Executive Summary 

The Western Aquifer Basin is the most productive water basin in Israel and Palestine, yielding the highest-quality water in the area. The aquifer formation extends from the western slopes of the West Bank, through large parts of Israel to the north of the Sinai Peninsula. The aquifer’s water resources and groundwater flow are concentrated to the north of the mostly impermeable Afiq Channel and its extention running along a line from the city of Gaza via Be’er Sheva in Israel to the southern limits of the West Bank.

Average annual abstraction over recent decades exceeds the estimated long-term average annual recharge, which means the aquifer is gradually being depleted. Israel currently controls 100% of the aquifer and abstracts 94% of its water, while Palestinians abstract only 6%. Egyptian use of the aquifer is negligible.

Riparian cooperation on water resources management in the Western Aquifer Basin is largely related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While there is no basin-wide agreement between the three riparians, Israel and PLO have signed two temporary bilateral agreements (Oslo I and II) that both include articles on water resources in the aquifer basin. In particular,m the 1995 Oslo II agreement established a Joint Water Committee (JWC), which is responsible for regulating water resources use in the West Bank, including licensing of wells and changes in water allocations. However, in practice them committee has had limited impact and them complicated licensing procedures form a major obstacle to the development of Palestinian infrastructure in the basin. Since the Oslo II agreement, no high-level technical or political negotiations on water-related issues have taken place.

As a productive aquifer with high-quality water, the Western Aquifer Basin is considered a key resource by Israelis and Palestinians. It will therefore form an important point of discussion during final peace negotiations between the two parties.

  • Al Khadr, South Hebron Hills, West Bank, 2010. Source: EWASH.
  • South Hebron Hills, West Bank, 2010. Source: Adam Groffman.
  • South Hebron Hills, West Bank, 2010. Source: Adam Groffman.
  • Yarkon Spring (Ras al Ain Spring), Israel, 2009. Source: Ian W. Scott.
  • Timsah Spring, Israel, 2012. Source: Adi Faran.

Basin Facts 

Riparian Countries Egypt, Israel, Palestine
Alternative Names Palestine: Western Mountain Aquifer, Ras al Ain-Timsah Aquifer
Israel: Yarkon-Taninim Aquifer
Renewability Low to medium (2-100 mm/yr)
Hydraulic Linkage with Surface Water Groundwater from the basin used to discharge through two major springs in Israel and Palestine
Rock Type Fractured, karstic carbonates
Aquifer Type East (recharge area): unconfined
Centre and west: confined
Extent Total: 9,000-14,167 km2
Hydrologically most active: 6,035-6,250 km2
Age Middle to Late Cretaceous (Albian to Turonian)
Lithology Limestone and dolomite, some marl and chalk
Thickness 600-1,000 m
Average Annual Abstraction Total: ~390 MCM
Israel: 368.7 MCM (1970-2008)
Palestine: 23.7 MCM (1995-2011)
Storage --
Water Quality Very good
Water Use Agricultural, domestic and industrial
Agreements Israel-Palestine (PLO)
1993 - Oslo I
1995 - Oslo II
Sustainability Over-abstraction; infiltration of untreated sewage