Israeli Water Use and Exports (ISRAELH2O)

           CASE NUMBER:             36 
           CASE MNEMONIC:         ISRAELH2O
           CASE NAME:             Israel-Jordan Water Dispute

1.         The Issue
      Shortage of water is perhaps the most crucial environmental
and development problem in Israel.  The water deficit is
exacerbated by the deteriorating quality of water resources due to
demographic, industrial, and agricultural pressures.  This case
focuses on the agricultural pressures, particularly with respect to
exports, contributing to the depletion and degradation of Israel's
water resources.  Since there is no current regional agreement, the
potential for future claims by environmental groups or bordering
countries definitely exists.  Conflicting claims, given the already
existing political problems in the area, could lead to violence.
2.         Description
      The problem of water in Israel is not a legal issue, but
rather one of circumstance.  Israel's water sources are limited by
the country's geography, geology and climate.  This shortage can be
reflected in Israel's per capita water potential, 350 cubic meters
(m3) per annum, among the lowest in the world.  In comparison, the
water potential in the United States is about 100 times larger (see
  Of Israel's neighboring states, only Jordan can claim a lower
water potential.
      Agriculture has historically been a very important sector of
the Israeli economy.  The share of agricultural production in
Israeli GNP declined from 11 to 5 percent between 1950 and 1991 and
the proportion of agricultural exports decreased from 60 to 4
percent of total exports.  But the absolute increase in exports
rose dramatically from $20 million to $666 million in that period. 
Since Israel's independence in 1948, area under cultivation has
increased from 408,000 acres to 1.1 million acres, and the number
of agricultural communities risen from 400 to 725.  Furthermore, an
integrated network of pumping stations, reservoirs, canals and
pipelines (known as the National Water Carrier) transfers water
from the north to the semi-arid south.  This has led the amount of
irrigated farmland to increase from 74,000 acres in 1948 to 630,000
acres today.  To meet demand, Israeli agriculture accounts for
about 70 percent all water consumed in the country.
      Israel is seriously committed to application-oriented
and development, augmented through cooperation between governmental
agencies, academic institutions and cooperative bodies.  Research
and development advancements have produced innovations such as
water saving drip irrigation, higher yielding plant genetics and
arid-zone cultivation all of which have dramatically improved
efficiency in the agricultural sector.  Israel now exports this
expertise to other arid and semi-arid countries.  
      The driving force behind these technological advancements has
been the high earning potential of agricultural exports. Since
Israel is self sufficient in most of its agricultural products,
almost all new agricultural development is directed towards export.

Taking advantage of high economies of scale, Israel's farmers
derive half of their income from agricultural exports by focusing
on items such as flowers, avocados, out-of-season vegetables and
certain exotic fruits are produced specifically for export.
      Israel's varied climatic, topographical, and soil conditions
allows for great diversity among Israel's agricultural produce.
Most export earnings come from cut flowers (31 percent), but citrus
(27.5 percent) is the country's oldest export sector and continues
to be the largest sector for Israeli food products (terrorists
"spiked" Isreali oranges with cyanide in exports to the
Netherlands).  Israel's other main agricultural exports are field
crops, fruit, livestock and produce, and vegetables.
      Intensive agricultural development combined with pervasive
water scarcity has led to the degradation of Israel's water
quality.  About one-third of Israel's population and major portions
of its industry and agriculture are concentrated in the region
overlying the coastal aquifer.  Chemical and microbial pollutants,
salination, nitrates, heavy metals, fuels and toxic organic
compounds all threaten to contaminate the aquifer.  Though some of
these contaminants are a result of natural causes, the problems
seem to be exacerbated by agricultural usage.
      In the last 20 years, chloride concentrations in the coastal
aquifer have increased on average from 100 mg/liter to 155
mg/liter.  The problem is compounded by the import of saline water
from the Sea of Galilee for irrigation as well as ground water
recharge and the use of effluents for irrigation.  The salinity
level of the coastal aquifer endangers such crops as citrus,
avocado, vegetables and flowers.  By 1992 it was estimated that
about 20 percent of the wells in the coastal aquifer would reach a
salinity level exceeding 250 mg/liter, unsuitable for agricultural
      Nitrate concentration is a special problem.  In the coastal
aquifer, nitrates have considerably grown due to intensive use of
fertilizers in agriculture.  Nitrate pollution also results from
the use of treated effluents for irrigation.   Over the past two
decades nitrate concentrations have doubled and will continue to
rise, further complicating the problem.  As the coastal aquifer
becomes less usable, added pressure is placed on the other
aquifers, increasing the potential for future problems.
      As noted above, technological innovations have greatly
increased crop yields and water efficiency.  In addition,
substantial progress has been made in the area of waste water
treatment and re-used.  Today approximately 70 percent of effluents
are treated and reused.  This has tremendous positive potential for
agriculture.  In the search for new water sources, effluents
constitute the easiest available and cheapest source of additional
water.  Currently over 70 percent of all treated waste water is
reused in agriculture.  By the year 2000 this will amount to over
400 million m3, greatly easing the strain on fresh water resources.
      Different administrative and legislative measures have also
been taken to help ease the impact on water.  Several committees
have been recently formed, under the auspices of the Ministry of
Agriculture, to supervise the country's water supply.  Measures
taken include setting water quotas, determining prices and
initiating supply enhancing projects.  Furthermore, the economic
profitability of each crop is now assessed according to its
efficient use of water -- income per water unit -- as opposed to
per acre or labor as used in the past.  Thus, high water consuming
crops, such as cotton, have been eliminated if they do not yield a
high return.
      Some legislative measures have been taken to regulate the
amount of contaminants in the water supply.  The Water Law of 1959
is the principal law regulating the flow of pollutants into the
country's water ways.  The Water Law was amended in 1971 and again
in 1991: the former to include prohibitions against direct or
indirect water pollution, the latter to facilitate more effective
enforcement through stiffer fines and obligatory clean up measures.

More recently the Ministry of the Environment has prepared
regulations on effluent irrigation, limiting nitrate concentrations
in irrigation of areas overlying the northern and central parts of
the coastal aquifer.  
3.         Related Cases
      Keyword Clusters            
      (1): SIC                          = AGRICultural
      (2): Bio-geography                = DRY
      (3): Environmental Problem        = WATER
4.         Author:  Gil Bindelglas
B.         LEGAL Clusters
5.         Discourse and Status:  DISagreement and INPROGress
      Though there are no formal international or regional
agreements covering water issues, negotiations over water extend
forty years.  In the 1950s and 1960s, several plans were introduced
to help allocate the water between the riparian users (the most
famous of which was proposed by the American mediator Eric
Johnston).  Unfortunately, political considerations usually
precluded any regional water allocation agreements from being
implemented.  Today, negotiations over water are being discussed in
the multilateral track of the Middle East peace talks which
encompasses such issues as water, trade and the environment.   
6.         Forum and Scope: ISRAEL and UNILATeral
      The Water Law (1971) regulates the flow of pollutants into
Israeli water supply with the Ministry of Environment responsible
for most provisions of the water law.  Several other public bodies
also play a role: the Water Board, the Water Planning Committee,
and the Water Tribunal.
7.         Decision Breadth: 5 (Israel, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon
                                        and Jordan)
8.         Legal Standing:  LAW
C.         GEOGRAPHIC Clusters
9.         Geographic Locations
      a.   Geographic Domain : MIDEAST
      b.   Geographic Site   : Southern Middle East [SMID]
      c.   Geographic Impact : ISRAEL
10.        Sub-National Factors:  NO
11.        Type of Habitat: DRY
D.         TRADE Clusters
12.        Type of Measure:  SUBSIDY
      The Israeli government support of agriculture includes both
direct and indirect subsidies.
13.        Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect
14.        Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
      a.  Directly Related to Product   : NO
      b.  Indirectly Related to Product : YES  AGRICultural
      c.  Not Related to Product        : NO
      d.  Related to Process            : YES  WATER
15.        Trade Product Identification: AGRICultural
16.        Economic Data
      The GNP of Israel is about $55 billion and per capita GNP is
about $11,000; the unemployment rate is about 11 percent. 
Agriculture is about 5 percent of the GNP and 4 percent of total
exports (about $666 million in 1992).
17.        Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  LARGE
      It is doubtful that, without government support, Israel would
be a significant agricultural exporter.
18.        Industry Sector (SIC): AGRICultural
19.        Exporter and Importer:  ISRAEL and MANY
E.         ENVIRONMENT Clusters
20.        Environmental Problem Type:  WATER
21.        Name, Type, and Diversity of Species 
      Name:            Many
      Type:            Many
      Diversity:       1,820 higher plants per
                       10,000 km/sq (Israel)
22.        Resource Impact and Effect:  HIGH and SCALE
23.        Urgency and Lifetime:  MEDium and 100s of years
      By the year 2000 Israel may be running a water deficit of 30
percent.  Today Israel uses 10-15 percent more water than can be
renewed by rainfall.
24.        Substitutes:  Conservation [CONSV]
      Though there are no substitutes for water; however, there are
many advancements in the way of water conservation.  Technological
improvements include micro-sprinklers, drip irrigation,
computerized, automated control systems, etc.  Furthermore, Israeli
research has developed crops which require a minimal amount of
water or thrive on brackish water without diminished yield.  The
best "substitute," however, is probably just water conservation.
VI.        OTHER Factors
25.        Culture: NO
26.        Trans-Border:  YES
      Some believe that the water issue could spark a new Mideast
war.  The water needed for exports thus exacerbates this problem.
27.        Rights: YES
      Rights to water are important because of its relation to
health and welfare.  Jordan claims that excessive Israeli water use
deprives downstream users in Jordan the water need they need.
28.        Relevant Literature
Agriculture in Israel.  Israel Information Center.  Jerusalem:
      Ahva Press, 1993.
Facts About Israel: Economy.  Israel Information Center.  
      Jerusalem: Hamakor Press Jerusalem, 1992.
"Israel's Negev Desert: Laboratory for Arid Land Agriculture; The
      Israeli Experience in Combatting Desertification."
      MASHAV, Division for International Cooperation. Ministry
      of Foreign Affairs, State of Israel.
"Problems of Water in the Middle East."  London: Background
      Brief, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (January 1992).
The Environment in Israel.  National Report to the United Nations
      Conference on Environment and Development.  Ministry of
      the Environment, State of Israel, 1992.
"Water in the Middle East: Managing a Strategic Resource." 
      Middle East Research Institute.  Washington, DC: October
      25, 1992. 


[End notes will be added]

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