News & Current Affairs

Waste(not)water for Agriculture

By: Max
August 12, 2012
Wastewater Treatment Plant

Reclaimed Water is Water for Farms

Reclaimed water is wastewater that has been treated to improve its quality to render it usable to irrigate crops. Most of the crops grown in Palestine are rain-fed, which causes significant fluctuations in annual productivity[1]. However, supplementing rain-fed farming with irrigated farming using treated wastewater would greatly stabilize production.

Lost Potential

Each year wastewater from Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem and Hebron flows out of Palestine into Israel, which represents a significant amount of water that could be reclaimed and used for agriculture after it is treated. Nearly 98% of the wastewater flowing in to the West Bank goes untreated[2].

From Scarcity to Abundance: About 39 MCM/yr of wastewater could be reused in agriculture for irrigation by the year 2020[3]. The cost of wastewater treatment is about  $ 0.60/m3[4]. This does not include the cost of constructing and maintaining new sewage treatment facilities.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

But the Challenges are Many…

Despite the Oslo II Agreements that hold Israel responsible for the development of wastewater treatment facilities for the OPTs, there is only one facility that treats water to a tertiary level, alBireh Plant, and other existing facilities are either not functioning or functioning but in need of drastic renovations and maintenance. Most plans for new wastewater treatment facilities or renovations to existing ones have either been delayed or refused by the Joint Water Committee- a body formed in 1996 comprised of equal numbers of Palestinians and Israelis. Since the inception of this committee only one new wastewater treatment facility has been built in the West Bank [5].

FoEME’s work continues to push for reforms that will help end the gridlock that bars wastewater management in Palestine from moving forward. Through this campaign FoEME is recommending the following to help advance this issue:

  • Full recognition of Palestinian water rights and access to a fair and equitable amount of water.
  • Approval from the JWC and Civil Administration to allow renovation and new development of proposed wastewater treatment plants.
  • Approval from the JWC and Civil Administration conveyance of treated wastewater from the Al Bireh Waste Water Treatment Plant and other treatment facilities for use in the Jordan Valley agricultural sector.
  • Reform of the current Joint Water Committee and implementation of a new structure for managing shared water resources.

[1] MoA, Ministry of Agriculture (2004) A Strategy of Sustainable Agriculture in Palestine.

[2] Sbeih, M.Y. “The Role of Small Scale Wastewater Treatment in the Development of Water Resources in the West Bank of Palestine.” Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem. Available at

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Troubled Waters- Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water.” Amnesty International, United Kingdom, 2009. Available at nternational_09.pdf

[5] Executive Summary: National Sector Strategy for Water and Wastewater in Palestine 2011-2013.” Palestinian Water Authority, March 2010. Available at

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