makes clear why water storage is so important.
rainfall of the region is not uniformly distributed over the year–hence
there is a premium for storage of runoff when it occurs. In the
north, where rainfall is relatively heavy, Lake Kinneret/Lake
Tiberias/Sea of Galilee serves this purpose. In the more arid
south, where surface reservoir sites are subject to large water
losses from evaporation, subsurface storage has been used extensively.
In ancient times, local cisterns were widely used, and this is
still a valuable method for developing storage. Artificial recharge
of ground water is another method that is currently in use in
water storage areas are the Kinneret and two aquifers: the Coastal
Aquifer, and the Mountain (Yarkon-Taninim) Aquifer.
For the most
part, immediately usable water is stored in the Kinneret (the
Sea of Galilee). The Kinneret is Israel’s major surface reservoir.
Israel’s small size, on a map the Kinneret appears to take up
a large area, but in actually, it is more accurately described
as a small lake than as a sea.
The role of
the Kinneret in acting as a buffer for Israel’s open water channels
has been extensively documented. Michelle Stirling-Anosh, a writer
and researcher who lives in the Golan, provides us with an excellent
summary. She notes that in addition to supplying Israel with
much of its fresh water and agricultural and irrigation water,
the ‘Sea’ is being called upon to also supplement water supplies
to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. And today, the Syrians
are demanding possession of the headwaters of the Sea of Galilee
as part of a potential peace deal, yet most of the Sea of Galilee’s
water sources are located in the Golan Heights.
the point of view of many experts, there is a serious danger to
regional environments and water quality in turning the Golan Heights,
the valuable source of the Sea’s supply, over to Syria – a nation
which has repeatedly violated International Water Treaties with
Jordan and Turkey, and which, according to the CIA’s World Fact
Book, has a serious problem with domestic water contamination
and inappropriate water use."
is supplemented by two aquifers – subterrian storage areas. Aquifers
are natural water-bearing geologic formations, which because of
their porous structure and occurrence beneath more solid rock
formations are able, not just to absorb water, but to hold it
for long periods of time. Access to the water within an aquifer
usually requires sinking a well. The necessary depth of the well
varies largely by the water pressure within the aquifer and the
depth of solid rock overlying the formation. Direct collection
of rain water as opposed to rain held in aquifers is a relatively
minor source of Israeli water.
natural subterranian water aquifers occur in two major groupings:
the Coastal Aquifer and the Mountain Aquifer. To view a map showing
the location of the aquifers, click here.
aquifer lies underneath the Mediterranean coastal plain in Israel,
from southwest of Gaza inside Egypt into Israel, between Rafah
in Gaza and Mount Carmel. It has an estimated water potential
of approximately 250 millions of cubic meters (MCM) per year.
aquifer lies primarily underneath Samaria and Judea – especially
Samaria. It consists of three basins: the west, northeast, and
east. Let me underscore that: 83 percent of the recharge areas
for these basins lie in Samaria and Judea – areas destined for
the chopping block, once Gaza is cleansed of its Jews. To date,
access to these basins can be had in Israel where the water emerges
in natural springs, but why would Israel even consider trusting
this most precious resource to the good will of the Palestinian
Arabs, who have no restrictions on drilling new wells?
rock of the Golan is largely basalt and as such has very poor
water-holding properties. This failure as an aquifer is the cause
of the many beautiful gushing streams – so characteristic of the
Golan – streams that are tributaries to the Jordan River.
a senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz-7 Israel National
Radio, connects water usage to water supply. He writes:
of extensive studies conducted by geologist Martin Sherman, author
of "The Politics of Water in the Middle East," [MacMillan
Press, 1999] indicate that the permissible output of these sources
varies from year to year, according to the annual rainfall. This
varies from 600 to 800 million cubic meters per year. Current
non-agricultural demand (e.g., showers, coffee, chicken soup,
etc.) has reached the level of 600 to 700 million cubic meters.
In other words, Israel’s current population needs virtually the
entire permissible annual output of both the surface and underground
water reservoirs that make up the National Water System. We see,
then, that the necessary quantities of water required by the agricultural
sector can only be supplied by over-exploiting the system and
reaching the danger levels.
result, Israeli agriculture has become increasingly dependent
on recycled sewage and other types of low-grade waters which are
unsuitable for drinking. Hence, the oft-repeated argument that
Israel’s water crisis can be resolved by reallocating water used
by the agricultural sector to the non-agricultural sector sounds
good, but is simply untrue – unless we are to drink these low-grade
while the population increases, the water supply is actually shrinking.
This is due to a deterioration of both the quantity and quality
of the country’s water resources. As Sherman’s study logically
stipulates, "the diminishing quantities and deteriorating
quality in one water source inevitably increases the importance
of other sources in the system."
had some considerable experience in what happens when she loses
control of a major water resource. Since Oslo, Israel has shared
the Mediterranian Coastal Aquifer with the Palestinian Authority.
Not surprisingly, the aquifer has become an egregious example
of salination. Haim Gvirtzman, writing in 1998 warned:
the IDF’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, some 500 new wells were
drilled there, in violation of the agreement reached with the
PA, and today many attempts to drill wells are being made in the
Jenin area. The vital need to prevent wildcat drilling by Palestinians
and the need to ensure the supply of good quality water in the
future requires exclusive Israeli control of the vital pumping
By 2003, geochemist
Avner Vengosh of Ben Gurion U. in BeerSheva wrote that it was
"… quickly becoming contaminated with salts, nitrates,
and boron, with many wells already exceeding international health
this point and its consequences on water usage.
there is deterioration in the Coastal Aquifer, where "the
level of salting and other pollutants has reduced the quality
in numerous sites to below that permissible for drinking water.
A similar pattern has begun in Lake Kinneret as well, albeit to
a lesser extent."
Can we expect
better from the ‘new’ Palestinian Authority, given their unchanged
record of municipal mismanagement, poor planning, insufficient
knowledge or policing, and just plain neglect? Atlas points out
Gaza was turned over to the sole ruling authority of Arafat’s
PA, it received total control of the Gaza aquifer – which at the
time was still functioning and producing potable water. Within
less than two years under Palestinian Arab management, the Gaza
Aquifer was ruined, contaminated beyond repair. If the PA is incapable
of taking care of its own aquifer to supply water to its residents,
how can Israel place its trust in the same Authority to care and
conserve water sources that supply Israeli taps?"
Aquifer extends south to include all of the Gaza strip as well
as the site in the Sinai where once Israelis built Yamit. Abandonning
the coastal tail of the aquifer to the Egyptians – thus reducing
Israel’s water supply – compounded the damage to the aquifer by
present-day overutilization. The remains of Yamit are a memorial
– and a warning – of the first expulsion of Jews by Jews.
points out the consequences of Israel’s allowing the Mountain
aquifer to fall into Arab hands:
has happened to the Coastal aquifer] "the importance of the
Mountain Aquifer has increased. As Israel’s State Comptroller’s
Annual Report already reported by the early 1990’s:
Mountain Aquifer, extending eastward of the Coastal Aquifer, from
the slopes of Mt. Carmel to Beersheba, and from the crests of
mountain ridges in Judea and Samaria to the coastal plain, serves
as the principle reservoir of drinking water to the Dan region,
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba. Today, it is the most important
long term source in the [National] Water System."
comes the political problem. This ‘most important long-term source’
physically straddles the pre-1967 cease fire lines, alias ‘the
Green Line’, into Judea and Samaria. The Principle of Connecting
Vessels tells us that any activity affecting the water on one
side will affect that on the other side as well. So if pumping
operations, or uncontrolled flow of sewage or industrial waste,
etc., occur on the western slopes of Judea and Samaria, it would
cause serious, and most probably irreversible, damage to the key
source of drinking water for Israel’s major urban centers and
political and strategic significance for Israel is clear. Withdrawing
from Judea and Samaria – i.e., the Mountain Aquifer – or from
the Golan Heights would create a situation in which the fate of
Israel’s water supply would be determined by Mr. Arafat’s Palestinian
Authority and the Syrians, respectively. [underscoring added]
Israel really afford to trust her most valuable and irreplaceable
national resource in the hands of those who have had a long history
of trying to destroy the Jewish State? In the case of the Syrians,
this includes diverting and/or poisoning Israel’s water supply."
malevolence, ignorance or seeing the Middle East through Arab-colored
glasses, much of the press presents a distorted picture of water
usage between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, wherein Israel
is the villain. In the summer of 1998, as an example, the New
York Times compared how the West Bank Arabs were "parched"
for drinking water while the Jewish settlers near Hebron watered
lawns and washed cars. The Times knew exactly how incendiary
the story was – accuracy wasn’t its objective. The facts were
much different – the settlers needed to drink bottled water because
they didn’t have drinkable water while the Arabs don’t distribute
their water equitably but sell their water privately or steal
it and then sell it.
unreported is the extent to which Israel shares water with her
neighbors. Camera pointed out in 2002 that
every year over 40 MCM (million cubic meters) of water from sources
within Israel is piped over the Green Line for Palestinian use
in the West Bank. Ramallah, for example, receives over 5 MCM.
Israel sends another 4 MCM over its border for Palestinian use
in Gaza. Thus, it is the Palestinians who are using Israeli water.
not just the Palestinians. Despite its own meager supply, Israel
annually provided 600,000 CM of water to ten otherwise dry villages
in South Lebanon, and provides more than 55 MCM annually to Jordan."
Israel also supplies more than 4 MCM annually to the Gaza Strip
through the Kissufim Line of the National Water Carrier, serving
the Palestinian localities of El-Bureij, Moazi, Abasan, Bani Suheila
and Khan Yunis" (Statistical Data on Gaza Area and Jericho,
Israel Foreign Ministry, June 1994).
of the southern Jordan are inaccessible to Israel because of the
mountain ranges of Samaria and Judea. So water must be physically
delivered to the southern part of Israel. Water is delivered from
the north – Lake Kinneret is as a major resource – to the northern
Negev and to parts of Arab Gaza by a interconnected network of
pipes, aquaducts, tunnels, canals and dams known as the National
Water Carrier. Water is also transported by the pipeline to recharge
the underground aquifers in the coastal region and to transport
water from the coastal and mountain aquifers. To view a map showing
the transport system, click here. And you can see a photgraph
of a section of the pipeline by clicking here.
splits itself into two separate sections – a necessary consequence
if Secretary Rice’s proposed Palestinian Arab state is to have
contigous segments – the pipeline will be passing through Arab
Palestinian territory. This is likely – as will the loss of air
space control – to result in blackmail and sabotage.
Water Carrier was developed by Israel after Jordan with Syrian
assistance had build its East Ghor Project, which served the eastern
bank of the Jordan with water. Israel’s independent action, although
legal, was opposed by the Arab states in general. There were All-Arab
schemes to divert water from the Yarmouk, which would have seriously
diverted Israeli water supply. As Barbara Elmore notes 
1964 and 1967, these political clashes developed into several
military confrontations between the Syrians and the Israelis.
Other than the bombing of the East Ghor Canal later in 1969, this
time period involved the most direct water-related conflict. The
most notable incident was the destruction of the diversion works
on the Banias-Yarmouk Canal in Syria by the Israeli Air Force
in July 1966. Israel destroyed the All-Arab diversion plan that
would have reduced Israeli water supplies by 35 percent"
This lesson in history makes clear what we can expect if Sharon
is allowed to carry forth out his plans for delivering large chunks
of Israel into Arab hands.
of Israel’s water problem is graphically illustrated in this table
in which the contributions of the various components are shown
in an input-output description of water distribution and use.
The Annual Recharge column is the limiting factor governing judicious
use of the absolutely essential renewable resource. If the total
water use (Col 6) exceeds annual recharge (Col 2) for any significant
length of time, irretrievable damage to the aquifer will result.
Furthermore, reversal of this damage can take decades or even
centuries to accomplish, even under the best of conditions.
The Gaza aquifer
is the part of the Coastal Aquifer basin under the Gaza strip.
The Gaza aquifer problem is underlined by the table. The annual
recharge of the Gaza aquifer (Col 2) is far less than Palestinian
Arab water use (Col 5). It is further evident that the settlements
in Gaza use less than 10% of the total water use (Col 4). Ironically,
Israel’s commitment to supplement the Gaza Arab water supply will
continue, even after withdrawal, but she will have neither political
or environmental control over the unrestrained extraction of water
from an already damaged aquifer at the hands of Arabs, many of
whom have refused to cooperate in preserving the natural resource.
of the Jordan flow is siphoned off by Jordan and Syria in accordance
with existing agreements with Israel.)
One can only
conclude that Israel is balanced on the razor’s edge of its water
TO ISRAEL’S FUTURE
Israel’s water supply is taken out of the hands of the politicians.
During a debate
at Tel Aviv University’s Diplomatic Forum, when challenged on
how, after disengagement from Northern Samaria (which overlies
hydrologically crucial areas of the Mountain Aquifer), Israel
will be able to continue to manage and preserve its national water
system, Dov Weisglass – Prime Minister Sharon’s crony and mouthpiece
– admitted with some embarassment that he did not really undertand
much about water problems and added flippantly, to the astonishment
of the audience (which included many foreign embassy staff), "maybe
we’ll have to import https://nyjtimes.com/files/cover/05-06-05/bottles of water."
This all goes
to underscore that the proponents of the disengagment have not
even devised way to contend with the easily predicted (and therefore
probable) scenarios, let alone the unexpected (and unpleasant)
surprises that are as yet unforeseen.
But even politicians
can not exist on champagne alone.
past experience, Israel can not afford to allow her already stretched
water supply to be put under the control of the Arabs – not if
she expects to survive and thrive.
It would almost
seem as if the Arabs have been reading the maps and the Israeli
Much of the
major underground stores of Israeli water is in YESHA – in Gaza,
in Samaria and in Judea. Yet plans are already underway to make
Gaza Judenrein. And when that has been taken care of, the Israeli
Government – this time, not even for a piece of peace paper –
will kick the Jews out of large parts of Samaria and Judea. The
impact on "Israel proper" has been ignored. Aside from
Israel’s physical loss of much of the land on top of the aquifers,
it means that Israel will be separated by an Arab terrorist state
– de facto or de jure – from the Jordan river.
are no stranger to trying to capitilize on aquifers. For example
Arab militias in the Sudan are terrorising (mainly Christian)
Sudanese out of their land an villages, primarily because of a
vast water-aquifer under the region. Their enjoyment of violence
and rape, and their hatred of the local Christians, is a secondary
reason. In Israel, there has been a proliferation of illegal overdrilling
to the subterranian aquifers in Arab areas of the West Bank and
this has already resulted in salination of the ground waters.
The Arabs both voluntarily and involuntary pollute Israel’s ground
water and let raw sewage flow through the porous surface to the
Nor are the
northern sources of fresh water to the Jordan river safe from
the politicians. Syria continues to agitate for the Golan and
as recently as 2000, the then Prime Minister Ehud Barak was more
interested in a piece of paper of peace than in the physical survival
of the Jews. The sources of the Jordan river are in the Golan.
And one keeps hearing of current not-so-secret meetings between
Israel and Syria, whose end result of course will be that Israel
gives and Syria takes.
trust the Arabs to be "good neighbors"? Not if past
experience is any indicator. As was cited above, the Syrians have
made repeated efforts to deviate water from the Yarmouk, normally
destined for Israel, to their own uses. (See the first map, which
shows the sources of Lake Kinneret and the Jordan river. The heavy
dotted line indicates the "attempted Syrian diversionary
canal".) This has resulted in brief armed conflicts in which
the Arab intentions have been frustrated. Much has been made in
the international press of these ‘incidents’ – mostly castigating
Israel – but, in fact, Israel has acted strictly under the terms
of the Armistice following the Yom Kippur war.
too, the environmental factors which have not been given sufficient
weight in talking about the Golan. This from Anosh:
the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel took possession of the Golan
Heights, it found the land, water resources and wildlife to be
undeveloped and unprotected. Though there had been some Syrian
settlements, land cultivation was manual and done on small plots
of land. There was no sewer infrastructure. Much of the territory
had been mined. All of the wild deer had been hunted to extinction.
Many other wild species had been hopelessly depleted."
To be fair,
Israel’s record on water pollution and the ecology has not always
been good. But as Shoshana Gabbay writes, "River rehabilitation
in Israel is no longer a dream; it is a reality." Things
are not perfect. For example, because of bureaucratic gridlock
between Israel’s Ministry of the Environment and its Water Commission,
regulations to reduce pollution from leakages from the oil pipe
lines that crisscross the country have not been put into place.
As noted in a case now pending: "Leaking fuel seeps into
the soil and beyond, with just one liter of leaked oil capable
of contaminating one million liters of groundwater."
But it is certain that under the present regime, when Israel gives
the Arabs control over much of Israel including the underground
aquifers, whatever surveillance there is over oil pipe leakage
and illegal drilling for water will be gone. When the decision,
formulated while Netanyahu was prime minister, to give about 97
percent of the Golan to Syria is again adopted, Israel loses the
water from the Banias. Sharon has been keeping this plan under
In the 60’s
the Syrians attempted to divert the Banias River, then inside
their borders, but this was stopped by the IDF. After the capture
of the Golan Heights this danger to the water supply was, for
the time being, averted. But ever since the late 60’s the governments
of Israel have been lax about the water supply (as they have been
also about illegal squatting on state land by Arabs). Yitzchak
Rabin, while Prime Minister, decided not to act over Lebanese
interference with Israel’s water (besides issuing a useless formal
complaint) and subsequent governments have kept his policy. The
Lebanese have also been polluting the water flowing towards the
Kinneret with untreated sewage.
of the water supply of Israel has been intermittently but repeatedly
threatened by accidental and intentional pollution and illegal
diversion. The figure of 80% represents the 30% of the water supply
that comes from the Golan and the 50% is derived from waters with
Syrian sources, especially the Yarmouk.
In the 90’s
there was a ‘peace’ treaty between Israel and Jordan. In 1997
Israel stupidly agreed to provide a large amount of high-quality
water to Jordan, irrespective of the state of her natural water
supply and paying no regard to possible droughts. Consequently,
Israel had to buy water to deliver to Jordan.
It is always
an Israeli prime minister, starting with Menachem Begin and so
far ending with Sharon, who leads the way in making offers to
withdraw from much more territory than the Americans were even
dreaming of. Of course America then takes this land as surrendered
and supports the Arabs’ demands for more. The government is now
following the Leftist fifth column Peace-Now in claiming that
the Israeli occupations are illegal. The Golan has been annexed
but this does not mean it cannot be de-annexed. The present government
holds that even though the West Bank was captured in self defence
its occupation by Israel is illegal.
In all, Israel
could lose control of more than three quarters of its present
supply of water, from rivers, from rainfall in the West Bank and
from the water aquifers. The heirs to the kibbutzim are not worried.
They have largely given up on agriculture and diverted to industry.
This requires less agricultural land and water. Factory farming
is an industry and not agriculture; their food production needs
only barns and cages for poultry and stalls to imprison the cattle
In about 50
years it is predicted that a sizeable proportion of present Israel
will because of global warming be under sea-level and the strife
for land and water will increase.
In those same
50 years, the demographic projections for the combined Jewish
and Arab Israeli growth put an impossible burden on the diminished
prime minister does not seem to care a hoot. He seems to despise
naturally obtained water. He wants to rely on his grandiose schemes,
viz., expensive, environmentally unfriendly and dangerous desalination
using nuclear power, on other hydro-electric projects and on pipelines.
At the moment, reverse osmosis is touted as saviour. Aside from
the fact that getting water even from the first of the desalination
plants continues to be in the future indefinite, it doesn’t remove
more than 60% of the boron, a major contaminant of the Mediterrian
Sea. The environmental cost of his Red Sea/Dead Sea desalination
project includes overloading the Dead Sea. The same goes for his
dream-solutions of buying water from Turkey and Norway or transporting
water from the Nile. All these projects are economically, environmentally
and politically unsound. Leaving Gaza is also militarily unsound;
the Ashkelon desalination plant – located a few miles from Gaza
– is almost impossible to defend from rocket attack when Israel
is outside of Gaza. These schemes make Israel dependent on
the goodwill of other countries and on the friendliness of the
Bad tactics. Bad for Israel.
1. The Philistines
were neither Ismaelites nor Cana’anites, but a people from Caphtor,
presumed to be Crete, who came into the area maybe via northern
Egypt. Their descent is probably from Japhet.
M., and S. Pohoryles, "Water Shortage in Israel: Long-Run
Policy for the Farm Sector," Water Resources Research, 1977,
13 (6): 865-72.
Elmore, "Middle East Water Issues: Nine Lessons Toward Peace,"
Stirling-Anosh, "Water, the Golan and the Sea of Galilee,"
January 16, 2000,
Atlas, "Israel’s Water Basics," March 21, 2002,
6. Haim Gvirtzman,
"Maps of Israeli Interests in Judea and Samaria Determining
the Extent of the Additional Withdrawals," 1998, (http://www.biu.ac.il/Besa/books/maps.htm#4).
on the Gaza Strip: Time Bomb or Ray of Hope," November 7,
8. See footnote
Levin, "West Bank Water and New York Times Stereotypes,"
September 1, 1998,
"Does Israel Use ‘Palestinian’ Water?,"
11. See footnote
of Water Resources," Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy
and International Affairs, 1999,
13. See footnote
Gabbay, "Restoring Israel-s Rivers," January 1, 2002,
from oil pipelines," December 2004,
16. Nina Gilbert,
"Disengagement puts strategic facilities in the crosshairs,"
Jewish news weekly of northern California, January 14, 2005.
Wulfsohn is at the Warwick Mathematics Institute in Coventry,