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5.6 Techno-political non-conventional water-energy development alternatives in inter-state regional planning for Aqaba


The historic peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation (PLO) in Oslo on 13 September 1993 produced a Declaration of Principles which included a proposal for an inter-state regional economic development plan (Israel/PLO, 1993). Regional economic development was conceived as a key element to sustain the peace process in the region. The protocol on Israel-PLO relations suggests that priority be given to certain projects including development of the Dead Sea region and the Mediterranean Sea (Gaza)-Dead Sea canal as discussed in sections 5.4 and 5.5 (Murakami 1991; Murakami and Musiake 1991). The weak point of the bilateral peace agreement was that it did not at that stage include Jordan, which is a major riparian state of the Dead Sea.

Fig. 5.13 Proposed new schemes for the integrated development of the Jordan River system

It is now necessary to re-examine the techno-political nonconventional water-energy development alternatives in the inter-state Aqaba region, including Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, in the context of sharing resources and benefits. It also has to be recommended that Saudi Arabia is contiguous and could share resources and benefits.

5.6.1 Water-energy issues in a framework of the peace master plan

Energy issues like water are critical matters in the development of non-oilproducing countries like Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. These

Table 5.2 Proposed model for the later-date allocation of Jordan River system water and solar-hydro energy

  Water allocation (million m/year)
Lebanon Syria Jordan Israel Total
Unified (Johnston) Plan: 1955
Hasbani 35       35
Banias   20     20
Jordan (main stream)   22 100 375a 497a
Yarmouk   90 377 25 492
Side wadis     243   243
Integrated Joint Plan: 1991
MDS hydro-powered RO desalination     50 50 100
Side-wadi dams for groundwater recharge     50 50 100
Electricity (MW)b
MDS solar-hydro for peak power     60 440 550

a. According to the compromise Gardiner formula, the share to Israel from the main stream of the Jordan was defined as the "residue" after the other co-riparians had received their shares. This would vary from year to year but was expected to average 375 million m.
b. Installed capacity of hydro-power plant, which may generate 1.26 x 109 kWh of peak-power electricity per year. countries are the major riparians of the Jordan River system, and all have increasing demand for desalination and the reuse of treated waste water, which consume substantial quantities of energy or electricity.

The region is currently heavily dependent on crude oil (2.5 million tons) and coal (2.3 million tons of oil equivalent) as its energy source for the generation of electricity (table 5.3). Israel produced 20.9 x 109 kWh of electricity at an installed capacity of 5,835 MW in 1991. Israel has a plan to replace its steampower generating system with nuclear power by steps in the twenty-first century. A significant deficit in peak power supply has been a long-standing problem, while substantial off peak electricity is being wasted. Although international networking of the electric supply is being discussed with adjoining states, including Egypt, no alternatives have been suggested other than building a new pumpedstorage unit and/or gas turbine generating units.

Table 5.3 Energy sources for the production of electricity in Israel

Sources Requirement (TOEa)
Crude Oil 8,304,000
Coal 2,549,000
Solar energy 379,000
Natural gas 23,000
Electricityb -33,000
TOTAL 11,255,000

a. Tons oil equivalent.
b. Export to occupied Palestine.

Table 5.4 Electricity consumption in Israel, 1985-1991 (million kVA)

  1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
Industry 4,406 4,581 4,939 5,092 5,296 5,496 5,723
Household 3,331 3,614 4,050 4,890 5,190 5,317 5,606
Trade 2,979 3,384 3,781 4,120 4 ,477 4,762 4 ,979
Water pumping 2,197 1,717 1,894 2,038 2,113 1,825 1,528
Agriculture 602 658 765 864 906 934 967
TOTAL 13,155 13,954 15,429 16,990 17,982 18,334 18,803

Source: Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1992.

The energy supply is closely related to Israel's water supply, which consumes substantial electricity for water pumping. The pumping demand amounted to 1,528 kVA in 1991 (see table 5.4), whose cost accounts for 30% of total expenditure on water supply by Mekorot, Israel's national water company. Taking into account the recent advances in desalination, Israel is planning to introduce large-scale seawater desalination by the year 2000. Although this is likely to be dependent on low-energy types of reverse osmosis, the energy cost will still be 30%-50% of the total, depending on the price of electricity Consequently the potential use of off-peak electricity will be a key element in minimizing the cost of water management and operation.

5.6.2 Geopolitics of inter-state regions: The Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba

The interregional economic development planning will have to cover two regions: the Dead Sea (Israel/Palestine/Jordan) and Aqaba (Egypt/ Israel/Jordan/Saudi Arabia). These two regions will be gateways for cooperation between the countries of the Middle East.

Because of the geopolitical uniqueness of the Dead Sea, joint regional development planning has a prominent place in the 1993 peace agreement between the PLO and Israel and the October 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

The lower Jordan River system, including the Dead Sea, shared by the three riparians Israel, Palestine (the West Bank), and Jordan (the East Bank), will be a focus area for confidence-building measures. A proposal is here offered, as a strategy for the short to medium term, for salvaging brackish water from saline springs and irrigation returns in the area between Lake Tiberias and the Dead Sea, not only to protect the water quality in the lower Jordan main stream but also to produce new potable fresh water. The incentives for using water for peace are taken into account in assessing the techno-political feasibility of the scheme, which would include (1) collecting saline water from Israel; (2) constructing an 80-km-long drainage canal along the lower Jordan on the West Bank with an RO desalination plant at its terminal with an installed capacity of 100,000-200,000 m per day, which would convert harmful saline water to safe potable water at a cost of US$0.400.50/ m; and (3) sharing the fresh water produced among the three riparian states. This Peace Drainage Canal scheme, protecting the water-quality environment and the eco-system of the lower Jordan, should have the highest priority in a master plan for the environmentally sound, sustainable development of the water of the basin for peace.

Geopolitically, the Aqaba region is shared by four states-Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia-and in the short and medium term could be even more important. The region of the Gulf of Aqaba has great potential for the development of international tourism, commerce, and industry if some of the principal infrastructure can be shared. Owing to the hyper-arid climate of the region, however, water supply will be the main constraint to development.

5.6.3 Water-energy co-generating schemes for an inter-state regional economic development plan

Water and energy will be the key elements in any regional development, which will also include tourism/resorts, industry, and commerce.

This study suggests two core projects for co-generation of water and electric power: the Mediterranean-Dead Sea conduit scheme and the Aqaba seawater pumped-storage scheme, as discussed below. These would take into account the following possible scenarios for sharing resources and benefits:

>> an inter-state electricity grid or network including Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon, to provide cheap off-peak electricity to pumped-storage schemes, incorporated in the plan to provide peak energy and balance the grid;

>> techno-political project priority given to (1) the MDS conduit cogenerating scheme in the Dead Sea regional development plan and (2) the Aqaba co-generation hybrid seawater pumped-storage scheme in the Aqaba regional development plan;

>> an inter-state water pipeline, to connect the three states along the Aqaba coastline, to share fresh potable water from a hydro-powered RO desalination plant in an enlarged Aqaba co-generating pumped-storage scheme;

>> an inter-state sanitation and environmental management programme, including waste-water reclamation for tree-crop irrigation and sustaining the clean water environment of the Gulf of Aqaba.

The Aqaba region was outside the scope of the bilateral peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO in 1993, in which the Dead Sea regional economic development and MDS conduit scheme had strategic priority in terms of geopolitics. In a broader context, Aqaba regional development and hybrid seawater pumped-storage with hydro-powered RO desalination is possibly of even greater importance for the economic development of the whole region. The Aqaba hybrid pumped-storage scheme for co-generation will be even more competitive when compared with a single-purpose hydropower scheme such as Dead Sea pumped-storage or a Red Sea-Dead Sea canal.

5.6.4 Aqaba hybrid seawater pumped-storage scheme with hydropowered reverse-osmosis desalination

Construction of any new thermal or nuclear power stations in the region will benefit from a pumped-storage scheme for efficient energy use during offpeak time. A hybrid water-energy co-generation system is an application of RO desalination annexed to a seawater pumped-storage scheme. The Aqaba scheme would use seawater, which would be pumped directly to an upper reservoir on top of an escarpment 600 m above sea level, and from there would flow into a penstock to yield a water pressure of 60 kg/cm to generate 600 MW of electricity as potential base energy and 100 million m of fresh potable water. Off-peak electricity to boost the water to the 600 m elevation would be supplied from either a steampower plant at Aqaba or from the most economical alternative source, whether steam or nuclear power plants in Egypt or Israel or other electricity grids in the region.

A schematic profile is shown in fig. 5.14. The specification for the hydropowered seawater RO desalination unit would be similar to that developed for the MDS conduit scheme for co-generation.

The design discharge is preliminary estimated to be 116 m/sec (=600 x 103/(9.8 x 1.03 x 600 x 0.85)), assuming a specific weight of seawater at 1.03 and synthesized efficiency of 0.85.

The pumped-storage scheme would be designed to generate peak power for 4-8 hours a day. The marginal operation of the RO system could make use of the hydro-potential energy in the penstock pipeline with 600 m of head difference for 16-20 hours a day during off-peak time.

The feed-water requirement to produce 100 million m of permeate per year with 501)-1,000 mg of TDS per litre is estimated to be 333 million m per year, assuming a 30% recovery ratio (70% for brine reject). The installed capacity of the RO unit is estimated to be 322,300 m per day with a load factor of 85%.

The energy recovery potential from the brine reject is estimated to be 28,900 KW by the following calculation, which assumes a friction loss of 20% in the RO circuit:

9.8 x 1.03 x [(233 x 106/365)/86,400] x (600 x 0.95 x 0.8) x 0.85

The annual production of electricity from the RO brine reject is estimated to be 172 million kWh, with a load factor of 68%. The recovered energy would be used to supply electricity for the post-treatment or other pumps to save electricity from the national grid.

The total investment cost of the proposed hydro-powered seawater RO desalination unit, based on 1990 prices, is preliminarily estimated to be US$389,355,000, comprising the following major elements:

Fig. 5.14 Schematic profile of the Aqaba co-generation seawater pumped-storage scheme with hydro-powered RO desalination

The annual cost is estimated to be US$18,568,000 in financing costs and US$44,387,000 in operation and maintenance costs, including the following main elements:

The unit water cost of hydro-powered seawater desalination to produce 100 million m of fresh water per year is preliminarily estimated to be US$0.68/m, assuming the same design criteria as for the MDS hydropowered seawater RO desalination scheme discussed in section 5.4 (Murakami 1993b).


5.7 Techno-political alternatives in Middle East water perspectives


After exploiting all of the renewable fresh water resources within their national boundaries, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan have no choice except to develop transboundary waters and/or non-conventional waters. Water conservation is an important and essential issue in water management, but development of non-conventional water alternatives is becoming imperative to supply fresh potable water to the growing population in the Middle East and within the framework of a water master plan for peace.

5.7.1 Non-conventional water-resources development alternatives

Conventional alternatives have the highest priority in water-resources planning where there are still renewable fresh waters to be developed without creating any inter-state riparian questions. This ideal situation does not exist in most countries of the Middle East apart from Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.

Non-conventional alternatives, which comprise desalination, the reuse of treated waste water, and water transportation by tanker or barge or bags, will be key issues to sustain water development in the twenty-first century, when no further renewable fresh water can be developed without exceeding the sustainable yield, while non-conventional water resources are generally more complex in development and operation than conventional sources and are almost always more expensive. The great advantage of desalination and the reuse of treated waste water is that there are no political constraints on their development. The unlimited supply of seawater is another advantage for desalination, especially since 70% of the Arab and Israeli populations live along the sea coast. This situation favours Israel and the Gaza Strip, but not the West Bank and Jordan except for the Aqaba coastal plain.

Fossil groundwater by contrast is far too valuable an asset for use except as a strategic reserve that can be used for a short time for relief during extreme drought or emergencies.

5.7.2 Project feasibility and techno-political alternatives

Any water project in the Middle East, whether conventional or nonconventional, will have to be reviewed for technical and environmental feasibility, economic and financial feasibility, and social and political feasibility.

Project priority among the techno-political alternatives will be evaluated by taking into account the project time-schedule priorities on a short-term or emergency, mid-term, and long-term basis (see fig. 5.15). The following priorities are proposed on the assumption that equal weight will be given to each feasibility element.

(1) Short-term relief-highest priority and urgent countermeasures in water development and management, no political constraints:

Fig. 5.15 Schematic time schedule for evaluation of project priorities. Short dashes (- - -) represent period of study, negotiation, and development; "equals" signs ( = = = ), project implementation; "plus" signs ( + + + ), supplemental implementation if any.

(2) mid-term relief 1-high priority in water-energy development, to be included in a strategic peace agreement between Israel, Palestine, and Jordan that may facilitate peace negotiations, with benefits for multilateral regional economic development opportunities in the Dead Sea and Aqaba regions:

(3) mid-term relief 2-medium priority in the water-supply alternatives with some bilateral negotiations with water-rich countries such as Turkey, Albania, Iran, and South-East Asian countries:

(4) long-term relief-medium to low priority (but not any less important) with complicated multinational riparian negotiations and/or technicaleconomic-financial complexity. Inter-state water transportation by pipeline, canal, and other means is illustrated in fig. 1.2, induding:

After exploiting renewable water resources up to the limits of the sustainable yield, (1) water conservation will be essential to manage the water resources; (2) water politics and negotiations will be priority issues in any transboundary water-development project; and (3) innovative technological development with reasonable cost reduction will be the key to non-conventional water development.


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