Warnings: 97% of Gaza water is undrinkable & running out.

24 Mar

Photo by Mohammed Zaanoun

Welcome to Palestine, 23 March 2017

Warnings that Gaza will run out of water as 97% is unsuitable for drinking.

The United Nations and Palestinian Water Authority issued warnings that the underground water aquifer, on which Gazan citizens are almost completely dependent, could become unusable by the end of the year.

Head of the Palestine Water Authority in Gaza, Yasser Al-Shanti, explained that Gaza is running an annual freshwater deficit of 110 million cubic metres.

“Gaza suffers from a sharp decline in the quality and quantity of freshwater.” he said

Not a lot has changed since a 2015 report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on assistance to the Palestinian people states that if action is not taken soon then the Gaza Strip could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 if current economic trends persist.

Levels of chloride and untreated sewage have increased the level of nitrates in the water to far beyond what the World Health Organisation considers to be safe.

The water level in some areas has dropped to over 15metres below sea level. Even with desalination plants, the quantity of water available is below half the amount considered ‘bearable’.

Water from private desalination plants can cost five times the price of municipal mains water and is not always safe to drink. According to Oxfam, less than 50% of Gaza’s desalination plants are licensed or well-regulated.

Many residents in Gaza only have access to mains water once a week, however, levels of saline can be so high that it is undrinkable.

Limited access to reliable clean water forces residents to spend huge amounts of money on water supplied by small-scale desalination vendors or on extortionately priced bottled water.

Interestingly, the Emergency Water Sanitation and Healthcare organisation (EWASH), an international and Palestinian coalition, stated that low-income households in Gaza spend more than six times more of their income on water per year than their UK counterparts.

Declining aquifer levels have been linked to the use and continued installation of Israeli wells in towns and settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip. Developments around the boundary are using up Gaza’s already limited water supply without a strategy for Gazan residents.

Due to tight restrictions on materials and goods coming into Gaza, the people have been denied the possibility of developing a solution. Now, the natural reservoir, upon which the 1.8million residents are dependent, is drying up.

However, there are organisations trying to help. An EU funded desalination plant opened in January and groups such as Aneera, Human Appeal and Oxfam are all trying to bring relief to Gaza. Yet this is just a drop in the ocean and the World Bank warns that the shortages may have caused irreversible damage.

A 2015 report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on assistance to the Palestinian people states that if action is not taken soon then the Gaza Strip could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 if current economic trends persist.

 

 

VIDEO: Ashraf Shannon, PressTV reports from Gaza 22 March 2017: Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip have marked World Water Day amid an ongoing water crisis. The Israeli siege and three wars have been hampering efforts to improve water quality in the coastal enclave.

Watch the short video below by EcoPeace Middle East for their possible solutions to the crisis.

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