THE CURRENT PEACE PROCESS offers a special opportunity for all the nations in the Middle East to abandon the existing status of belligerency, confrontation, non-cooperation, and polarization. The ultimate objective is to arrive at a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the whole region under which all the peoples of the area can together develop the area and promote progress and prosperity. Water is a major issue that can catalyze the peace process or inhibit it. After more than five years of meetings and negotiations, the gap in the positions among regional parities is still as wide as ever. The region's hydrologists and politicians are still talking on different wavelengths. This article will focus on the Israeli-Palestinian water disputes in the groundwater aquifers and Jordan River. We realize that water is a particularly sensitive and critical issue for all parties to the conflicts. But we also believe that finding a common understanding of water issues in the Middle East would go far to enhance the possibilities of achieving stability in the region. Conversely, failure to reach these common grounds will, most definitely, obstruct any efforts to attain this goal. There is no alternative to an honest and forthright discussion of the water issues and to exposing the current unsustainable reality of mismanagement, inequities, and the outright denial of the Palestinian's inalienable right to their resources.
WATER RESOURCES IN PALESTINE
Water does not recognize political boundaries and, as such, it is difficult to delineate Israeli and Palestinian surface and ground water resources. Nevertheless, we outline here the water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as those in Israel.
Surface water is that which flows permanently in the form of rivers and wadis or that which is held in seasonal reservoirs. The Jordan River is the only permanent river which can be used as a source of surface water in Palestine. The Jordan River is 360 kms long with a surface catchment area of which 18,300 [km.sup.2] lie upstream of the Lake Tiberias outlet. The average annual flow of this river is about 1311 MCM (Haddad, 1997). The Jordan River initiates from three main springs: The Hasbani in Lebanon, the Dan in occupied Palestine, and the Banias in the Syrian Golan Heights to form the Upper Jordan river basin. The water of this basin flows southward through Lake Hula towards Lake Tiberias. In the absence of irrigation extraction, the Jordan River system would be capable of delivering an average annual flow of 1,850 MCM to the Dead Sea. The riparians of the Jordan River are Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan. Only three percent of the Jordan River's basin fall within Israel's pre-1967 boundaries.
Average precipitation for Upper Jordan and Lake Tiberias averages 1,600 mm and 800 mm respectively. The lower basin, around the Dead Sea has a desert climate characterized by scarce rainfall. The Jordan River is progressively more saline and less usable towards the Dead Sea. The Jordan River system satisfies about 50% of Israel's and Jordan's water demand; Lebanon and Syria are minor users, meeting 5% of their re-combined demands via the Jordan.
Downstream of Tiberias is the Lower Jordan river basin, which joins the Yarmouk and the Zerka Rivers originating from Syria and Jordan in the east. The outlet of this basin is toward the Dead Sea in the south. As a result of water diversion from the upper Jordan by the Israel, there is no fresh water to flow downstream of Tiberias. In normal years Israel allows a flow downstream from Lake Tiberias of just 60 MCM of water basically consisting of saline springs which previously used to feed the lake, and sewage water. These are then joined by what is left of the Yarmouk, by some irrigation return flows, and by winter runoff, adding up to a total of 200-300 MCM. Both in quantity and quality this water is unsuitable for irrigation and does not sufficiently supply natural systems (www.fsk.ethz.chlencop/l3/en13-cho.htm).
Flood Water Flow
Surface flood runoff in the West Bank is mostly intermittent and probably occurs when the rainfall exceeds 50 mm in one day or 70 mm on two consecutive days. The runoff is estimated at about 64 MCM/yr in the West Bank (A1-Khatib, 1989; Abu Mayleh, 1991.) Streams flowing from the west towards the Jordan Valley recharge shallow aquifers such as Wadi al-Qilt, Auja and Wadi al-Far'a (Assaf, 1991). The flood wadis can be divided according to the flood flow direction as follows:
1. The eastern and northeastern flood wadis that have an average total annual flood flow volume of about 18.57 MCM/yr.
2. The western flood wadis that have an average total annual flood flow volume of about 17.91 MCM/yr.
In addition, there are small-scale wadis that discharge a total flood water volume that may reach 15 MCM/yr during the very wet seasons.
In the Gaza Strip, runoff water is collected in small wadis and valleys within the area. Wadi Gaza is the most important. It drains 3,500 [km.sup.2] of the northern Negev. The northeastern part of the Gaza Strip, with loessial and alluvial soils, also contains some wadis. These soils have a low infiltration capacity; therefore, there are many surface run-offs during intensive rainfall.
West Bank Aquifer Systems
Groundwater is the major source of fresh water supply in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, the aquifer system is comprised of several rock formations from the Lower Cretaceous to the Holocene geologic age. Most of the formations are comprised of carbonate rocks (mainly limestone, dolomite, chalk, marl, and clay). The aquifer system is recharged from rainfall in the West Bank. The main recharge areas are along the upper mountain slopes and ridges. The annual rainfall in the West Bank is estimated at 3,000 MCM (Abu Mayleh, 1994). Around 600-650 MCM of this rainfall is estimated to infiltrate the soil to replenish the aquifers annually. Figure 1 shows the distribution of groundwater basins and aquifers in the West Bank, which can be divided into three main groundwater basins, each of which can be subdivided into subbasins. There are two general directions for the groundwater of the West Bank Aquifer system, east and west. The groundwater basins are recharged directly from rainfall on the outcroppi ng geologic formations in the West Bank mountains (forming the phreatic portion), while the greatest part of the storage areas is located in the confined portions. The phreatic portions constitute the subsurface area under the West Bank mountains where the Palestinians dug their groundwater wells to tap the shallow unconfined aquifers. The Israelis, however, dug their wells to tap the confined aquifers whose quality and quantity are better.
The West Bank aquifer system is classified according to flow direction into:
1. The Western Aquifer System, which is the largest, has a safe yield of 360 MCM per year (of which 40 MCM brackish). Eighty percent of the recharge area of this basin is located within the West Bank boundaries, whereas 80 percent of the storage area is located within Israeli borders. …