Water shortage and the threat of desertification are the major regional challenges facing the countries of the Middle-East in the foreseeable future.
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 region.
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) per year.
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 2000.
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 Mediterranean.
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 desalinated water.
- 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 Palestinian Authority.
- 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 process.
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.
Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry