Politicians were falling all over themselves Monday to celebrate the signing in Washington of the agreement for what once was a pipe dream of a pipeline to pump water from the Red Sea to the Dead Seam, with the New Age of Peace involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
“This is a historic measure, which realizes a dream of many years. We have here politically important strategic cooperation between that Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority,” said Minister National Infrastructures Silvan Shalom.
The first phase of the mammoth project will include a desalination plant in Aqaba and will pipe water into the Dead Sea, the lowest point of earth and which has gone lower every year to the point that there are real fears it will disappear altogether one day.
The idea sounds great, and if it comes off without a hitch, it definitely will change the face of the southern Negev and Arava regions and the Jordan Valley, on both sides of the Jordan River.
The Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Israel all are holding hands together in a project that is supposed to show that the need for water can overcome politics and distrust.
The agreement for what is officially known as the Two Seas Project was signed in Washington by Shalom and Jordanian and Palestinian Authority water officials. The ceremony took place at the World Bank, which is raising up to $400 million from donor countries and philanthropists.
The entire bill for a much larger Dead-Red conveyance project is around $10 billion.
This is the same World Bank that helped finance and engineer Israel’s turning over agricultural infrastructure and greenhouses in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority regime in 2005, after the expulsion of Jews and the withdrawal of the IDF.
That boondoggle does not mean that the World Bank is always right, but it certainly means it is not always right. It is more interested in politics than economics, and good politics today means creating facts on the ground for the Great Middle East Peace.
In five years, water is supposed to start flowing into the Dead Sea, but the proposed amount is only a fraction of what the Dead Sea loses every year because evaporation and industrial use, such as the Dead Sea Works.
The project will give Jordan much needed water resources. Israel has agreed to pump more water from the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) for Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, which is Ramallah’s take for agreeing to forfeit claims that the northern part of the Dead Sea is to be under its sovereignty in its version of a Palestinian country.
So what could be wrong with such a project that increases the water supply and brings back the Dead Sea from levels that could endanger the environment?
Politically, like everything else in the Middle East, it is a gamble. Jordan is on the threshold of an explosion. “Palestinians” and Bedouin make up the bulk of the population but are least represented in the government. The Palestinian Authority still is a country on paper, most of it being the Euros on which it survives.
Financially, the project puts a tremendous burden on the world, but who cares so long as the new corporate universe needs these investments to feed their money machines.
The military-industry complex has sold trillions of dollars in weapons everywhere except Antarctica. Russian and China don’t care whether Iran gets a nuclear bomb so long as they can feed their appetite for billions of dollars by helping the Islamic Republic build nuclear facilities.
And now we have this new project to pump money into the engineering and construction firms who stand to make a bundle.
Environmentally, the project’s expert claim they have the knowledge and resources to overcome fears that pumping large quantities of Red Sea water into the Dead Sea could damage the Dead Sea’s fragile ecology. As sure as the World Bank is that the project will not upset ecology, the Friends of the Dead Sea are just as sure that the pipeline will destroy the environment
Let’s assume that the World Bank experts are right, which is a hefty assumption in an age where experts can prove anything they want.
The whole project may be unnecessary given that Israel’s own desalination plants will produce so much water that the Kinneret would reach flood levels every year, allowing the dam at the Kinneret to be opened to spill water into the Jordan River and down to the Dead Sea.
The Kinneret right now is about 2.6 meters, or 102 inches, below flood level and when the Degania dam would be opened. The lake usually rises more than that amount in a normal year.
It could rise even more because Israel has brought online three desalination plants and is building two more that can supply Israel with almost 70 percent of its water needs.
But the Water Authority has made an amazing decision. It plans to scale back production of desalinated water by 100 million cubic meters, the same amount that will be able to be produced at the facility under construction at Ashdod.
Globes pointed out last month that the government pays for overhead at the desalination plants and also pays for water that it does not buy, as per the contract. The bottom line is that the Water Authority will shell out 60 percent of the cost of water for fixed costs without receiving any water.
And what happens if there are a couple of dry years? Then the Water Authority will start pushing the desalination plants to work overtime while the level of the Dead Sea continues to drop.
Even worse, the Water Authority admitted to Globes, “Even if the plants don’t work at full capacity in the coming year, we will soon definitely need their output. Our models predict an even worse drought than the one before 2011 at the end of the decade. In addition, the Kinneret and aquifers still lack one billion cubic meters of water. The Israeli economy has a structural water shortage, and one rainy year does create a new reality.”
So why is it cutting back production?
Could it possibly be that the Water Authority does not want to open the dam at the Kinneret because doing so would help replenish the Dead Sea, and then how could the Red-Dead Seas project be justified?
Bringing back the Dead Sea to previous levels might not be possible, but it will be at least five years before the Dead-Red pipeline comes on line, and that assumes no political, financial and environmental delays. In the meantime, maximum production at the desalination plants would allow overflow from the Kinneret to add at least the same amount that is projected to come from the Red-Dead pipeline, and probably more in a rainy year, as is predicted this year.
The Water Authority’s reasoning for increasing pumping from the Kinneret instead of using desalinated water, and thus preventing the dam from being opened, is that “it is cheaper to pump water from natural sources than to buy water from the desalination plant at the full rate.”
The Water Authority made a fantastic Orwellian Double Speak statement to Globes. “There is no water surplus,” it said. “There is water production capacity for guaranteeing a reliable water supply, even during droughts. The Israeli government prepared for this in part by building seawater desalination plants, which supply water on the basis of need and the condition of the water economy. During droughts, when natural water supplies fall, we’ll need maximum production by the desalination plants, because the water demand does not change. In years with heavy rain, we have to deduce desalinated water production, because the variable cost is higher than the cost of natural water production.”
The Water Authority is ”saving” money by paying out most of the cost of desalinated water without using it, and it is lessening the need for the dam to be opened, which in turn deprives Jordan of water resources and deprives the Dead Sea of much needed water.
There is no water surplus because the Water Authority is preventing one.