Water Governance under Occupation: A Contemporary Analysis of the Water Insecurities of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, West Bank

Michelle Rudolph

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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The West Bank, derived from its position on the western bank of the Jordan
River, is the territory that came under Jordanian rule after the 1948 Arab-Israeli
war and that has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967. Since
this period, access to water in the West Bank has been largely controlled by
Israel, with the consequence of severe water insecurities for Palestinians in
sensitive areas like the Jordan Valley. This study, based on qualitative
interviews conducted in July 2019, analyses how the infrastructure and power
relations surrounding water governance have affected water security in the
daily lives of Palestinians. It shows that while there are variations with regard
to water access in the region, overall Palestinians in the Jordan Valley have
serious difficulties in accessing acceptable quantities of water. In addition, they
also experience water insecurities in terms of quality, distance and collection
time, price and affordability, availability and reliability as well as safety. These
water insecurities have had negative impacts on the physical, social and
psychological well-being of Palestinians who are facing them. They affect
women and girls to an even larger extent due to their productive and
reproductive roles, that necessitate access to water (e.g., agricultural work,
cleaning, cooking, bathing children) as well as due to their higher physiological
water needs in comparison to men and boys, which are partly determined by
social norms (e.g., wearing long hair and long clothes).

The main obstacle to achieving water security for these people is the
political context of the occupation with Israel having hegemonic control over
transboundary water re-sources in terms of material, bargaining and ideational
power. This is exemplified in the allocations of water resources and the
management of water-related infrastructure according to the Oslo II Accord,
that disadvantages the Palestinian side. The situation has further been
worsened by the fragmented division of tasks related to the planning,
regulation and distribution of water resources among the numerous Palestinian
water sector actors, with women being rarely included in governance.

Palestinians in the area have responded to shortcomings in terms of access
to water with an array of flexible and adaptable strategies, such as storing water
in tanks or reducing domestic water consumption. These strategies, also
referred to as strategies of resilient resistance, as they show elements of both
adaptation and resistance to the experienced conditions, are used on a daily
basis, often in a combined manner, to improve water access. They are
motivated by the connection between Palestinians and the land, which they
believe should be protected from Israelis, as well as their lifestyles as farmers
and herders. Refusing to submit to the control and ideology of the occupation,
Palestinians also adopt the ideological and political strategy of ‘sumud’
(steadfastness) to continue with life despite the difficulties and insecurities they
are facing.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages71
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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