The Jordan Valley is situated over the Eastern Water Basin. However, Palestinians in the area suffer from the lack of access to water due to Israeli restrictions and copious usage. They are only permitted to use 40% of the water in this basin or approximately 58 mcm of water per year. Since its occupation in 1967, Israel has monopolized, destroyed and exhausted the area’s water resources. Over the last four decades, Israel has isolated 162 agricultural wells in the Jordan Valley, prohibiting Palestinians from using them.
With discriminatory allocations, Israel controls where wells can be placed, how deep they can run and how much water can be pumped from them. Consequently, Palestinians are left to use dirty water from unconditioned, neglected water sources, because, oftentimes, untreated settlement water seeps into Palestinian artesian wells and springs.
It also forbids Palestinians from using the Jordan River, which would provide 250 million cubic liters of water per year.
Furthermore, due to various Israeli restrictions, settlers in the Jordan Valley, who cultivate around 27,000 dunums (6,672 acres) of land, consume about 41 mcm of water per year. They mainly extract Palestinian water sources, in addition to restricting its access to the Palestinians, to cultivate their lands. In contrast, Palestinians cultivate about 53,000 dunums of the valley’s land, consuming 37 mcm of water per year. According to a 2009 Save the Children factsheet 9,400 Israeli settlers consume 6.6 times more water than the 56,000 Palestinian residents. As in the rest of Area C settlers receive 75% discounts on their water bills.
Israel also fully controls the Dead Sea and denies Palestinian rights to access its water, minerals and shores. Palestinians should have control of 30% of the Dead Sea as its border, but since 1967 they are prohibited from using or investing in the area. Israel has also exhausted Dead Sea water, threatening its existence over the next 20 years. As a result of the lack of water draining into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River and wadis, as well as Israel’s excessive pumping of sea water, aerial photos show the Dead Sea splitting into two separate, smaller lakes. Additionally, Israel is excessively pumping water out of the sea and reserving water coming from the western valleys of the Jordan River, which further exhausts available water and decreases the annual amount of water drained into the Dead Sea.
A 2009 Amnesty International report documented Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to water in the valley (P53):
‘In recent years, during the summer months, the Israeli army has also stepped up pressure on Palestinian herder communities to force them out of the Jordan Valley by confiscating their water tankers and depriving the villagers and their flocks of water at the height of the hot season’.
The report refers to the Israeli denial of access to nearby wells to villagers in Ras al Ahmar, Humsa and Hadidiya, securing exclusive access for the agricultural settlements of Ro’i, Beka’ot and Hamdat.
Measures of Israel’s Control over Jordan Valley Water
- Isolating and destroying 162 irrigation projects east of Road 90, claiming they were closed for security purposes.Israel also destroyed wide areas of irrigated fields, denying thousands of Palestinians their only source of income—agriculture—and prohibiting any further development or reconditioning of the wells;
- Preventing Palestinians from using their share of 250 million cubic meters of the Jordan River, destroying Palestinian agricultural projects along the banks. Moreover, Israel closed up to five meters of the western Jordan River and is draining excessive amounts of river and wadi water to feed the huge reservoir lakes it built;
- Controlling underground water and digging wells at critical depths, which hit the salt beds and cause the water to be salty.;
- Situating new Jewish-only wells near Palestinian springs, drying out or using much of the Palestinian water. In the past, these wells served the Palestinians with 6 million cubic meters per year, but now Palestinians must buy water from the Mekorot;
- Closing most areas that have a good capacity to hold water for military zones, natural reserves or other security reasons;
- Prohibiting Palestinians from digging new or reallocating wells, causing the Palestinian wells to have small depths. Additionally, Israel measures the amount of water used by the Palestinians and imposes fines on those who exceed the allocated amount;
- Polluting the springs and underground water by not controlling the leakage of sewage water from the settlements.