The water-supply regime used by Israel and the Palestinians must be changed, according to a World Bank report that is to be published today.
The report notes that an average Israeli gets four times as much water as the average Palestinian, and warns that the Palestinian Authority water system is "nearing catastrophe."
It concludes by recommending that the current water-distribution arrangement, mandated as part of the Oslo II accords, be changed to improve the Palestinian system.
The report, requested by the PA, is likely to be particularly problematic for Israel due to the regional water crisis. The agreement between the two sides is asymmetrical and exacerbates the crisis greatly as far as the Palestinians are concerned.
This is the first such document presented by the World Bank on the subject of Israeli and Palestinian water use.
According to the report, the understandings reached at Oslo fall far short of fulfilling the needs of Palestinian civilians.
The unequal division of the resources, as well as constraints on information regarding the area's water supply, have impeded the Palestinians' ability to develop water sources - a problem that is intensified by the weakness of Palestinian government institutions.
The report says this has lead to an emergency situation with grave ramifications vis-a-vis the economy, the society and the ecology of the PA. Water-related humanitarian crises are frequent in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.
The report states that Palestinians have access to only one-fifth of the mountain aquifer supply, while Israel pumps out the rest, reaching its allocated quota without due authorization from the joint water committee set up in the Oslo accords.
Over-pumping from the aquifer creates a danger of salinity, the report maintains.
It also notes that Palestinians dig comparatively shallow wells and cannot reach water sources, because of Israel's much deeper drilling.
According to the World Bank, Israel has a satisfactory water distribution and management system, while the PA is struggling to maintain a minimal infrastructure with minimal financial means. In Gaza, the meager investment in water and sanitation has lead to a lack of water-quality control, posing great risk to public health.
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