Development of the water-supply infrastructure in the territories costs some NIS 50 million a year. Laying pipelines is very expensive due to the hilly terrain, the need to bury the pipes and the dispersal of the settlements. Conveying the water from the source to the consumer is also more expensive.
Over the past decade, approximately NIS 500 million has been invested in developing the water-supply infrastructure in the territories, at an average rate of NIS 50 million annually. The work includes excavating, drilling, laying pipes, building pumping stations, digging wells, excavating reservoirs and procuring equipment. These figures are based on data supplied by Mekorot, the national water company.
Some of these infrastructure elements also supply water to Palestinian towns and cities, but it may be assumed that the infrastructure would not have been established if not for the Israeli settlements. A rough calculation reveals that the overall cost of creating the water infrastructure for the settlements totals approximately NIS 1.2 billion.
The water infrastructures in the territories are more expensive than those in Israel, based on meter of pipeline per capita. The main explanation is that for security reasons, all of the pipelines conveying water to settlements are buried below ground. This translates into a relatively high cost per meter. In Israel, a sizable portion of the water lines run above ground. Other factors contributing to the high cost: the rocky, hilly terrain and the sparse population. At times, Mekorot has to lay and bury pipeline extending many kilometers to supply water to settlements inhabited by five or ten families.
Mekorot delivers the water to the entrance of each settlement, at which point its work is done. Developing infrastructure within the settlement is the responsibility of the Housing Ministry, and the budget designated to this purpose is transferred to the contractors through the Jewish Agency's Settlement Division.
An estimate of the water and sewage investment in the internal infrastructure within the settlements averages NIS 3 million per settlement. The overall investment in water infrastructure in the 140 settlements in the territories, then, amounts to approximately NIS 400-500 million, on top of the Mekorot investments made. These data do not include the large settlements around the city of Jerusalem, mainly Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev.
The cost of developing the infrastructure to convey the water to Ma'aleh Adumim was about NIS 15 million. This cost included having to increase the diameter of part of the pipeline to Jerusalem, so that it would be possible to supply water through it to Ma'aleh Adumim. The water infrastructure within Ma'aleh Adumim cost an estimated NIS 5 million. The cost of conveying the water to Givat Ze'ev and developing its internal water infrastructure is estimated at NIS 10 million. All told, the bill for these two settlements comes to NIS 30 million.
Another little-discussed issue related to water supply to the territories is that the cost of supplying water by Mekorot to the territories is almost double that of most regions in Israel. The average cost of supplying water to the territories is between NIS 2 and 2.5 per cubic meter, while the average cost to residents of Israel is approximately NIS 1.3 per cubic meter. This may be attributed to the fact that most settlements are situated on high ground and the water must be pumped; due to the distribution of the settlements, which necessitates many more pumps; and because of the greater distance the water must travel.
The state subsidizes the price of water in the territories. It compensates Mekorot for the difference between the national average and the actual cost, as it does in the Galilee and the Negev, as well. (Amiram Cohen)