Water of the Middle East and North Africa

What Does the Future Hold for Water in Israel?

coast of Tel Aviv - Israel
Photo 1: Mediterrenean Sea as seen from the coast of Tel Aviv. Source: Ruben Vermeer

Three notable trends are expected to characterize the water economy in the coming years. One is the increase in demand for water in the urban domestic and industrial sectors as a consequence of an expected increase in the standard of living and a growing population. The second is the demand for better quality water, while the third is the need to meet, within the framework of the peace agreements, the expected water shortages not only in Israel but in Jordan and the Palestinian Territories as well.

An agreed allocation of the existing water sources will reduce the potential for water supply for Israel. To present the existing water shortages in the countries in the region in a comparative manner, the relative shortage level index can be used. This reflects the minimum level of water resources required for the survival of a modern country in an arid region. Using this index, 2,000 m3/person/year is the abundance threshold, while 500 m3/person/year is the minimum threshold required for the regular functioning of a state.

In addition, the fact that the circumstances in which the Israeli water economy operates are uncertain must be considered. The structure of demand for products is constantly shifting: agricultural and other production technologies are changing, and the geographical distribution of the country’s population in the next 20-30 years may be fundamentally different from today due to migration, urbanization and other social adjustments.

These trends may increase the gap between the availability of water sources and the demand for them in terms of quantity, quality, location and cost. This gap requires various preparations for the water sector. Israel has been able to adapt to water challenges throughout the past 70 years. Its water management strategy has dynamically evolved as illustrated by the implementation of different technological solutions (e.g. efficient irrigation, awareness campaigns), high investments in the water sector (e.g. desalination plants) and fundamental alterations in the supply strategy (e.g. the New National Water Carrier). Therefore, it will be interesting to see how Israel copes with future water challenges, especially in light of climate change.