Some Palestinian farmers irrigate their fields by flooding, rather than with drip irrigation technology. Flooding fields causes huge water evaporation and leads to great waste, up to 50% higher water consumption.
The warlike strategy adopted by the Palestinian Authority regarding water explains several additional realities, according to Prof. Gvirtzman:
Illegal drilling of wells: As of 2010, the Palestinians had drilled about 250 unauthorized wells into the Western and Northern Aquifers, in violation of the Oslo agreements. Since 2010 the number of unauthorized wells being dug has continued to rise at an alarming pace. This has caused a reduction in the natural discharge of water in the Beit Shean and Harod valleys, forcing Israeli farmers to reduce their agricultural plantings.
Ultimately, says Prof. Gvirtzman, the State of Israel has been forced to reduce its pumping at the Mountain aquifer from 500 million cubic meters per annum in 1967 to about 400 million cubic meters per annum today.
Besides higher produce prices, Israeli consumers also subsidize their Palestinian neighbors’ unregulated water consumption. Most West Bank and Gaza residents and businesses do not pay the PA for the water they use, in either their homes or fields. There are simply no water meters on pumping wells and no water meters at the entry to most homes, so it is impossible for the PA to measure the amount of money owed by individual consumers. This, of course, leads to widespread water waste. People who don’t pay for their water usage have no motivation to conserve.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians purchase about 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel’s Mekorot water company each year, but the Palestinian Authority does not pay for this water directly. Instead, the State of Israel pays Mekorot, and then deducts the costs of the water from the customs and tax monies that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority at Israeli ports.
However, Prof. Gvirtzman points out, it must be noted that the Palestinian Authority pays Mekorot for just 80 percent of the actual cost of the water it consumes. Negotiations to raise water prices have dragged on for more than 10 years, and Israel has given up many times.