Role of a central administrator in managing water resources: The case of the Israeli water commissioner

Eran Feitelson*, Itay Fischhendler, Paul Kay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Water managers are usually implicitly assumed to be public servants whose sole purpose is to manage water in the best possible way for the public good. Yet water managers, as all bureaucrats, have interests, ideas, beliefs, and constituencies. This paper investigates whether and how differences between water managers affect the management of water resources and especially their action in face of scientific uncertainty. Israel has an exceptionally centralized national water system. The water commissioner entrusted with operating and regulating this system has wide-ranging power to allocate water among users and to determine the rate of abstraction from the various water resources. The water allocations and abstraction policies of different water commissioners in Israel are analyzed. It is shown that the tenure of a water commissioner is a significant explanatory variable of water resource management, controlling for variations in precipitation and state of the water resources. A more detailed analysis of their abstraction decisions shows that different water commissioners followed distinctly different policies under similar conditions. It is suggested that a stricter checks and balances system may attenuate these intertenure variations in policies.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberW11415
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007


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