Water

The Gaza Strip has been significantly impacted by an on going water crisis that can be widely attributed to the neighboring countries surrounding the strip. However, Gaza’s government has virtually no control over who has access to water, for both industrial and agricultural use. Therefore, A lack of industrial growth causes Gaza’s economy to become stagnant, as water is not only used for drinking, but also developing food, which could be potentially bought and sold. The lack of food production also leads to malnutrition, which causes the general populations health to decline. People of Gaza also find themselves with a lack of water for domestic use. [4. Bellisari, Anna. “Public Health and the Water Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” University of California Press. Institute for Palestine Studies, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.] Young Boy Begging for Water

Young Boy Begging for Water, International Solidarity Movement, 2011.

Many citizens of Gaza have very limited access to clean water for drinking and cooking, personal hygiene, and sanitation facilities. This is largely because, there is not enough water in the land shared between Palestine and Israel. The water reserves have been completely exhausted, and a three-year drought certainly did not help regain adequate water supply. According to Anna Bellisari of Institute for Palestine Studies, “as for the densely populated Gaza Strip, the some 800,000 Palestinians there have access to only 25 percent of the fresh water supply…” and the water that is accessible, is of a poor quality, which contributes to the decline of citizens health. [4. Bellisari, Anna. “Public Health and the Water Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” University of California Press. Institute for Palestine Studies, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.] This water crisis is a serious issue, which needs even greater attention than it is receiving now. [4. Bellisari, Anna. “Public Health and the Water Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” University of California Press. Institute for Palestine Studies, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.]

Furthermore, Palestine has one the highest population growth rates in the world. Thus, as Palestine’s population continues to rise, it has already doubled since 1967 and grows at a 5% increase per year, one would expect the water supply to vastly increase as well. However, the water supply has remained virtually the same to that of the year 1967.  This is due to the fact that Israel uses military force to control the water supply. The Israeli military has taken measures to interrupt water flows of major rivers, and have only permitted 7 wells to be made since 1967. It is also important to note, that out of the 720 wells that were once available in palestine, 460 have been destroyed, expropriated, or have simply dried up. Because of this, many communities do not have access to wells. Therefore, they rely on cisterns and natural springs to provide them with an adequate water supply. Nevertheless, when communities run out of water they have collected, they are forced to buy water from private corporations which is very expensive and of poor quality. [4. Bellisari, Anna. “Public Health and the Water Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” University of California Press. Institute for Palestine Studies, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.]

Consequently, members in these communities are forced to travel miles to collect heavy buckets of water, and carry them all the way back home. And those fortunate enough to be living in a city with piped water, may not be as well off as you think. Over 50% of piped water is lost as a result to damaged pipes. [4. Bellisari, Anna. “Public Health and the Water Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” University of California Press. Institute for Palestine Studies, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.] The Israeli Military also often shuts down these pipes, in order to issue collective punishment, and rooftop tanks are often not enough to rely on. Thus, action must be taken in order to provide safer and more reliable water sources that provide citizens with the security of always having a constant water supply. [4. Bellisari, Anna. “Public Health and the Water Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” University of California Press. Institute for Palestine Studies, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.]

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Palestinians filling up potable water, NPR, 2012.

This image depicts Palestinian men, women and children waiting in line to fill up reusable water jugs at a local water purification station within the Gaza Strip. Due to the lack of fresh water provided to ones home, citizens of the Gaza strip must bring home all the water they possibly can in order to have fresh water to drink from, clean with, cook with and bathe with. However, although water purification stations are provided, Gaza is still facing severe environmental disaster that is affecting not only the areas in which these citizens live in, but it is also having drastic effects on citizen’s health. Thus, in order to improve the water quality within the Gaza strip, government organizations and private parties must invest significant amounts of money to provide proper sanitation facilities and direct access to clean water.

Broadcasted by The Free Speech Radio News, this video contains a segment on the drastic effects the water shortage in Gaza has on the people living within this region. Due to the fact that 95% of the drinking water located within the Gaza Strip fails to meet international standard, the citizens within these communities are forced to rely heavily on the water provided to them. Every few days the water runs for a short period of time to allow the local residents to obtain as much water as they can, which is still hardly enough to live on. However, this minimal amount of water may seem as though a dream in the year 2015 when the Gaza Strip’s aquifer is completely dried up. Thus, in order to provide water for years to come, the community strongly insists on their need for a seawater desalination plant.

The World Bank published this video in an effort to show the world the contribution it has been making to the Gaza Strip. Due to the drastic water crisis that has affected this region, the World Bank has dedicated an allotted amount of time since 1994 in order to regulate sanitation and increase water supply. In an effort to do so, the World Bank launched the North Gaza Emergency Sanitation Project as well as providing much needed short-term solutions, such as the Gaza Water Supply Rehabilitation and Expansion Project. Through these different projects, the World Bank hopes to regulate water supply within Gaza, but knows they have a long ways to go.

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Gaza Water Confined and Contaminated, Visualizing Palestine, 2012

The water in the Gaza Strip has long been affected by the war and violence of that area. This image highlights the main issues relating to the pollution of water in this region of the world. The wars on Gaza caused damage to sewage treatments that is unable to be repaired due to Israeli and international aid restrictions. Lack of repairs of the infrastructure leads to contamination of the water. Such contamination labels the water as ‘high risk’ and makes the citizens of said area more disease prone. With sources such as UNICEF, UN OCHA, and the World Bank, the facts on this image are credible.

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Israeli officials destroying a water storage tank used by Palestinian farmers, Al Jazeera, 2011

The picture above shows Israeli soldiers entering a Palestinian village and destroying nine water tanks. The conflict between the two countries does not just involve land, but also water. At the center of the Israel-Palestine conflict is the water crisis. An agreement relating to shared water in this region could greatly enhance the livelihood of the people. This water crisis puts many Palestinians lives in danger since they are denied access to a sufficient amount of clean water. Not only can government policies be made to protect the people of Palestine, but also the use of water should be used as an agent of peace-making, not suffering. vp-west-bank-water-2013-03-21

Not Enough Water in the West Bank, Visualizing Palestine, 2013

This image, entitled ‘Not Enough Water in the West Bank?’, highlights the main problems pertaining to water scarcity in the West Bank. According to the World Health Organization, the average Palestinian consumes 30 liters of water less per day than is recommended while the average Israeli consumes 200 liters of water per day more than is necessary. Israeli authorities control the major water sources of the West Bank, limiting the amount of water allowed to Palestinians. The lack of an amicable relationship between Israel and Palestine causes the water crisis and puts the Palestinian people in danger of water scarcity.

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The current and projected water supply in Gaza, Global Water Intelligence, 2012

This graph details the current and projected water supply in the Gaza Strip.  The Gaza Strip is facing a potential water crisis due to overuse and the declining quality of groundwater.  The Palestinian Water Authority has backed a major desalination project that will be able to process 140 million m3/yr of water by 2035.  To decrease the salinity of the groundwater supply, the Palestinian Water Authority plans to decrease agricultural abstraction from 150 million m3/yr to less than 70 million m3/yr over the same time period.  Funding for half of this project has been promised by Saudi and Kuwaiti development funds, and the French government will contribute another $13 million [8. “Gaza Holding out for Desal Funding.” Global Water Intelligence. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.].  The EIB, World Bank, and the Islamic Development Bank are potential contributors for the remaining funding.  This project and its joint funding show the vital world interest in the water conditions in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian children drink water in Younis
Palestinian children drink water outside their family’s tent in Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Ali Ali/EPA, 2014

This picture shows Palestinian children living in the Gaza Strip drinking water that had been stored in a barrel.  It is necessary to store their water supply in barrels, because the wastewater treatment plant that normally sanitizes their water supply sits idle due to political disagreements.  The treatment plant normally provides clean water to 400,000 people in the Gaza Strip, but unpaid electricity bills have shut it down [9. Kalman, Matthew. “Gaza Warned of Looming Water Crisis.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.].  Israel provides the majority of the electricity to the Gaza Strip, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority cannot agree on who is responsible for paying the bill.  While the politicians continue to disagree, fresh drinking water is running out for the 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

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Elderly man fills water container at public multi-faucet sink of Khan Yunis Water Authority’s wastewater treatment plant, Muhammad Sabah, 2014

This image shows an elderly man filling up a reusable water jug at a water treatment plant.  Although 97% of Gazans are connected to the public water supply system, this does not ensure clean drinking water.  Due to shortages of water, electricity, and lack of infrastructure, Gazans are forced to store water in containers like the one shown.  To combat the shortage of water, Gazans are subject to deliberate water outages; Gazans receive water for six to eight hours at a time.  25% of households receive water on a daily basis, 40% every other day, 20% once every three days, and the remaining 15% once every four days[10. “Gaza Strip.” Over 90% of Water in Unfit for Drinking. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.].

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Khan Yunis Water Authority wastewater treatment facility, Muhammad Sabah, 2014

This photo depicts a wastewater treatment facility in Khan Yunis, which is a city in the Southern Gaza Strip. This facility is one of the few factories that can supply precious water that is safe for consumption, for over 90 percent of the water in the Gaza Strip is undrinkable. Even when there is drinkable water that is accessible to the people, there are times when the electricity needed to transport this water is not available. This can leave families without water for up to four days. Although families try to make the best of what they have with their storage containers for water, sometimes they are still forced to buy fresh water from vendors in order to get by. The World Health Organization estimates that one person living in the Gaza Strip consumes approximately 70 to 90 liters of water per day; the minimal consumption for a human being in one day should be 100 liters. [2. “Gaza Strip.” Over 90% of Water in Unfit for Drinking. B’Tselem, 09 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.]

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Water truck in South Hebron Hills delivers water to village that is not hooked up to water grid, Oren Ziv, 2013

Water trucks, such as the one shown above, help in distributing water to the citizens of the Gaza Strip. The main issue is with whether or not there is an equal distribution of water. Because Israel commands water distribution with its water policies, Israeli citizens receive much more water than their Palestinian counterparts. There are many factors to why  Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip do not receive an equal amount of water: first, existing infrastructure associated with high water loss is not upgraded; second, no infrastructure is developed for those who are not connected with the water grid, which supplies the water to people; and third, the Palestinian water network is governed by many local officials, and because there is no nationally controlled water network, water cannot be distributed fairly. [5. “Press Release.” Undeniable Discrimination in the Amount of Water Allocated to Israelis and Palestinians. B’Tselem, 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.]

Water in Gaza : A Palestinian boys drinks water from a public tap in Gaza
A Palestinian boy drinks water from a public tap in the southern Gaza Strip Rafah refugee camp, Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images, 2012

The water crisis in the Gaza Strip is in such a dire situation that if no action is taken, then the location will be uninhabitable in a couple of years. Some have tried to take action by suggesting a $500 million desalination plant, which would make the contaminated water drinkable. [6. Vidal, John. “Water Crisis Will Make Gaza Strip ‘unliveable'” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 30 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.] However, the problem with this plan lies in the fact that water is one of the chief factors in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Furthermore, because the Gaza Strip is a fundamental water resource for many border countries, reaching a definitive plan without conflict between participants may be difficult.