Water resources - introduction

During the decades Israel has illegally occupied Palestine, it has severely controlled water and the Palestinians’ access to it. Israel has pirated a vital aquifer in the West Bank for almost exclusive Israeli settler usage; damaged water resources; ignored water sanitation procedures; destroyed infrastructure used to transport water to the occupied Palestinian territories; and used Palestinian villages as a dumping site for impure water and wastes.

Israeli Jewish citizens – particularly the colonizing settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank - use four times more water than their Palestinian neighbors, according to a report released by Amnesty International, “Troubled Waters – Palestinians denied fair access to water.”

Whereas, Israeli citizens – even the illegal settlers in the West Bank – have multiple water sources, the Palestinians only have the Mountain Aquifer.

"Swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms in Israeli settlements ... stand in stark contrast next to Palestinian villages whose inhabitants struggle even to meet their domestic water needs," the human rights group said.

The settlers also use more than 95 percent of the water available from the Jordan River, which recently has been closed to bathers and others because of massive pollution problems. Various news outlets reported that the illegal settlements are dumping raw sewage into the river.

The World Health Organization recommends the daily annual usage of water per person should be about 100 liters, or 26 gallons. Yet, the Israeli per capita daily water consumption stands at 300 liters per day, or 79 gallons. In sharp contrast, Palestinian water usage is about 70 liters per day, or about 18 gallons, according to Amnesty International.

In emergency cases Palestinians survive on less than 20 liters, or 5 gallons, of water a day, the report states.

In rural areas, some 200,000 Palestinians have little or no access to running water, and the Israeli military often prohibits them from collecting rainwater, Amnesty International reports. 

In Gaza, the situation is much worse. What little water treatment infrastructure there was to service the area’s 1.6 million people was destroyed during Israel’s three-week air and ground assault in December 2008 and January 2009. In fact, during the height of Operation Cast Lead, some 50,000 people had no access to drinking water, according to Al Mezan’s and Defence for Children International’s report, “Bearing the Brunt Again: Child Rights Violations during Operation Cast Lead.”

Because airstrikes destroyed the wastewater treatment facilities, tons of raw sewage spewed into adjacent farm fields, which has leached into the ground drinking water. Sewage also spilled into the Mediterranean Sea every day. Currently, 90 percent of Gaza's water is not drinkable. But Israel didn’t just destroy the treatment facility; soldiers also damaged or destroyed thousands of rooftop tanks used to collect rain water.

Israel’s total blockade of Gaza has prevented any reconstruction material from reaching Gaza. Consequently, the Palestinians there face grave health risks because of the poor and contaminated nature of their water supply.

~ American Muslims for Palestine, 2012