When you don't have enough water

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Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza cannot access safe and sufficient water. The problem is rooted, in large measure, in the Israeli occupation.

Access to water

The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 100 liters (a little more than 26 gallons) per day, per person.

Canadians consume an average of 250 liters (66 gallons) per day, Palestinians in Gaza consume an average of 91 liters (24 gallons) per day1, Palestinians in the West Bank consume an average of 20-79 liters (5-21 gallons) per day2, Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume an average of 400 liters (105 gallons) per day3

The consequences of poor or inadequate water

Agriculture suffers

  • Farmers cannot irrigate their crops or water their animals. In hot summer months, this can be disastrous.
  • Lack of water and other basic services in Area C of the West Bank (under full Israeli control) forces many Palestinians to leave their communities, thus allowing Israeli confiscation of land and further expansion of Israeli settlements.4

Human health deteriorates 

  • People who drink contaminated water or reduce washing and bathing because of water shortages are at risk for illnesses like dysentery and diarrhea. This includes 75 percent of people in Gaza.5
  • Over two weeks in 2017, 25 percent of Gazan households with children under 5 experienced water-borne infections.6
  • Dehydration can cause fatigue, digestive problems, stomach ulcers and other infections.

Economic development reverses

  • Without reliable access to water, many factories and industries cannot function.
  • Lack of access to water is a significant factor in the “de-development” of the Palestinian economy since the early 1990s.7

The problem in Gaza: 

Water quality

Gaza’s primary water source, the coastal aquifer, is polluted by over-pumping and wastewater contamination. Ninety-six percent of the water is unsafe to drink. The UN projects the aquifer will be irreparable by 2020.8

Citing security concerns, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 which prohibits many materials from entering, including cement and iron. These materials are required to repair water infrastructure that has deteriorated or was damaged during Israeli bombings in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Because of severe electricity shortages, water is not pumped at the allotted times and with the pressure levels required to sustain families. Desalination plants cannot operate at full capacity.

Access to safe drinking water through the public network plummeted from 98.3 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2014.9

“No one remembers a time in recent memory when drinkable water reliably appeared out of the tap.”


—Robert Piper, former UN coordinator for humanitarian aid.10

The problem in the West Bank

Water access

Eighty percent of groundwater in the West Bank is diverted by Israeli water company Mekorot, mostly for the use of Israeli settlements. Palestinians must buy back their confiscated water from Mekorot and face frequent shortages and high costs.

Palestinian infrastructure is inadequate. New water structures require Israeli permits, which are exceedingly difficult to obtain. Wells, cisterns or other infrastructure built without permits are frequently demolished.
Israel’s unlawful appropriation of natural resources, like water, in occupied Palestine amounts to “pillage,” and violates international law.11

“Palestinians in the West Bank live with a constant shortage of water that is largely manmade.”


—B’Tselem: The Israeli Center for Information on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories.12

References

1. B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “Water Crisis,” 11 November 2017. 

2. Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), “50 Years of Occupation: Dispossession, Deprivation and De-development,” October 2017, p. 13.

3. Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), “Water resource allocations in the occupied Palestinian territory: Responding to Israeli claims,” 2012, p. 8. Israelis within Israel proper use about 287 liters (nearly 76 gallons) per capacity per day.

4. Aljazeera, “Israel: Water as a tool to dominate Palestinians,” 23 June 2016. 

5. OCHA, “Gaza energy crisis,” 10 November 2017. 

6. Palestinian Water Authority, “Water, sanitation and hygiene assessment at the household level in the Gaza Strip,” June 2017.  

7. OCHA, “Gaza energy crisis,” 10 November 2017. 

8. UNSCO, “Gaza ten years later,” July 2017, p. 22. 

9. UNSCO, “Gaza ten years later,” July 2017, p. 20. 

10. UNSCO, “Gaza ten years later,” July 2017, p. 4. 

11. Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), “50 Years of Occupation: Dispossession, Deprivation and De-development,” October 2017, p. 16.

12. B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “Water Crisis,” 11 November 2017. 


This story is part of A Cry for Home, which offers stories, videos and fact sheets from MCC on Palestine and Israel. Learn more about A Cry for Home. 

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