enable use of modem mapping and spatial analysis techniques.

  • Decision support system.

  • Regional water resources model. Impact of climate change.

  • Regional water quality field manual to enable regional standardization of procedures.

  • Periodic water situation report.

  • Implementation of a comprehensive quality control process in each water quality laboratory.

  • Digitize historic water-resources data (currently in paper files).

  • Update directories (experts and projects) and bibliography.


The progress attained at the programmatic level would not have been possible without the development of mutual trust and credibility among the participating regional parties. The success in confidence building is evidenced by two major outcomes of the process. The MWGWR has been at able to continue operations during the fluctuations of the political climate of the bilateral track. In addition, the participating regional parties have come together not only to implement, but to expand ongoing activities within the multilateral framework.

The process of confidence building has been dynamic, complex, and vulnerable to a wide array of elements. Despite significant progress, however, this process is still in the making. Rather than mitigating problems that arose within the bilateral framework, the multilateral track served as an additional sounding board for traditional grievances. Only after the parties had reached the first stage of the bilateral track (the interim agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the peace accord between the Jordanians and the Israelis), were the parties able to make significant progress on the multilateral track. Difficulties were encountered At several junctures on the way. At times, national interests intervened and the development of specific programs had to change course, but they did continue to move forward. This ability to change direction and to reach consensus is directly related to confidence building measures and empathy developed as a result of the multilateral activities. In the final analysis, momentum has been positive and a mechanism that can drive operation to higher levels has been created.

The participating regional parties have gained credibility not only in their dealings with one another, but with the donor nations as well. In many cases, they have cast off their earlier role as passive recipients and have become the initiators of regional water projects. As a sub-group, the participating parties today are able to better articulate local and regional needs and function as active partners in the design and direction of future initiatives. Today, the MWGWR represents a focal point to which additional projects can be directed and from which they can be effectively carried out.

The role of the donor parties has been crucial, unbiased and dedicated leadership - coupled with a continuing commitment of funds and personnel has sustained the process throughout nearly a decade of existence. Working relations between the donor representatives and the regional participants have emerged as a real partnership and transcend the traditional donor-recipient relationship.

The participating regional parties have assumed, an increasingly pivotal role. Growing trust and credibility among the parties has resulted in their active involvement to initiate and define, new projects. Original project profiles have been modified to more accurately address regional needs. This aspect will be particularly important in the implementation of capacity building and infrastructure projects. It also is a key element in attracting donors to support expansion of the original project portfolio.


Despite attempts to keep a clear and well-defined division between the bilateral and multilateral tracks, it is apparent that each was affected by the other. As bilateral relations improved in the early years of the process, cooperation in the multilateral framework intensified. In this respect, it is important to note that numerous Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian representatives participated in both the bilateral and multilateral tracks of the peace negotiations.

However, when problems beset the bilateral track, they did not automatically spill over into the multilateral framework. Although difficulties in the bilateral track political process did create some obstacles, the process of confidence building in the earlier years clearly paid off. The Multilateral Track of the MWGWR may have had to change gears but, nevertheless, it maintained its positive momentum. The" participants maintained focus on long term goals and the multilateral projects continued in a less formal mode. This informal framework not only enabled the continuation of existing projects, but also the funding and expansion of projects to meet emerging needs. The confidence built before 1996 kept the process robust and resilient to changing political realities. Informal meetings of the MWGWR were held in 1998 and 1999. More, importantly, informal meetings among the participating regional parties were convened on an irregular, as needed, basis. This new forum allowed the participating parties to jointly plan new project initiatives and present the plan to donor nations.


The multilateral peace process has proven to be an effective mechanism for positive change. The working relations that have been established among the participating regional parties offer an unprecedented opportunity to move forward into new ventures that will support regional growth, prosperity and peace. Nothing in life is static. Either we grow, or we stagnate and wither away. Like life, the MWGWR must be an evolving process. We must continue to grow, and we can capitalize on the momentum and resources that have been established over the past decade. To foster this progress, a higher profile for the MWGWR and its activities is now in order.

The MWGWR offers a viable process to undertake larger scale infrastructure projects that will physically demonstrate the benefits of the multilateral framework. An excellent starting point would be construction of the prototype desalination plants on the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. This proposal is a direct outcome of a working group study that demonstrates the possibility of creating as much as 10 MCM of additional water annually in these areas.

The MWGWR should endeavor to bring other parties from the MENA region into the process. Systems developed in the Regional Water Data Banks and Waternet Projects easily can be extended to include other regional parties. The many countries that participated in the Regional Training Program represent potential partners for ongoing and future activities.

Having proven the effectiveness of the multilateral framework, can we extend and enhance the. project portfolio to include, other topics that involve water management for sustainable development, such as the potential future activities listed earlier? In addition, regional water issues that can be addressed effectively Within the multilateral framework and, ideally, in conjunction with the Multilateral Working Group on the Environment, include:


  • Monitoring of resources,

  • The improvement of water quality,

  • Conservation,

  • Pollution prevention,

  • Sewage management, and

  • Public health.

The last chapter in the Middle East Peace Process has yet to be written. Regardless of the outcome the MWGWR is a tried and proven model And a process for effective regional cooperation in water issues that can be applied in, other areas of the world. The combination of commitment towards the common objective of fostering regional awareness, directed project definition and planning, the. inclusion, of confidence building measures as an integral part of the, group's raison d'etre, effective teamwork, and proactive international guidance has led to the creation of a positive dynamic that facilitates capacity building on a regional scale. The success of the multilateral framework, as, reflected in, the MWGWR's decade of existence, should serve as a beacon to the rest of the world as to what CAN be accomplished by working cooperatively on a regional level. We stand ready to share our experience in developing regional partnerships with those who may be just beginning the complex and daunting task of resolving national differences to enable both sharing and effective management of water resources. Join us. We welcome you!


Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs