Water dripping from a tap.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Officials are working on a NIS 1.28 billion master plan to double the amount of water that can flow to all areas of the West Bank to help alleviate the water crisis that has impacted both settlers and Palestinians this summer.
The Mekorot national water company estimates a shortage of about 7,000-9,000 cubic meters of water per day in the West Bank, according to the office of Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan.
The National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry is leading the charge on the project, working in conjunction with the Defense Ministry.
Officials representing both ministers presented the plan on Monday to the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee.
It does not have an exact start date and it has yet to be approved by the cabinet.
Among the difficulties in accurately estimating water usage is the absence of solid information on the Palestinian population in the West Bank.
The plan attempts to take into account the needs of both the Israeli and Palestinian populations, excluding the Jordan Valley, through to the year 2030.
“The water amount will be doubled from 73 million cubic meters per year to 142 million cubic meters per year,” Oded Fixler, the Water Authority’s senior deputy director, told the FADC subcommittee.
Separately, he explained that the settlements would receive 48 million cubic meters per year and the Palestinians would have 93 million cubic meters.
The plan will cost NIS 740 million for water infrastructure, Fixler said, and added that another NIS 545 million would be needed for sewerage infrastructure.
As the relevant parties prepare this long-term master plan, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that government officials had recently come to an agreement on a remedy to the situation for the short-term.
Key to this temporary solution would be the construction of water reservoirs near 26 different settlements throughout the West Bank – in the Samaria, Mateh Binyamin and Gush Etzion regional councils, a statement from Ben-Dahan’s office said. Each reservoir would have a capacity of up to 400 cubic meters and would contribute toward reducing water supply shortages throughout the region, particularly during the summer months. Installed alongside the reservoirs would be mechanisms to adapt the new facilities to the existing water system, the statement explained.
Both Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages would benefit from the added influx of water from the water reservoirs, a spokeswoman for Ben-Dahan said. Settlements in the West Bank are typically located at a higher altitude than Palestinian villages, so any water traveling to the settlements also passes through and provides to the villages – at an earlier stage in the pipeline, she explained.
The proposed solution is the result of an urgent discussion on the subject held on June 30, among representatives of Ben-Dahan’s office, the Civil Administration, COGAT and the Water Authority.
Financing for the reservoirs is slated to be divided among the local authorities and the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority, the statement from Ben-Dahan’s office said.
Installation would not require building permits from the Civil Administration – greatly decreasing the bureaucracy typically associated with such a project, the statement added.
In recent weeks, however, it became apparent that minimal funds exist to enable the relevant local authorities to implement their planning processes and procedures for selecting contractors, Ben-Dahan’s office said. As a result, the deputy defense minister announced his intention on Monday to appeal to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon for assistance with the budget shortfall, in hopes of ending the crisis as soon as possible.
“I am pleased that all the relevant parties convened to find a solution in the near-term that will enable a regular supply of water as much as possible, after many years in which water infrastructure in Judea and Samaria was neglected,” Ben-Dahan said.
“This is not the final word; it is my intention to work, together with [National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz], to advance master plans for water infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, which for years have not been promoted,” he added.
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