By Aseel al-Akhras
RAMALLAH, Thursday, December 1, 2022 (WAFA) - Palestine, exhausted by the Israeli occupation, did not succeed in finding long-term solutions to the crisis of water scarcity that kept the daily per capita consumption of water for the Palestinians less than the internationally recommended rate and it is still decreasing, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and the Water Authority.
The water crisis afflicting the world due to climate change, rising temperatures, and the decline in freshwater levels is augmented by the Israeli occupation, which is perching on Palestinian land, stealing its groundwater, and preventing Palestinians from benefiting from their natural resources, while preventing any solutions to it.
The average Palestinian per capita consumption of water is 84.2 liters per day, 82.4 liters per capita per day in the West Bank, and 86.6 liters in the Gaza Strip, while different governorates consume different rates per capita, per day estimated at 100 liters per day according to the standards of the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, Israeli consumption is estimated to be six times that of the Palestinian, due to the theft of Palestinian water resources.
The crisis is not limited to water scarcity, but also to the high rate of its pollution. In the Gaza Strip, the per capita share of water suitable for human use reaches 26.8 liters per day, with 201.8 million cubic meters of water available to Palestinians is unfit for human use, compared to 246.6 million cubic meters suitable for human use, which includes purchased and desalinated water.
According to the PCBS, more than 97% of the water that is pumped from the coastal basin does not comply with the standards of the World Health Organization.
The report shows that the amount of water extracted from the coastal basin in the Gaza Strip amounted to 190.5 million cubic meters during the year 2020, while it should not exceed 50-60 million cubic meters per year. The excessive extraction of the underground water led to a decrease in the water reservoir to less than 19 meters under sea level and to the entry of seawater and sewage into the reservoir, which made more than 97% of the coastal basin water not compatible with WHO standards.
The political situation poses an important challenge that prevents the development of an integrated Palestinian water system at the national level, as Israel controls more than 85% of the Palestinian water resources.
Palestine depends mainly on water extracted from ground and surface sources, which accounts for 79% of the total available water, while 108.8 million cubic meters are extracted for underground water (the eastern, western, and northeastern basins) in the West Bank, while the Israeli occupation has prevented the Palestinians from accessing the Jordan River water since 1967, which is estimated at about 250 million cubic meters.
The report indicated that the Israeli measures that prevent the Palestinians from exploiting their natural resources, especially water, forced them to compensate for the shortfall by purchasing water from the Israeli water company Mekorot, as the amount of water purchased for domestic use reached 90.3 million cubic meters in 2020, which constitutes 20% of the total water available out of the amount of available of 448.4 million cubic meters, of which 53.3 million cubic meters flowed from Palestinian springs, 299.1 million cubic meters flowed from underground basins, and 5.7 million cubic meters of desalinated drinking water, which constitutes 1% of the available water.
In its efforts to stop the illegal Israeli exploitation of Palestinian resources, and in refusing to keep Palestinian water under Israeli occupation and control, President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We will go to the competent international parties to stop the occupation's aggression against our waters."
He affirmed in a speech before the Fourth Arab Water Conference, held in the Arab League under the slogan "Arab Water Security for Life, Development and Peace", delivered on his behalf by a member of the PLO Executive Committee and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr, that the Dead Sea constitutes another example of the assault on Palestinian waters, as it shrinks year after year due to the diversion or withholding of the river waters, and the absence of agreement on allocation and management of the shares in accordance with international law.
For his part, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that the Israeli occupation authorities steal 600 million cubic meters of Palestinian groundwater, which amounts to about 800 million cubic meters, and divert it into its cities and settlements, noting that the Dead Sea is going to be totally dry until 2044 because of the Israeli measures against it.
Shtayyeh told the Fourth Arab Water Conference that a third of the West Bank water is used in Israel, and when the Israeli consumes 430 liters of water per day, the Palestinian individual consumes only 72 liters, which is less than the global average of 120 liters per day.
"We are fighting for our water rights, and the Dead Sea is threatened with death and complete drought until 2044 because of the Israeli measures against it from diverting its water resources and depleting its capabilities, including minerals and salts extracted by Israeli companies."
The Prime Minister said that after 1967, Israel began digging water wells in the West Bank deeper than the Palestinian wells, which led to its control of most of the groundwater, and led to the drying up of springs such as Ain Al-Auja, adding: This theft affected the transformation of the agricultural pattern in Palestine, as the area of irrigated land decreased from 6% to about 2% of the cultivated land, and farmers shifted from cultivating citrus and bananas to cultivations that require less water, such as strawberries and others.
The head of the Water Authority, Mazen Ghuneim, said the Israeli occupation is exploiting water to undermine the chances of establishing a fully sovereign Palestinian state, through its illegal expansionist plans, and its obstruction of all efforts to develop the water sector in all its components. This exacerbates the suffering of the Palestinian people, which is considered a flagrant violation of the relevant international laws, treaties and agreements.
He pointed out that the occupation continues to plunder ground and surface water resources in the occupied Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon, and its ambitions in Arab water, in general, are increasing, while it controls more than 85% of the water resources in Palestine, which made Palestine face a difficult water situation, reminding that water is one of the five files in the final status negotiations with Israel.