Israel - Analyse the risk

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About future scenarios

Two future scenarios with changing climatic and socio-economic conditions were analysed: the Middle of the Road Scenario and the Rocky Road Scenario. The Middle of the Road Scenario represents a future with limited socio-economic changes and moderately drying climate. It is based on the socio-economic scenario SSP2 and the climate scenario RCP4.5. The Rocky Road Scenario represents a future with reduced economic growth, socio-economic fragmentation and significantly drying climate. It is based on the socio-economic scenario SSP3 and the climate scenario RCP8.5.

1. Israel Water Scarcity

1.1 Introduction to the area

Israel has 21,497 km2 and an estimated population for 2019 of over 9 million inhabitants. Israel is located on the Mediterranean and  it has borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the north-east, Jordan to the east, Palestinian territories to the east (West Bank), and Egypt and Gaza to the south west.

1.2 Water scarcity related risks

This table summarizes the water scarcity related risk for different water user groups in Israel. The risk of one group is shown relative to the risk of the other groups. The higher the number (and the more red the cell), the higher the risk of that group for a given time horizon. 

The results show that the poor population in Israel are and will be exposed to the highest water scarcity risks, followed by nature and self-subsitence farmers. Results also show that the risk will increase over the years for most groups, except for the Large Farmers, which will continue to have access to water for their activities. 

1.3 General Conclusions and Observations

Hydrological and socio-economic related risk

  • Israel has a Mediterranean to arid climate with an uneven distribution of water natural resources.
  • Israel's water supply relies on a combination of natural and artificial sources.
  • Any drastic setback on development could affect the water provision of the country as it can delay (or stop) future investment plans for desalination plants.
  • Israel holds high levels of poverty in comparison to other OECD countries and a very young population. Coupled with a relative low GDP per capita relative to other OECD countries, which can be an indicator for high inequality.

Global market and Policy related risks

  • The price of water is linked to the energy cost. The future water provision system is vulnerable to any disruption in the world’s energy market.
  • New low carbon development policies (Paris Agreement) will pose a pressure to 1) reduce the high emissions generated by the artificial water sources process and 2) change the energy sources in the mid term from fossil to renewables, which implies high investments.
  • Israel has a high dependency on transboundary waters for its natural sources, which could pose a risk in the future if there are changes/breaks in the transboundary agreements, and if they lose the hegemony in the region.
  • As Israel is located in a conflict area, concentrating water production in a handful of centralized facilities makes their water provision system vulnerable to international conflicts.
  • More strict regulations regarding coastal environment could restrict desalinization production.

Environmental risks

  • Shortages in water sources lead to destruction of water-dependent ecosystems. Israel plans to counteract this in the future by enhancing the rehabilitation of natural water sources (including rivers and the Dead Sea). 
  • The increase in desalination facilities and their construction have environmental implications.
  • High intensity of groundwater abstraction in the coastal aquifers can lead to an increased problematic of salt waterintrusion into the aquifer, lowering the groundwater quality and availability of fresh groundwater.
  • Further use of brackish/saline water for irrigation lowers the soil quality and leads to further accumulation of salinity in the environmental system. (environmental compendium)
  • Frequent drought are decreasing the natural flows, which impacts the environment and limits the natural habitat.

2. Risk Assessment

2.1 Water Availability

The total water availability in Israel should be analyzed from the perspective of 2 sources: 

  1. natural: surface water and groundwater
  2. artificial: reuse of waste water and desalinated water from brackish and sea water

The artificial sources re-use of waste water and desalinated water are consistently increasing over time.

The future changes of these sources have different drivers. Natural sources will be more affected by climate and will probably decline, whereas artificial sources are driven by demand and economic developments.

More on our calculation method

Water Scarcity Risk

In the classical approach to water scarcity or drought risk assessment, vulnerability factors are combined with information on hazard and exposure to assess drought risk (see Figure). The magnitude of a drought event, the exposure and vulnerability information together determine the impact of that specific drought event. In other words, the impact of a drought event is determined by hazard x exposure x vulnerability. Before the risk levels are computed, the watergap is reclassified and the proxy values for exposure and vulnerability are normalised. Finally, the risk levels are rescaled between 0 (very low, green) and 9 (very high, red). As a result, the presented water scarcity risk levels are relative risk levels within the basin.

In WaterLOUPE, water scarcity risk is expressed by risk level categories (low risk to very high risk). These categories are estimated using a combination of the severity of the watergap (see sections 2.1-3) and proxy values for exposure (e.g. GDP, km2 agricultural area) and vulnerability (e.g. population below poverty line, GDP per capita). In case a specific risk category does not occur in a sub-basin, it is assigned a risk level of -1 (grey). More information about exposure and vulnerability can be found in section 2.4.

Reclassification watergap

Once the watergap is calculated, we reclassify it in values between 0 and 1. This reclassification is done based on the average watergap of the period of analysis according to the following method:

  • If a given month has a negative watergap (i.e. scarcity), then watergap = 1 = very high hazard
  • If a given month has a positive watergap smaller than the 10 percentile watergap for the period of analysis for that given basin, watergap = 75 = high hazard
  • If a given month has a positive watergap > than the 10 percentile and < than the 25 percentile watergap of the period of analysis for that given basin, watergap = 0.5 = moderate hazard
  • If a given month has a positive watergap >than the 25 percentile but < than the median watergap of the period of analysis for that given basin, watergap = 25 = low hazard
  • If a given month has a positive watergap > than the median watergap of the period of analysis for that given basin, watergap = 0 = very low hazard

Data use policy

For the WaterLOUPE risk assessment data about hazard, exposure and vulnerability is required for each sub-basin. In many cases, local data is not available for all aspects of the water security risk assessments. Hence, national data or global data sets are consulted to supplement the local information. The data use is prioritized according to the following rules:

  1. If local data is available for the appropriate time window, this local data is validated and used. Often rescaling of the data is required before it can be used for the risk analysis.
  2. If local data is not available, but national data is available for the appropriate time window, the national scale data is validated and used after rescaling to local levels.
  3. If no local or national data is available, output from the global water model PCR-GLOBWB is used. This model output is available at monthly time-steps and a spatial scale of 10x10 km. Important here that the output information is validated by local information and knowledge, before it is used in the risk assessment computations.


  • Groundwater recharge:
  • Runoff:
  • Desalination:
  • Wastewater treatment:

2.2 Water Demand of each source per sector - Historical


Water for agriculture is mostly supplied by treated waste water, but desalination and natural sources are also important sources to sustain agriculture.


Industry water demand are mostly satisfied by natural sources, both surface water and groundwater, however, desalination water is gaining importance in the last years.


Domestic water demand is mostly satisfied by natural sources, both surface water and groundwater, however, desalination water is gaining importance in the last years.

2.3 Water Demand and Availability - Future

In order to understand how the future risk might develop, a scenario analysis was done to identify different plausible developments of the exposure, hazard and vulnerability, for horizons 2025, 2035 and 2045. Both climate change and socio-economic changes are taken into account.

The estimated water demand for scenario SSP2 is 20% larger than the SSP3 demand. This is due to a higher population for this scenario and higher GDP growth. Nevertheless, water use efficiency under both scenarios differs.

We do not see any extreme change between climate scenarios RCP4,5 and RCP 8,5 given that, for Israel, the situation is already extreme: A very extreme climate with high natural water gaps in the summer.


Israeli water sector- key issues 2018

Tramberend, Sylvia, et al. "Building global water use scenarios." (2015)

World Bank: Water Management  in Israel. Key Innovations and Lessons Learned  for Water-Scarce Countries

2.4 Water Gap Frequency

The graph indicated for each 10 year period the number of months with a natural water gap. This gap represents number of months in which the water availability from natural sources did not meet the demand from natural sources.

The reocurrence of water gaps in the future remains very similar under both scenarios. In the future it seems that for both scenarios the length of the drought periods increases.

Higher temperatures will anticipate the dry period from May to April/March. Whereas the current conditions will expand the dry period until November

2.5 Exposure and Vulnerability

The values shown here are used to calculate exposure and vulnerability for the different water users.

The green and red colours indicate how Israel preforms relative to 37 OECD countries, under the assumption that the OECD countries should have comparable contexts for socioeconomic parameters (Word Bank list retrieved August 2019). Greenish colours mean that Israel performs better than average, red means Israel perfumes worse than average.

The grading of blue colours indicates changes in the magnitude.


Exposure is defined as the elements that are at risk from a hazardous event. For this case, exposure is represented by three spatially distributed parameters obtained from local sources and reports

  • Population density: Parameter created by using the land area and total population. Land area as reported by the World Fact book from the CIA. Population extracted from Central Bureau of Statistics of Israel. Publication Population of Israel from 1948 to 2065
  • GDP/km²: Parameter created by using GDP and land area. GDP extracted from Central Bureau of Statistics of Israel, table 14.2 Gross domestic product and uses of resources.
  • Land use: and

Vulnerability is defined as “society’s ability to prepare and recover from a natural disaster, such as a flood or drought event”. This will give an indication of the potential impacts of water scarcity on the local community and economy. Several social vulnerability indicators have shown to be good proxies:

All these parameters have been extracted or formed with information from the Central Bureau of Statistic of Israel (CBS).

  • Rural population: CBS, Population by type of locality
  • Normalized GDP per Capita: CBS, Table 14.2 Gross domestic product and uses of resources and Population of Israel from 1948 to 2065
  • % people under 15: CBS, Population of 0-14 by population groups
  • Poverty: National insurance Institute. Poverty and social gaps 2016, Annual report.
  • Extreme poverty: World Bank open data portal. Population living below 5,5$ a day