Integrated Watershed Management in Israel –Stumbling Forward
Dr. Jenia Gutman
Runoff Management - Environmental Aspects, Head of Domain. Soil Conservation & Drainage Division.
Ministry of Agriculture, Israel
The watershed is a space far from the "concept of place" that most people have and most people do not feel connected to the hydrological watersheds in which they live. Similarly, the ministerial and statutory responsibilities of most governmental and planning institutions do not coincide with the boundaries of the watersheds in which these institutions exist. Despite this, the term 'watershed management' is a common term, strongly incorporated into US and EU water-resource policy visions. The reason for this lies in the fact that the watershed is the only viable reference point for the water and soil resources sustainable management. It includes the uphill, the downhill, and the uses that are made of the water along their flow in the basin.
But what about Israel?
What is the current situation of the integrated watershed management in the most densely populated OECD country, stressed by desertification and climate change? How the fact that the major watersheds are transboundary affects the integrated efforts? And what is the role of the agricultural sector, in the current situation of no-direct payments and therefore no environmental cross-compliance?
Drainage Authorities in Israel, whose area of responsibility is dictated by hydrological boundaries, were found to be one of the leading stakeholders in the arena. The extent to which the topic of floods was addressed in these projects suggests that there is a long way to go before true incorporation of ecology- society - flood risk mitigation into a holistic, integrated management of the water & soil resources will occur. The agricultural sector = was found to play a crucial role in the success of such initiatives, whereas farmers participation was highly non-trivial. Buds of the shifting from flood-risk mitigation to flood-risk management are spotted sporadically. The examples described present an explicit transition from a narrow approach to water resource to a broad approach of integrated watershed management, while the statutory 'watershed umbrella' is reviewed to provide the solid ground of planning and funding.