Desalination, space and power: The ramifications of Israel's changing water geography

Eran Feitelson*, Gad Rosenthal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Desalination alters a basic premise of water geography - fresh water flows from the sea inward, rather than the other way around. But, is this observation important? To address this question it is necessary to identify the potential ramifications of the changes in the water geography brought about by desalination. Israel is used as a basis for identifying these ramifications as it has recently embarked on a large-scale desalination program. The direct readily observable implications of the three main attributes of desalination, the reversal of flow direction, the continuity of water production, regardless of weather and climate vagrancies, and its cost are first spelled out. Then the potential ramifications for internal power structures, pricing and transboundary water agreements are discussed for the Israeli and Israeli-Arab scene. It is shown that the spatial flexibility introduced by desalination may undermine existing power relations within the water sector, which were based on the previous water geography. In the Israeli case these changes may be used to undermine the monopoly power of the national water company and of its organized labor, thereby advancing a neoliberal agenda. Desalination may have also significant distributional implications, as a function of the pricing effects it may have. Finally, the new water geography raises new issues in the Israeli-Arab water scene. The general insights gained from the Israeli case are then spelled out.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)272-284
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Desalination
  • Israel
  • Neoliberalization
  • Power
  • Transboundary water
  • Wastewater
  • Water geography


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