Landscape Change and the Implications of Intermittent Water Supply in the West Bank: An Environmental Justice Case Study

By Stephen P. Gasteyer
Submitted to Session P4978 (Water Politics, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
It is well documented that Palestinians suffer from unequal access to water and sanitation vis-a-vis Israelis, and that this is an important undercurrent of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This presentation explores the political ecology of water inequities in looking at the social implications of intermittent water supply for three communities: an urbanized refugee camp, an agricultural community in the northern West Bank, and a smaller community in the northern West Bank. The presentation describes the dynamics of water availability (or lack thereof), the household, gender and labor implications, and the efforts of local Palestinians and Palestinian aligned institutions to implement technologies and other adaptations, including appealing to international norms and treaties, to mitigate the negative implications of limited supply. The result is a much more dynamic picture of multiple levels of everyday struggle for the most basic of resources in a place where water use and distribution has been contested for decades. Interruptions of household water supply have been associated with three factors, growing physical or economic water scarcity, failing infrastructure, management capacity, and political water inequality. I combine analysis of statistics with insights from listening sessions with Palestinian water industry professionals in three regions of the West Bank to address the political ecology of community and household water supply in the West Bank. I find that while there is a constant overlay of Israel’s control and limitations of water sources in the West Bank, this broad condition is then exacerbated by ecological, technical, and local managerial conditions that create differing local realities in actual Palestinian communities. The impacts of these conditions at both the community and household level are discussed. The presentation will discuss the global policy and research implications not just for Palestine, but throughout the middle income nations of the Middle East, where intermittent supply remains a significant issue.