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Submitted to the conference on

Water Crisis and Agricultural Development in Palestine Conference Topic: Water and Agricultural Policies in Palestine

May 21-22, 2012


Disclaimer: This work represents the opinion of the authors and does not represent the views of the Utah Geological Survey and/or the Brigham Young University.


The Western Aquifer Basin (WAB) is a shared inter-boundary groundwater basin between the West Bank and Israel. Two thirds of the Palestinians in the West Bank (1.5 million capita) are living within the upstream portion of the WAB, where 75 percent of its geologic aquifer outcrops (recharge area) are located.




This paper presents an updated average water budget for the Western Aquifer Basin shared between the West Bank and Israel based on the 10-year (20012010) average available records of hydro-meteorological data.



Study the potential for agricultural development in Tulkarem and Qalqiliya governorates.


The WAB consists of two main aquifers:  

The Upper Cenomanian-Turonian Aquifer (upper aquifer; 200-250 meters of average thickness) The Lower Cenomanian Aquifer (lower aquifer; 300400 meters of average thickness).

Both aquifer layers are separated by an intermediate aquitard layer (100-150 meters thick). However, in some places both aquifers are hydraulically connected to form a one combined aquifer known as the Cenomanian-Turonian Aquifer.


Spatial Distribution of Precipitation


Spatial Distribution of Evapotranspiration


Spatial Distribution of Runoff


Spatial Distribution of Recharge




Modified Penman-Montieth method was used to estimate the ET0 based on available weather data. Crop properties and estimated ET0 were used to estimate the crop evapotranspiration using the equation: ETc = Kc * ET0



The Water Budget was estimated using the equation: P – ETc – Ru – Re = Change in storage/minor losses where, P Precipitation/Rainfall grid ETc Crop evapotranspiration grid Ru Runoff grid (Rainfall Excess) Re Recharge grid




The 10-year average water budget volumes for the entire WAB (WB + Israel) were estimated at : 

Precipitation is 1143 MCM/yr



ETc is 690 MCM/yr



Runoff is 47 MCM/yr



Recharge is 350 MCM/yr




The 10-year average water budget volumes for the West Bank portion of the WAB were estimated at : 

Precipitation is 889 MCM/yr



ETc is 548 MCM/yr



Runoff is 34 MCM/yr



Recharge is 263 MCM/yr


The 10-year average water budget volumes for Tulkarem and Qalqiliya Governorates were estimated at : Precipitation is 247 MCM/yr ETc is 137 MCM/yr Runoff is 10.7 MCM/yr Recharge is 81.4 MCM/yr




Although the WAB’s West Bank portion receives an average recharge of 263 MCM/yr, the 2010 Palestinian water extraction was limited to a total of 30 MCM/yr (11%). While the rest (233 MCM/yr) of WAB’s recharge is being fully utilized by Israel.




The Upper Cenomanian-Turonian Aquifer receives a 10-year (2001-2010) average recharge of 271 MCM/yr, of which 208 MCM/yr (77 percent) is received within the entire West Bank boundary.



The Lower Cenomanian Aquifer receives a 10-year (2001-2010) average recharge of 79 MCM/yr, of which 55 MCM/yr (70 percent) is received within the entire West Bank boundary.








The 2010 water use by irrigated agriculture in the Tulkarem and Qalqiliya governorates is about 17 MCM/yr from 119 agricultural wells. There is a potential for agricultural development in the Tulkarem and Qalqiliya governorates because only 31,000 dunums are currently irrigated out of 233,000 dunums of cultivated. Assuming no Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian water use, such expansion of irrigated land could be achieved using the extra 56 MCM/yr more aquifer recharge than current water use.




Salfit, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron governorates partially overlie the WAB’s aquifers and receive a total estimated recharge of 182 MCM/yr, while the total water pumping from the WAB’s aquifers in these governorates is only 3 MCM/yr for all purposes.


Recommendations There is an urgent need to install at least 20 hydrometric stations at the stream outlets right before they cross the West Bank/Israel border to measure stream flow generated within the West Bank boundary along with other meteorological data on an hourly or daily basis. All hydrometric stations used in this study are located inside Israel and none are located in the West Bank.



An updated Water budget for the western aquifer basin and potential for Agricultural development in