‘Regional cooperation on water possible, but on private sector level’

Cooperation has become a necessity for Palestinians and Israelis working together on the ground in the water sector.

woman drinks water 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
woman drinks water 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For those Palestinians and Israelis working together on the ground in the water sector, cooperation has become a necessity – but on a business-to-business level rather than at governmental scale.
“Individuals and entrepreneurs find it easier to cooperate than governments,” said Khaled Shukri Haramy, head of engineering for the West Bank branch of Black and Veatch, at a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Haramy was speaking at a session on regional water cooperation at the Water Technology and Environmental Control (WATEC) Exhibition and Conference in Tel Aviv that afternoon, organized annually by the Israel Trade Fairs Center and Kenes exhibition company. In order to build water infrastructure from naught in the Palestinian Authority, representatives from many outlets – including Israeli manufacturers – have needed to “work together,” but on a private sector and not governmental level, Hamary explained.
“The private sector finds it a lot easier to cooperate than the government,” he said. “For business people, it’s very simple and very easy. And there’s benefit for both. When you have a win-win situation you always get somewhere.”
“Politicians have a different set of standards that we don’t go to,” Hamary added.
Hamary is one of the contractors involved in the ongoing overhaul of the Palestinian water sector on a macro level, funded for years by USAID. The current stage of the program in which he is involved will encompass more than a decade and involves a basic water infrastructure overhaul to bring potable water to areas of the West Bank still lacking the resource. Many of suppliers, Hamary has found, have been Israeli manufacturers. 
“The will sort of exists – everyone wants to help,” he said. “It’s a major step forward to the better understanding to people.”
Another much newer cooperative project taking place in the West Bank is a group of pilot programs running for about a year in the village of Auja, in order to separate gray from black wastewater, explained Avaham Israeli, president of the Israel Water Association. In addition to himself, those involved in the project include the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies’s Dr. Clive Lipchin as well as Mansour Hind from the Palestinian Wastewater Group of Engineers.
“Together, we got into this project,” Israeli told the Post, in an interview after the panel. “The gray water is recycled and going back into greenhouse irrigation.”
“It’s a very good example of how cooperation and technology can bring at least local solutions,” he added.
The partners are now designing a larger program, in order to solve the lack of sewage treatment problem for the whole village – on a “very difficult topography” that thus far lacks any collection network, Israeli explained.
“Therefore, it needs an investment and somebody has to put the money,” he said.
One of the innovators aiming to be involved in the larger program is Mapal Green Energy, whose fine bubbles floating aeration system does not require expensive treatment facility construction or the use of energy intensive systems, according to the firm. By incorporating their technology into the future Auja project, Mapal claims that energy consumption of a municipal wastewater treatment facility there will be reduced by 70 percent, with operation and management costs reduced up to 80% due to the mobile nature of the system.
“Mapal is pleased with the opportunity to take part in an initiative that will improve the quality of life in the area, for both residents of Israel and its neighbors,” said Mapal CEO Zeev Fisher.
A similar project to the ongoing one in Auja is another occurring in Taybeh, also led by the Palestinian Wastewater Group of Engineers in cooperation a different Israeli wastewater firm called EPC, Israeli explained. Such models, he stressed, could easily be replicated and transferred to other villages.
Another panelist at the Tuesday session, Dr. Loay Hidmi – director of water supply and sanitation at Jordanian firm SaafConsult – emphasized how crucial it is to upgrade water technologies and to do so in the form of regional collaboration. 
“Everyone understands what water means,” Hidmi said. “It’s simple, it’s vital, it’s important. That’s why it provides us for an excellent forum on which to start communication.”