Palestinians accuse Israel of ‘unfair distribution’ on World Water Day
Water supply and sanitation in the Palestinian territories are suffering from the unfair distribution of resources on account of Israel, Palestinian authorities said, bringing attention to their struggle in a statement issued on World Water Day.
The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) called for sustainable infrastructure development in the wake of Israeli occupation to ensure not only water availability but also its quality.
“Palestine suffers from the unfair distribution of water sources, which remain under almost full Israeli control. As an evidence to this inequality, the Israeli daily share per capita of water consumption reached seven times higher than the Palestinian’s,” PWA and PCBS said in a joint press statement.
Palestinian water resources are fully controlled by Israel, subject to the provisions enshrined in the Oslo Accords. In the West Bank, according to some estimates, Israel is using more than 85 percent of the water, covering around a quarter of its own needs.
In order to cover its needs in the Gaza Strip in 2013, Palestinians pump over 100 million cubic meters of water from the coastal aquifer, according to the statement, far exceeding its “sustainable yield” of some 50-60 mcm. Another 104 mcm were extracted in the West Bank.
In addition the water that remains suffers from poor quality.
“More than 90% of the water pumped from the coastal aquifer in Gaza Strip does not satisfy the water quality standards of the World Health Organization,” according to the statement.
As for the wastewater, the treatment plants do not have the capacity to handle all the waste, causing severe water pollution. The development of the sector highly depends on external financing, which is highly problematic because of the Israeli-imposed blockade. The lasting blockade of the Gaza Strip as well as the Gaza War last summer have caused severe damage to the water supply infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
The water quality is considerably worse in the Gaza strip when compared to the West Bank, with only 5.8 percent of Gazans satisfied in 2013. In West Bank that number stood at 73.5 percent, the agencies said.
On the economic front, water shortages are having a “negative effect” on the Palestinian economy, especially on agriculture. It is estimated that roughly 90 percent of extracted water is used for field irrigation, about 20 percentage points higher than the international average. Yet this amount of water was only enough to irrigate 16 percent of Palestinian agricultural land.
Additionally, the Palestinian authorities said that Israel deprives them of their right to an estimated 250 mcm annual extract from the Jordan River since 1967. In general Palestinians claim they have a legal right to the ownership of three water sources in the area: The groundwater reservoir of the Mountain Aquifer, the Gaza Strip Coastal Aquifer and the Jordan River.
Prospects of sustainable water access to Palestinians are also being placed in jeopardy by the latest UN forecasts, which state that the world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years. Evidence on the ground seems to support this theory with some regions facing their worst droughts in decades.
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The UN predicts that underground rainfall patterns will become more erratic with climate change and the underground water reserves will suffer as a result. And as the world’s population hits 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will be needed to sustain such growth.
“Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit,” the annual World Water Development Report said.
The report predicts that global water demand will increase 55 per cent by 2050. Unless the trend is reversed, our planet will have only 60 per cent of the water it needs in 2030. As of today some 748 million people worldwide have limited or no access to clean drinking water.