The Joint Water Committee (JWC) is an authority established through the Oslo II Accords to manage water in the West Bank. It consists of equal members from Israel and Palestine and all decisions made by the JWC must be reached by consensus.
A high proportion of projects proposed by the Palestinian Authority to the JWC have been rejected or long delayed. Records show that of the 418 projects overall presented to the JWC between 1996 and 2008, 56% were eventually approved. Out of the 418 projects, 202 were for well drilling, one of the few options available for Palestinians to increase their water supply. Of the 202, 32% were approved by the JWC. Of the 32%, only half were implemented after receiving the additional approval of the Civil Administration.
The approval rate demonstrates that the process is generally slow, the rate of rejection is high and well-drilling projects have had particularly very low rates of approval. These projects would otherwise bring improved water supply to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. While data presented in the graph below only reflects projects submitted to the JWC from 1996 to 2008, the JWC met infrequently in the years following, only recently agreeing to reconvene.
Haim Gvirtzman of Bar-Ilan University affirms that poor management of water resources is the main reason for water shortages. He states that since the signing of Oslo II, more water has been provided by Israel to the Palestinian Territories than originally agreed to, unauthorised wells dug by Palestinians violate Oslo II’s water sharing agreement and that rather than extract water from scarce groundwater resources, and that the Palestinian Authority should increase water efficiency and wastewater recycling.
While Palestinians may have violated the terms of Oslo II water sharing agreement by digging illegal wells, the institutional delays experienced through the JWC have hampered the ability for authorities to effectively manage water resources and provide few alternatives for those on the ground. There are a number of initiatives the Palestinian Authority could implement to increase water availability for its citizens – for example, targeting water theft. However, the JWC’s delays add another layer of complexity for Palestinian residents who seek an adequate and consistent water supply for both their domestic use and to increase agricultural production.
Gvirtzman H 2012, The Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict: An Israeli Perspective. Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
World Bank 2009, West Bank and Gaza—Assessment of restrictions on Palestinian water sector development, World Bank, viewed 26 December 2016, < http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWESTBANKGAZA/Resources/WaterRestrictionsReport18Apr2009.pdf>.