OPTIMA: Optimisation   for Sustainable
Water Resources Management
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Case Study: Wadi Zeimar, River Alexander, PALESTINE/ISRAEL

The case study aims to work with Israelis and Palestinians in cooperation with the relevant water authorities and international experts, to consider how best the Wadi Zeimea/River Alexander basin can be managed to their mutual advantage. The Alexander River is the name given to the lower 44 km section of a river running from the mountains of the West Bank to the coastal plain within Israel. The upper, Palestinian, section is know as Wadi Zeimer and makes its way from the town of Nablus down to the coastal plain. The basin is small but heavily populated (a total of about 600,000) and the problems it faces in both its sections in terms of pollution are typical of those for region as a whole.

The river system is tightly coupled to the large, regional Mountain Aquifer: polluted river water leaches into the mountain aquifer - at the same time, there are springs originating from the aquifer that replenish the river downstream. The river system and its coupling to the underlying aquifer offers the opportunity to study in depth questions relating to demand management, the need for treatment of polluted wastes, and most significantly for this study, the need to manage the basin as a whole if optimum results are to be obtained.

Work has already been done on the Alexander River and a major rehabilitaton program is underway but there has been less activity on the upper sections of the water course, the Wadi Zeimar. The aims of the project will include to review the effectiveness of work already done in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority area on assessing demand, dealing with pollution, improving the environmental value of the water course in terms of its recreational use, and setting up effective management. The study will focus on how best the Israeli stakeholders and those from Palestine can work together sharing a common resouce for mutual benefit . At present there is cooperation but it is ad hoc and does not always achieve the desired results. Work done on the lower reaches of the river has been less effective than it might have been because of the failure to look at the problems of the basin as a whole.

Optimization scenarios will be produced based on extensive data on different aspects of water supply, use and quality in the basin, with emphasis on conjunctive use of surface and groundwater (from the Mountain Aquifer). The interaction between flow and water quality is one of the areas of specific interest, together with the benefits of recreational use versus the costs of waste management.

From a policy perspective, the study will be an example for the need to share data, work jointly on water resources and pollution problems and provide channels for effective cooperation over a shared physical resource. Meetings of stakeholders from both Israel and Palestine during the course of the project will help to better define issues and strategies to be tested in the formal analysis, and the project will continuoulsy involve all those whose views impact on the future status of the Wadi Zeimar and the River Alexander and the underlying Mountain Aquifer.

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