Seen here in 2005, the Dead Sea has shrunk significantly since the damming of the Jordan River and the start of major industrial activity there in the 20th century.Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty
Despite unresolved issues, the deal was viewed optimistically in the grim reality of broader Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The Palestinians say Israel is now set to provide them additional quantities of water beyond what they already receive as part of previous agreements, including the Oslo Accords.
"We showed that we can work together despite the political problems," said Palestinian Water Authority Minister Shaddad Attili, according to Agence-France Press.
The deal was lauded by Israel's Water and Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom as "historic."
One of the key initiatives to be pursued in the coming months includes the development of a desalination plant in Aqaba, with water to be shared by Israel and Jordan.
The desalination plant will have a capacity of desalinating 200 million cubic meters of water each year from the Red Sea. Some of that water will flow into the Dead Sea, where scientists will monitor how the less salty Red Sea water affects the extremely salty Dead Sea water.
The pact will see Jordan providing 50 million cubic liters of desalinated water each year to Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat.
In exchange, Israel will provide northern Jordan with the same amount of water from the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake.
It will also see Israel raising its annual sales of water to the Palestinian Authority by 20 to 30 million cubic meters per year, up from the current level of 52 million cubic meters.
The World Bank said the project is "limited in scale and designed to accomplish two objectives: to provide new water to a critically water short region; and the opportunity, under scientific supervision, to better understand the consequences of mixing Red Sea and Dead Sea waters."
The Dead Sea, which is quickly disappearing, is a tourist draw for both Israel and Jordan. It is a source of minerals and exports for both countries as well. The sea itself borders West Bank territory that is directly controlled by Israel.
It’s unclear what effect the project could have on Palestinians living in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which is separated from the West Bank by Israeli territory. A World Bank press release only mentions the West Bank, which is illegally occupied by Israeli military forces and civilian settlers.
Gazans have seen their groundwater contaminated by salty Mediterranean seawater, making them reliant on water supplies from neighboring Israel. Wastewater treatment also remains a festering political problem there.