Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Water makes the regional cooperation easier in the Middle East

At the end of the last year, at the beginning of December, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority signed a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington DC aimed to improve the regional cooperation in terms of sharing water resources in the area. Even though at the first sight it looks technical and it has a lot of aspects that should be implemented in order to become operational, it is an important aspect of the dialogue in the area, that don't get usually too much attention. Even though many international media called it a 'rare display of regional cooperation', such a cooperation is a necessary part of the daily regional collaboration. 
The document was signed by the Regional Cooperation and Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom on behalf of Israel, the Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem El-Nasser and the Palestinian Water Authority Minister, Shaddad Attilli. 
The idea of this project is discussed for about 20 years. 
It answers two main issues regarding the water resources in the region: the rapid contraction of the Dead Sea and the acute shortage of clear fresh water faced on a daily basis in Jordan. Due to the concerns outlined by many environmental organizations in the region, the added brine effects on the Dead Sea will be carefully monitored. 

The main terms

In its main terms, the agreement offers significant advantages to all parts, even though the practical strategy needs to be established over the next months. Particularly, it helps both Israel and Jordan to answer their immediate needs in terms of water supplies in the South (for Israel), respectively in the north of Jordan.
The most important provisions of the Memorandum is the development of a salination plan near Aqaba, that will contribute to sharing the potable water between Jordan and Israel. The salty brines will be pipelined to the Dead Sea.
Israel, on her side, will increase the annual releases of water from Lake Kineret to Jordan. Also, it will increase its sales of water to the Palestinian Authority, following the main lines of the Oslo Agreements.
The desalination plant will produce around 175 million cubic meters of water from the Red Sea, out of which 80 million cubic meter pro year of potable water. Around 50-60% of this quantity will be piped a few kilometres over to Israel. The price will probably be the subject of further discussions, as the Jordanian government needs to issue a tender for the location.
The water from Kinneret still needs an additional treatment in order to be turned into potable water. Nowadays, Israel releases around 50 million cubic meters of water from Lake Kinneret the year. 
As part of the seawater desalination process, 100 million cubic meters of resultant salty brines will be annually pipped into the Dead Sea. 
The precise costs for the construction are not known for the moment. The brine pipeline to the Dead Sea is evaluated at around $240 million and most probably will be financed by donor countries and organizations. World Bank would provide a bridge loan whose value is not known as for now.

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