Water War?


Water supply issues have been a long-standing issue for Israel.  In recent years Israel has faced an unceasing water shortage. Their current water deficit is equivalent to the country’s water consumption and has contributed to the decay of many important aquifers.  A four-year drought, population growth, and increased standards of living are some contributing causes to this water shortage.  The agriculture sector has suffered the most from the water shortage and large cuts have been made to their water supply.  Irrigation and domestic consumption are already exploiting about 95% of renewable water resources.  It has become necessary for Israel to address these water shortages and work towards stretching their resources and resorting to unconventional sources. “Don’t waste a drop” has become a widely known slogan in households, which are working towards conservation of water security.  Irrigation has switched to lesser water use methods such as drip and micro-sprinklers. Consumption and awareness are definitely being addressed in Israel but the water shortage remains.  

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Sea of Galilee with visual lowered water levels

Water quality is also being affected. Pollution and decrease of natural flows due to drought have caused saltwater intrusion to see an increase in groundwater. The salinity of water is the main water quality problem for Israel.  Their resources from the Jordan River suffer from low salinity levels where as the Sea of Galilee is experiencing high salinity levels. Groundwater, a major source for freshwater, has also been victim to high salinity levels and pollution caused by exploitation from irrigation and human induced pollutants entering aquifers.

The media shows two opposing viewpoints: Arabs deprive Israel of necessary water supplies or Israel controls the majority of Arab water supplies. In 1967 a “six day” war was fought which resulted in land gains by Israel as well as water supplies such as the West Bank mountain aquifer and the Sea of Galilee which now provide 60% of the countries fresh water supplies. However, Israel’s water usage of the mountain aquifer uses up 80% of the available water, leaving the shared Palestinians with only 20%.  Palestinians have being buying much of their water sources from occupiers at higher costs instead of using their own supply. Palestinians claim that a powerful military force prevents them from accessing their own water resources. Additionally, Israeli citizens, including any illegal citizens, receive up to three or five times more water than Palestinians.  Without success, the water issues were never addressed during the 1990’s peace discussions between Israel and Palestine. In the “six day” war Israel also gained control of the Jordan River and the Yarmouk, causing much water related issues between Syria. Syria wishes Israel to return to the land ownership previous to 1967, which would give Syria more access to the Jordan and the Yarmouk River. In contrast, Israel wishes to continue the land ownership of the 1923 British mandate, which gives Israel control of these resources.  Disputes surrounding water resources are widespread and complex for Israel and the Middle East and the future solutions will be something to keep a close watch on.

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Current water supply in the Middle East is unsustainable. Collaboration and agreements must be made because water is the most vital part of life. As of now water was become a political issue but it needs to be one of mutual conservation or a future war on water will be very probable. 

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3 thoughts on “Water War?

  1. I agree with that water is the most vital part of life, and for that I would like to raise one question. Is it fair that the Palestinians have to buy this vital and essential part of their lives even though they have their own sources but are forbidden to reach them? From this very important matter we can conclude that the Israelis are not fighting the political figures or terrorists that are Palestinian, but instead, they are fighting each and every civilian, if not by weapon, by depriving or at least making it very hard and costly for them to get their main resources such as water.

  2. I completely agree with you Lynn. Water is not some commodity that can be bought and sold for any reason, in my opinion. Water is a basic human right that despite political reasons etc. everyone should have access to. So to answer your question, I don’t think it’s fair that the Palestinians have to buy access to water and struggle so hard for access to it. Again, I agree with you Lynn in that this is a blatant abuse of power on the part of the Israelis. Natalie, at the end of your blog you said, “a future war on water is very probably,” my question for you and Lynn is do you think that there is a realistic resolution to this problem before it reaches that point? And if so, what can be done now?

  3. In the United States the media usually only reports on hot button issues that are linked to foreign relations (with prevalence to the U.S.). We only get exposed to stories about conflicts between countries and rarely internal issues within a country. In an area were there seems to be limited water anyway, this seems like a major issue for Israel and its agriculture center. Adding to the issue, salt water contaminating drinking water is hard to resolve. It is not surprising that such an important issue is linked to Israel’s neighbors and foreign relations. It is not fair that Palestine is buying vital water to Israel. What will happen when the agriculture center in Israel can no longer sustain itself?

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