4:06pm , Friday 24th September 2021

Israelis Enjoy Palestinian Water and Sell them Polluted Mineral Water

1 September 2021

Investigation by: Sally Abdel-Haq and Suha Kamil

Maher and his family have been suffering water shortages for nearly 10 years. They get water through a well twice a month in quantities that are not sufficient for their needs. This well is the only source of water for all the families that reside in the town of ‘Jaba’, which is one of seven communities that do not receive sufficient water in Jenin governorate, north of the West Bank.

Fifty-year old Maher Hamamra suffers from the same problem, “The well located near the town of Jaba’ pumps a maximum of 100 cups per hour, that is around 22 liters for a population of about 36000. It is hardly enough for us, which forces us to search for other sources of water. When malfunctions happen, we have to buy water from other wells that supply us up to 20 cups or around 5 liters a day at a costs of 20 shekels per cup, that is $6 and an extra financial burden”.

People are deprived of water

Mahdi Daraghmeh lives in the ‘Tubas’ governorate with his ten children. They receive water only once a week. Daraghmeh is forced to buy expansive water from the Israeli company ‘Mekorot’.

The water deficit in the West Bank is 58 million cubic meters

According to the Palestinian Water Authority website, water in Palestine comes from two main sources. The first is surface water mainly the Jordan River, that is controlled by ‘Mekorot’ water company, through which Israel exploits 85% of this source and its tributaries in Lake Tiberias and Hula. Underground water and springs form the second main source of water spread over eight basins from north to south Palestine. The Palestinian Water Authority manages and distributes this water through companies and municipalities in cities close to the underground reservoirs. The acting director of planning at the Palestinian Water Authority Adel Yasin explains that remote cities get their supplies from the Israeli water company ‘Mekorot’ in varying quantities based on their needs.

Data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics show that West Bank cities suffer a real water deficit, as they don’t get enough water to meet their demands. Until 2018, the recorded deficit was about 58 million cubic meters across the West Bank with Jenin, Tulkarm and Tubas suffering the greatest shortages.

Yasin attributes this deficit to increased demands, as the population doubled since the establishment of the Water Authority in 1995. Yasin explains that the Oslo Agreement signed between the PLO and Israel in 1993, determined the quantities of water supplied to the Palestinians in an initial five years transitional period during which, work was to be done to develop other sources to secure an additional 70 to 80 million cubic meters of water from the Eastern basin and other West Bank sources. However, the Israeli side did not abide by the agreement and did not supply the Palestinian territories with the additional quantities as per agreement.A Flourish chart

The role of the occupation authorities in exacerbating the water deficit

Muhammad Saeed Al-Humaidi states that the Israeli occupation, limits well diggings to 120-140 meters in the western and eastern basins of the West Bank. The Israelis also prohibits the construction of water infrastructure to connect and supply the areas between North Jenin and south Hebron, which could resolve the water shortages problem.

Adel Yasin points out that the Israeli occupation controls all water resources and increases restrictions on exploitation of the northeastern and western basins. The annual renewable water from the underground reservoirs stands at 750 million cubic meters per annum. The Palestinian side is only allowed to exploit 118 million cubic meters, a mere 15% of the total capacity.

Yasin adds, “The Israeli Water Company ‘Mekorot’ exploits over 600 million cubic meter of the remaining renewable quantities of the basins that fall completely within in the West Bank, in addition to more than 55 million cubic meters from more than 30 underground wells in the Jordan Valley area which is also in the eastern basin.”

West Bank governorates receive less than the global quota of water

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that an individual should get 50 to 100 liters of water for domestic use and drinking water per day. WHO allows for an additional 20% of water per capita, to cover water for industrial and commercial use. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, this brings the quota per capita to approximately 150 liters.

In comparison Yasin adds that the share of water for Israelis is seven times that of the Palestinians. According to the reports, the daily share of a Palestinian person ranges between 50-80 liters while the share of Israeli individuals, especially settlers, ranges between 400-800 liters per day.

A comparison of data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics show that all West Bank governorates have been suffering from water shortages for more than ten years. These governorates receive less than the global share of water with exception for the governorates of Jericho and the Jordan Valley.A Flourish chart

Jenin has the highest deficit rate in the West Bank governorates

Data analysis proved that Jenin governorate received the least quantity of water with 50 liters per capita in 2018. Bethlehem and Hebron governorates received 78 liters, and Nablus 83. Jericho and the Jordan Valley were the most fortunate with 268 liters. This confirms that Palestinian cities suffer from inequity in their water supply in addition to the overall deficit.A Flourish chart

Water Loss in Palestine amounts to 30 million cubic meters

Palestinian cities also suffer from water wastage which exacerbate the problem of water scarcity. Data has shown a 30 million cubic meters wasted in the West Bank in 2018.

Adel Yasin explains that there is a set 10% wastage of water in any network attributed to natural causes like its design, types of pipes and pumping mehtods, which cannot be eliminated.

On the other hand, the age of the network and its 50 year old pipes, inaccurate meters reading and theft results in a larger loss estimated at 30%.

In the West Bank Areas designated as ‘C’ According to the Oslo Agreement, the wastage has been reduced from 14% to 10%, this is due to effective coordination between the security services and the governors in their efforts to protect main distribution pipes in those areas from theft.

Quantities of water purchased from Mekorot are on the increase

A Flourish chart

Data show that the percentage of water purchased from the Israeli Mekorot water company was on the rise from 2005 to 2018 in the cities of the West Bank. At the same time, the percentage of water pumped out from wells and springs has decreased which has rendered Palestinians dependent on the Mekorot company as main source for buying water.A Flourish chart

Adel Yasin states that the quantities of water purchased for domestic use purposes are in the range of 80 million cubic meters, most of it goes to the West Bank, and a small quantity goes to the Gaza Strip. This water reaches the Palestinian consumer at the subsidised price of 2.86 and 3.3 shekels per cubic meter as part of the government policy to support citizens’ access to basic utilities. Local water tank suppliers buy this water at 2.60 shekels even.

Water growth rates have been in decline in the West Bank

Data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reveal that water growth rates in the cities of the West Bank have been diminishing continuously between 2005 to 2018, except for the year 2006. This comes despite the fact that the population numbers did not increase significantly during these years.A Flourish chartA Flourish chart

The role of the Water Authority in solving the problem