Water in Gaza: Problems and Prospects
Birzeit University Working Paper No. 2011/19 (ENG) – CPE Module
66 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2011 Last revised: 8 Apr 2011
Date Written: 2011
Messerschmid starts by comparing conditions in the West Bank, which is rich in groundwater of excellent quality but largely under Israeli control, with conditions in Gaza, which has hardly any appreciable recharge from rain and a water supply that is almost entirely contaminated. The coastal aquifer constitutes the only source of water directly available to the Gaza Strip itself, given its total, forced separation from the West Bank. Decreasing water levels increase the natural inflows of saline groundwater and the largest source of pollution resides in the large amounts of untreated or insufficiently treated waste water infiltrating into the aquifer. The 1967 occupation, compounded by the total siege in place since 2007, has prevented the building of a single modern and sufficiently sized waste water treatment plant, so pollution has increased. In exploring solutions, he says that local and international experts urge waste water treatment, transfers from the West Bank aquifer, and most of all, desalination. In reality, he says, waste water treatment will only meet a very small percentage of needs; transfer from the West Bank is politically and physically unrealistic (Israel will prevent it; the Hebron area itself faces a water shortage); and desalination, a hugely expensive project, subjects Gaza to constant Israeli blackmail through the threat to destroy plants or to withhold the energy, inputs, or expertise needed to run them. The only solution, he concludes, is one whereby legal pressure and economic incentives bring about equitable water sharing by way of transfers from Israel.
Keywords: Water, Gaza Strip, Israel, Palestinian Authority
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