Booker Holton discusses Water and Israel: A Political and Environmental Issue
Come learn what the world's water crisis will mean for Israel and its neighbors, who rely on the Sea of Galilee for fresh water. Holton will discuss the history and politics of water issues in the region and Israel's innovative approaches to water management.- The Commonwealth Club of California
Dr. Booker Holton currently serves as the principal of TOVA Applied Science and Technology, specializing in environmental planning and natural resource management. Over the past two years, he has been to Turkey and Israel on many occasions to survey and document the water supply and management systems in operation within these two Middle East countries.
Dr. Booker Holton conducted field studies and prepared the impact assessment on vegetation and wetlands, and coordinated the assessment of wildlife, fisheries, and special status species. In addition, he conducted an Alternatives Analysis and a wetlands functional valuation assessment, and prepared the Section 404(b)(1) analysis.
In addition to his technical responsibilities, Dr. Holton was also part of a management team providing overall environmental compliance management and report preparation.
Good evening and welcome to tonight's meeting of the Commonwealth Club ofCalifornia. I am Parisa Nesva Derani chair of the club's Middle East Forum and your hostfor tonight. We also welcome our listeners on the radio and we invite our audience tolisten and visit us online at www.commonwealthclub.org. And now it's my pleasure tointroduce our distinguished speaker Dr. Booker Holton has been involved in waterresource planning and management for over 20 years. After earning his doctorate inEcology at the University of California Davis, Dr. Holton began a professional career asan environmental consultant. He currently serves as the principal of TOVA AppliedScience and Technology, specializing in environmental planning and natural resourcemanagement. Over the past two years, he has been to Turkey and Israel on manyoccasions to survey and document the water supply and management systems in operationwithin these two Middle East countries. Dr. Holton frequently lectures on various waterissues in California State, University Harvard, University of California Berkeley andMiddle East. He has published many articles in various journals including journal ofenvironmental management, journal of Biogeography, [0:01:44] ____ the journal ofHuman Ecology and Israel journal of Botany. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Booker Holton.Thank god, if it is nice cool water and I have two glasses here. Early this year in Marchthe intergovernmental panel on climate change came out with a very shocking bit ofnews. They postulated that a 100s of millions of Africans and 10s of millions of LatinAmericans who now have water will not have water in 20 years. There still will be issue -water shortages in 20 years. By the year 2050, more than one billion people in Asia wouldface water shortages. By the year of 2080 water shortages could threaten between 1.1billion and 3.2 billion people depending on the magnitude of CO2 and other gaseousemissions and the resultant is the associated climate change. The UN says that "By theyear of 2050, we are talking about 50 percent reduction importable drinking drinkable water.Now keep in mind this deficit is not all attributable to global warming. There are thingslike the increase of population, water depletion in terms of pollution and unfortunately therising standard of living people, the standards of living rise and have a tendency to usemore water. What I am going to talk about today is the most vulnerable part of the globe,the areas where, number one, that water reliability and water resource supply is extremelylow precariously low and with the variability of that water is also very high. And I amgoing to use as a proxy the case in the Middle East with Israel and the PA thePalestinian territories.If you take a look at this graph, too bad those in the rear can't see it that well, but I haveread I found this on the internet. It's a very interesting one of the graphic because it is anarray of countries that along two axis. The left hand is variability of water resources. Thehigher you go up that scale, the more variable the resource is. On the horizontal scale isprecipitation. So the farther to the right that you go, the more precipitation that you have.Now if you look at something very interesting, I am going to point out to if you look atTurkey, if you look at Lebanon, as opposed to Jordan, the western Sierra, Kuwait, this isthe grouping of Israel and the PA. This is the grouping of areas or countries that arerelatively water rich as opposed to countries that are relatively water poor.Now what does this mean in terms of future conflict? Which just so happens that theseareas where these countries are arrayed, these water poor nations is where we see the bulkof the conflicts in the world today. And I postulate that in the future, because of thescarcity of water, the conflicts will become exacerbated as the scarcity increases. Thesepoor countries, these water poor countries, the bulk of their water resources come fromrain water and water that's captured in streams and water that is comes into peculatesdown into the ground or ground water.The middle east I postulate is important because it's life and death in terms of waterresources and peace and conflict. And when I think about the - the middle east, I amalways and I am going to blame my third grade teacher on this. Mrs. O'Bryan. I blameeverything on Mrs. O'Bryan especially when you have to memorize things and Iremember memorizing Coleridge's "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner", you probablyknow that. You can probably all recite it because you probably has some Mrs. O'Bryansin your past as well. It says "Water, water everyone and all the boards to shrink, Water,water everywhere and not a drop to drink". That's why I think about the Middle East,because we have these seas. We have the Sea of Galilee, we have the Red sea, we havethe Mediterranean Sea and only one of them - and we have the Dead Sea too. The onlyone of them gives you the fresh water that can sustains life and that is the Sea of Galilee.Now for those of you who do you see this beautiful area of photograph, of the land ofIsrael. And the west bank and the Gaza strip. Now when you look at the resources ofavailable water in this whole area, you have first of all I have mentioned the Sea ofGalilee or Canard or Lake Tiberius, it's called by many, many names. And you haveground water, and there are two main groundwater areas, one is the in the West Bankcalled the Mountain Aquifer, and the other is on the coast, it's called the Coastal Aquifer.Now why is this is a problem for the region? Mainly because most of the rainwater fallsin the West Bank, and because of various peace agreements most recently the [0:10:49]____ Israel is allocated about 75 percent 75 to 80 percent of the water that falls, on theWest Bank, and that water, they take from downstream areas, because water does flowdown the hill, and the take it based up on the water rites, that were established in these accords.But most of the recharge happens in the Palestinian territory, that's one point to keep inmy mind, and that's a point of contention, and that's the point of conflict. The other pointto keep in mind, is that the Coastal Aquifer, which goes down below you see high farup there on the extreme north, all way down through Gaza Strip into Egypt. The portionof that Aquifer is currently unusable, and the whole portion in Gaza, we were talkingabout 10 to 15 more years of actual portable water coming from wells in Gaza.Now think about that another point of conflict, another point of contention, waterresources, only 25 percent of Israel's water comes from the sea of Galilee, and the rest ofit comes from these Aquifers. There is a scant amount that comes from desalination,waste water reclamation and other things. So my point is it's that - this area because ofthe scarcity of water resources in this area, I think this is the seas of present and futureconflict, and I think in the Middle East, and rather than being a politics of oil, is actually apolitics of water. So we have some threats to this water supply, when we talk about thatfirst keep in mind also that Israel through these peace agreements, is currently supplyingthe West Bank with water, they are still supplying the Gaza Strip with water, by peaceagreements they are still supplying Jordan, that about 50 million cubic meters a year ofwater, that was a price of peace, former King Hussein of Jordan says the only one thingthat would ever get him to fight against Israel would be water, so that's part of the peaceagreement, Israel supplies the Jordanians with water.And a little known fact is that since the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon a few years ago,that 10 water deprived communities along the border of Lebanon are currently also beingsupplied by Israel, so you have a burdening population in the area, you have adiminishing supply of water, and let's take a look at the consumption rates. Theconsumption ranges up that Israel right now, uses about 750 million cubic meters a year,for its domestic purposes and like if there are too many numbers actually, but just keepthat 750 in mind, there is another 150 million cubic meters a year that industry uses,anyway I told you about the 750 number, about 800 million cubic meters a year use foragriculture, so roughly 50 percent of the total amount of water is used for agriculture,now some times I wonder you know what is what is the main? What is the cubic meter?We are talking about close to 1700 and 2000 cubic meters what is a cubic meter? All ofyou look at this it is about 260 gallons all over 1000 quotes so just they believe that tomillions of cubic meters. Now one of the problems is in fact that Israelis that the thatthe Palestinian Authority, their water consumption is one third less, one third of theamount of water consumed by Israel, they use a lot less water, but roughly about the samepercentage in terms of agriculture.And lets take a look at future water demand, if you take a look at the from populationalone, Israeli population by the year 2020, will reach about seven to eight million people.Now population is is contentious, the numbers are contentious in its area, it's a movingtarget, because politics and population go hand in hand, one of my best estimates theseare projections which could change but that between seven and eight million.Of the total Palestinian population is projected to be - between six and seven so roughlyby the year of 2020, we are seeing the population of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza andthe West Bank roughly equal in that of the Israeli population. Now why this is the case isbecause of the differential birth rate, and in the West Bank alone we are talking about theaverage, we talk about 46 percent of the the people are below the ages of 18, we aretalking about a birth rate or some thing in a order of four to five children per women andwe are talking about the population growth that has been estimated at any where betweenthree and a half and five percent per year, so this is the reality, that which you have is apart of water, and you have populations that were demand that amount of water, and nowif you take a look at the amount of water available between and say roughly 2010, goback to 2000, and 2020 we are talking about, if you look at the right hand column, we aretalking about the same amount of fresh water availability, the same surface water amountand the same amount of ground water, but it makes good sense? And you enlarge theand you enlarge the sea of Galilee? Can you do some thing for example to change theground water capacity in the West Bank Aquifer, the Mountain Aquifer, and the CoastalAquifer and on top of this - this is not guaranteed because there is some changes that willtake place that will make, what you have right now perhaps undrinkable for a number of reasons.Number one you can't rely on it. There are drought conditions out there, as they pointedto the first par the first graph this is in want resources that you can count from yearto year. You also talking about increasing ground water pollution, as the populationexpands the more industry the more waste water and you are talking about a supply that isnot guaranteed because of the pollution issue. And you talk about something else which ishappening right now and I mentioned before about the gases drip is that in 15 years wewill have no drinkable well water because of ground water intrusion, sea water intrusion.We you over pump from a well and if you don't allow that well water and the Aquifer torecharge and if you close a near by a body of water, so just as the Mediterranean sea andincreases the chances of salt water intrusion and this is what happening right now in thegausses trip. And once the salt water get in there is impossible for any one to rectify thatsituation. So we talk about some real problems in terms of the potential reliability ofwater- water resources you do have. This is interesting graphic because it shows you thaton the left hand side the color bands show the amount of water available from the varioussources, the Aquifers, the Jordan the Middle band shows you the the relative amountwater has been consumed is real versus the West Bank right now and the gausses drip thiswill change over time and that you see about year 2020 there is a water deposit.How do you that water deficit up? Let's explore some of the possibilities. Lets take at ahistory though before we do this one of the big issues is of any any peace accord withthe Palestinians, with any effort to really have it equitable distribution of water resourcesin this area is who controls the West Bank Aquifer and their fears on both sides. If thePalestinian population is as what we say growing rapidly, will that increase demands forwater, for humanitarian reasons yes. How you supply that growth if you can't increase therecharge or the supply from the West Bank? How do you supply the increase in Gaza?There is also the problem with the fear that he who controls the water controls the destinyof future generations. Is that real fears? The road map even talks about some vaguereference to that any future discussions will have to have multi layer engagement onissues including regional water resources environment economic development etcetera.In 1967 the Syrians attempted to divert water you can see that graphic. They attempted todivert water from the Hasbani River which is north of Sea of Galilee and bypass theJordan River going down into an area south of the Sea of Galilee. This is one of thecauses of the six day war.In the year 2002 Lebanon try to do the same thing you know always picking on theHasbani river, Lebanon tried to damn up this Hasbani river and depriving Isreal andeventually the Palestinian authority in future peace agreements with about ten percent ofthe total fresh water capacity. Then the Prime Minister Sharon said that it is the cause ofwar, this happened he was averted but this was we are in very close to another battle back in year 2002.Syria and Jordan even write to this day are still saber, revealing. The Yarmouk River inthe south of Sea of Galilee, see there on you're on the graphic. Syria has coasted a built adam and they are supposed to allocate water to the Jordanians, some thing on an order of700,000 cubic meters a year under agreements between Syria and Jordan and Syria ispunishing Jordan fro the peace agreement that they made with this rule. And they aredenying the Jordanians almost 99 percent of that water. Conflicts a ripe for the region.Okay that's the dooming gloom. But what we have in terms of possibilities of hope, thereare number of these things and first of all and look at the supply side and then look at thedemand side of equation.Lets take a look at something that is always talked about is desalination of sea water.Back around 2000 is your lost desalination master plan that hopes to provide somethingon a order of 1750 million cubic meters of water by the year 2020. And keep it in mindform the fresh water sources I say something about you know, there is about 1700 to2000, so we are taking about the sizeable portion of water coming from desalinationplants. The first one as built in Ashkelon ands that's producing right now about a 100meters of cubic meters, million cubic meters a year, and by the year 2020 it hopes toincrease that and the cost is going down too.The first desalination plant was built and a lot at a cost of some like 75 cents per permillion per cubic meter, 75 cents per cubic meters. The Ashkelon plant is producingwater at 50 cents per cubic meter. So the cost is going down. And there is some problemhow ever with these kinds of plants.Number one they are very expensive. We talking about for one plant about 250 milliondollars, number two I read one thing that coming from artificial means of providing wateris necessarily the best way, the best technology to rely exclusively on and there is someproblems with that number one what happens if we have malfunctions, number two theseare areas are prime for terrorist activities.Number two what do you do with a tremendous amount of supplying that you haven'tdispose of at the into the process. So its not a its not the best solution, it is one of manysolutions that is being tried right now in the region. The other one is waste waterreclamation. Currently Israel is recycling some of like 75 percent of its waste water forirrigation, and they are going to step that up to clean it up to a point for example that youcan almost drink at, that you can drink waste water.Now there is some problems with that between now and then, number one waste water hatremendous amount of salt in it. And so what's you are doing is that to as you areputting this waste water on the fields the salt is accumulating in the fields and it takesmore water in order to flush it out and where is that water going to come from, but in ashort term is one way of cleaning up waste water. -- There are two example right nowand Kishineu and the other in Tel Aviv that are working quiet quiet well.I think the best thing that you can do is also assist in terms of pollution clean up in termsof the ground water. There are possibilities of 16 sewage treatment plants in the WestBank that need to be upgraded. Some of them needed to be rebuilt in order to continuethis process of cleaning out the waste water. So thus the only the only ways you canlook at it is either cleaning up what you are already have or making something that youdon't have and you have a right now to drink but you are plenty have it around you assalt water. So, those are the I call it supply side ways of of coming up to a solution tothis water problem.Then there is demand side, conservation is very, very, very big in Israel. I think throughtechnology transfer this can also be used as a an agreement with the Palestinianauthority. If you take a look at right now that to tad therefore the residential users of wateralone. Israel and Jordan compared to United States and Canada and Italy have done awondrous job in water conservation. 170 liters per day compared to 382 liters per day ofusage in United States.The other thing is agricultural water use the 50 percent of the water is being used foragriculture. You have to continue using drip irrigation and other technologies to reducethat even further, and this is being done right now in Israel. The thing you have to dothough is that you have to have some kind of technology transfer with the Palestinianauthority. So, what are my hopes? My hopes then are founded on a fact that since 2001you had a joint call between the Palestinians and Israelis to say let's keep water out of theconflict, let's keep water out of future battles and wars and let's agree to co-operate. Thisis unusual co-operation right now. This is the things that you just just don't really hearabout. But right now there are engineers that are constantly going into the West Bank andassisting the Palestinian authority in repairing of broken down and sabotaged water pipelines, this is a co-operative effort.This coming in fact September the 5th to the 7th there is a special UN conference in NewYork, it is called climatic change how it impacts us all and it will be attended by over2000 NGO's. The most amazing thing is that there will be session on water a securityissue. Chaired by the [0:34:15] ____ institute of Israel, an environmental educationorganization and the attendees and the speakers in that panel panel will be oneJordanian, one Palestinian and one Israeli. So they recognize and what they are talkingabout is talking about one of the elements that you really need to institute and in orderto get regional water management co-operation. This is unheard of but it's happening right now.In Tel Aviv on October there is a vatic exposition which will bring people from theregion to learn about technology for irrigation systems. There is ground watermanagement going on right now in joint efforts between the PAs and the Israelis. And Ithink because the PA right now has an infusion of money that probably these kinds of cooperations will take off, and I think there will be nothing but, absolutely a symbol ofpeace for co-existence in the areas. Yes it's my dream. I think that was all of this what 'shappening in terms of Israel and the PAE right now gives me pause to think about afuture hope for the area and I think it has to happen because everyone is living within thesame part of water, and water means life, water really means peace. Thank you.