Friends of the Earth Middle East has partnered with leading international experts David Brooks and Julie Trottier to develop a new “model” water accord which seeks to address the current unjust distribution of shared water in the region, of which Israel currently takes the largest part. This blog, written by Dr. Brooks, discusses the model’s new approach to transboundary water management. Look for the publication of the new accord in the coming months.
Transboundary agreements about water usually relate to shared water as a pie that can be divided among the riparian states. However, water not only moves along, across and under political boundaries but it can be used over and over from the time it starts as rain until it finds its way back to the sea, evaporates or seeps into a deep aquifer. The FoEME proposal for a water agreement between Israel and Palestine is not based only on a more equitable water allocation—something that is needed immediately–but on joint management of shared water—something that is crucial for the long term.
Joint management of water is never easy, but it is particularly difficult for Israelis and Palestinians because of the many years of conflict between them, their different rates and patterns of economic development during those years, and their almost diametrically opposite approaches to water management – Israel largely top-down management; Palestine largely bottom-up.
The core of the FoEME approach to joint management of shared water lies in a process of ongoing mediation and conflict resolution with the only bottom lines being the parallel needs for equity and for sustainability, reinforced by attention to efficiency of water use. The proposed institutional structure is shown in the figure just below.
Two senior bodies guide the process, the Bilateral Water Commission and the Water Mediation Board. Both bodies are composed of an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian representatives plus one member from outside the region. The Bilateral Water Commission would replace today’s Joint Water Committee but with responsibility for all shared waters, not just Palestinian water. It makes key decisions on rates of extraction and of deliveries based on advice from scientific advisors. The Water Mediation Board is the place where disputes are considered and conflicts are resolved through investigation and mediation. It has a wide range of tools available to guide a process of seeking resolution ranging from scientific investigations to public forums.
Though specifically applied to water shared by Israelis and Palestinians, the general goals, the specific emphasis on ongoing monitoring and mediation, and the type of institutional structure are relevant to any place in the world where trans-boundary water divides rather than unites two or more peoples.
Many people claim that Israel created the first modern national water law with adoption of its Basic Law on Water in 1959. The proposal in this report is for Israelis and Palestinians to create the first modern bilateral water agreement, something that can be carried over into the Final Status Agreement between the current State of Israel and the future State of Palestine.
– David Brooks