Prior to the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PWA, water distribution and administration were under the control of the West Bank Water Department (WBWD). Its role was to mediate between the Palestinian population as end users and Mekorot as the water supplier in the West Bank. Currently, WBWD is one of many institutions that supply water in the West Bank.
In 1995, the Oslo II Accord was signed. It was intended as an interim measure with a five-year lifespan, until a final two-state agreement could be reached. However, as history has shown, this two-state solution has yet to be achieved. Given this reality, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority accept that the agreements from the Oslo II Accord remain in place. One of the outcomes of these agreements was the creation of the PWA in 1995. The PWA’s role was to assume responsibility for the administration and regulation of water in Palestine as well as overall policy development and planning. However, this designated role is not seen in nor reflected by the current organizational arrangements. On the ground, the PWA does not control water resources in most of the areas in the West Bank.
In urban areas, for example, water resources are managed, distributed and controlled by local utilities and municipalities such as the Jerusalem Water Undertaking (JWU) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (WSSA). Water distribution in rural areas, on the other hand, is handled by municipal water departments, Joint Service Councils (JSCs) and village councils. With input from Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, these numerous and often low-volume providers feed into the Palestinian water system. They provide about 90% of the overall consumption of water throughout the West Bank. This includes domestic, industrial and agricultural uses.
This fragmentation, the political situation and an unclear distribution of ownership and responsibility have complicated the PWA’s tasks and hindered long-term planning and regulation. It has also resulted in a lack of development effectiveness and the frequent need to work on an emergency rather than a strategic basis.[iii]
In Gaza, the PWA is the main body responsible for managing the water sector, while the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) is the main body responsible for service provision.
Even after the political division between Palestinian parties in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, the PWA has continued to work in Gaza. The ministries and institutions responsible for overseeing and providing electricity, water and other utilities receive for 50-58% of the PA’s annual budget for Gaza.[iv]
[i] World Bank, 2009. West Bank And Gaza Assessment Of Restrictions On Palestinian Water Sector Development, April 2009. Available at: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWESTBANKGAZA/Resources/WaterRestrictionsReport18Apr2009.pdf, accessed 21 April 2015.
[ii] PWA, 2014c. Final Water Sector Policy and Strategy, 2014. Available in Arabic at: http://www.wafainfo.ps/pdf/Water_Strategy_2014.PDF, accessed 5 May 2015.
[iii] World Bank, 2009. West Bank And Gaza Assessment Of Restrictions On Palestinian Water Sector Development, April 2009. Available at: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWESTBANKGAZA/Resources/WaterRestrictionsReport18Apr2009.pdf, accessed 21 April 2015.
[iv] Attili, S., 2015. Head of the PWA 2008-14. Personal communication.