(Re)Framing Uncertainties to Improve Transboundary Water Cooperation in Israel and Palestine

As part of the Institute’s ongoing Working Paper series, the 15th paper addresses the issue of water cooperation in Israel and Palestine. Israel and Palestine are mutually dependent on shared water resources, as ground and surface water flows in a natural manner from the higher parts of the West Bank into Israel. Cooperation on water issues by the Israelis and Palestinians offers an opportunity to establish and build trust in a shared geography.

However, joint governance of the shared water resources is limited due to a range of political disputes. One of the disputes concerns wastewater, which serves as a valuable source of water as well as an environmental nuisance. This working paper identifies the uncertainties in the governance of wastewater crossing the West Bank border.

Due to the prevailing technical, economic, and political uncertainties, a quantification of flow and impact of wastewater is difficult to establish. Based on these findings, the paper suggests a phased approach. First, in closed sessions with both parties, an analysis should identify the problems and (re)frame possible solutions in a mutually beneficial manner. Achieving this may require the structural involvement of an international third party.

This leads to the second phase of the approach:  An “honest broker” who will help outline the costs and benefits of preventive action compared to a ‘business as usual’ -scenario. This can stimulate implementation of important preventative actions for example the use of small-scale, low cost treatment plants and monitoring mechanisms.

The lack of data and biases in data collection and decision-making complicates the current situation. However, the paper details surface and groundwater flows which can provide the contours for discussing amounts of wastewater produced and treated. This working paper seeks to clarify the dispute and offer guidance on encouraging a shared framing by Israelis and Palestinians on the issues and possible solutions of transboundary water cooperation.

Read the working paper

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