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Canadian Water Expert David Brooks
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Meditteranean Sea.
phot by Rhonda Spivak

Alexander River that runs through the Palestinian West Bank and Israel[Nablus to the Mediterranean Sea]
photo by Rhonda Spivak



By Rhonda Spivak, January 12, 2010


Last month, Friends of the Earth-Middle East, [FEME]a cross-border environmental organization with representation in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, offered a new model for joint management of shared water resources by Israelis and Palestinians.

The model suggests moving to shared management of joint water resources, like the Jordan River, the mountain aquifer and streams running through the West Bank and Israel, based on a mediated approach to solving water disputes.

The model was s originally drafted with the intention of being included in the Geneva Initiative by Dr. David B Brooks, a Canadian water expert living in Ottawa and Julie Trottier in 2007-8. and has gone through several permutations before reaching its current form.

In 2009, I had the opportunity to interview David Brooks  who said then that there is no question that under any future peace agreement, “large volumes of water  will be transferred from Israel to the Palestinians.”

According to Brooks, about 2/3 of the water that exists in the land that comprises Israel  and an eventual Palestinian state is “trans-border water”   from  “the Mountain Aquifer” that would have to be “sharable.” This is the case because most of the “intake” locations of the water [where the rain falls]   are in the West Bank but most of   the “out take” locations [where the water comes out in the form of natural springs ] are in Israel.

 “The tough question to be answered is whether water will be [transferred by Israel to the Palestinians] under an Israeli managed system or  whether there will be joint- management of water [by Israel and a future Palestinian State] ?” said Brooks. 

Brooks added that he favoured “joint-management”, which is currently not the case under the Oslo Accords.

Currently, under the Oslo Accords, Israel allocates a fixed amount of water to the Palestinians, occasionally adding to it if it is felt to be necessary.. A Joint Water Committee run by Israel approves Palestinian water projects, such as drilling wells, on the eastern part of the mountain aquifer but only acts in reference to Palestinian needs, with no authority over Israeli projects.

Brooks rejected the idea of a fixed-pie approach to water management where each side gets a finite “piece.” The model he and Triotier developed is a more fluid and dynamic one that takes into account the changing nature of the water supply. For example, the model would account for factors such as less rain and climate change that would reduce water supply, just as rising standards of living on both sides of the future border would mean an increase in demand.

The  main premise of  the proposal is the notion of shared management with a conflict resolution mechanism to resolve disputes through mediation.

As Brooks said, his proposal for water management is based on “an ongoing negotiations strategy between Israel and Palestine, meaning every year you work out a process and decide who gets how much water…It is based on an ongoing relationship of good faith, and isn’t something you do once and forever but you have to do it on an ongoing basis.”

The idea, he said, is that “water isn’t like real estate….it can’t be divided once and for all…because water moves… it can be used many times and re-cycled, it changes in quality, so a different management regime must be considered.”

Brooks is a natural resource economist, recently retired from Canada’s International Development Research Centre. He was the founding director of the Canadian Office of Energy Conservation and is now senior adviser on fresh water for Friends of the Earth Canada.

Trottier is a research professor at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, who has formally studied chemistry, politics and Islamic studies.She has focused her research for the last 15 years on the politics of water in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Followed the signing of  the Oslo Accords  in 1993 between  Israel and the Palestinians,  Brooks served on  Canadian delegations  to the multi-lateral working groups  of the Middle East peace talks on water and on the environment

Brooks noted that he was contacted in 2007 by FEME, which is co-chaired by Israeli Gideon Bromberg and Palestinian Nadis Al Khatib of Bethlehem, because the organization  wanted “ to re-invigorate the Geneva Accords” signed by Israel’s Yossi Beilin and  Palestinian leader Yasir Abd  Rabbo  in October 2003.
 As Brooks said, the Geneva Accords were designed to be a draft peace agreement, “except that certain sections had titles that said ‘to be developed’ and one of those sections was water.”

The goal of the Brooks-Trotier  model is to take water out of the realm of a “national security” issue in order to help the sides make progress on negotiating this issue.

The model rests on three general principles that say, “Management must be economically efficient, socially and politically equitable, and ecologically sustainable.”

The Brooks/Trottier model calls for the creation of three governing bodies: A bilateral water commission, a water mediation board and a local water management board.

The bilateral commission would set policy, the mediation board would resolve disputes and the local board would enable the players on the ground to have a say. The bilateral board would be comprised of three representatives from each country plus a seventh member from any other country in the world chosen by the other six. To avoid a situation in which one side plus the adviser could gang up on the other side, decisions would have to be accepted by at least two members of that party as well.

 In 2009, Brooks said that his discussions about water resources “have been mediated by the Czechoslovakian government. They have acted as a kind of go between…They brought me together with the Palestinian Water Authority at a conference in Prague in [2008].”


When interviewed in 2009, Brooks, who is a co-author of Watershed: The role of Fresh Water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said that “Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are using water sustainably; both sides are using too much water”

In regard to Gaza, Brooks said “the Palestinian government, not Israel, i

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.