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The dramatic deterioration of water quality in Gaza poses a grave public health threat and forms a major challenge for the Palestinian water sector. Gaza’s groundwater has become saline following years of over-exploitation of the Coastal Aquifer. Inflow of saline water is both a result of seawater intrusion and of lateral inflow from Israel. Currently, the salinity levels in most parts of the Gaza Strip are well above the WHO’s approved guideline of 250 milligrams per litre (mg/L), both due to wastewater contamination and seawater intrusion.[i] [ii]
Additional water problems associated with salinity include high levels of boron. Boron concentrations in the eastern part of the aquifer exceed 1 mg/L, a level of contamination that not only has potential toxic effects on human health, but also harms crops and vegetation.
Furthermore, 80% of wastewater in Gaza is not treated at all. According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, 90-95% of water wells are contaminated with higher than acceptable levels of nitrates and chloride.[iii]
In other words, over 90% of water in Gaza does not meet the internationally accepted standards for human use. This puts most of Gaza’s 1.76 million inhabitants at high risk of health problems associated with deteriorated water quality. For example, the Gazan population is increasingly threatened by waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, which has caused many fatalities in recent years.[iv]
According to the UN, the Gaza aquifer could be totally unusable by 2016 and irrevocably damaged by 2020 if no action is taken (Fig. 6).
[i]  PWA (Palestinian Water Authority), 2012a. Status Report of Water Resources in the Occupied State of Israel 2012. Available at http://www.pwa.ps/userfiles/file/تقارير/تصنيف%201/WR%20STATUS%20Report-final%20draft%202014-04-01.pdf, accessed 8 May 2015.
[ii] PWA, 2014a. Gaza Water Resources Status Report, 2013/2014, December 2014. Available at: http://goo.gl/mkznDr, accessed 10 March 2015.
[iii] PWA, 2014b. Gaza Strip: No Clean Drinking Water, Not Enough Energy, and Threatened Future, March 2014. Available at www.irinnews.org/pdf/pwa_gaza_water_fact_sheet_3-2014.pdf, accessed 15 April 2015.
[iv] UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency), 2009. Epidemiological Bulletin for Gaza Strip, February 2009. Available at: http://www.who.int/hac/crises/international/wbgs/gaza_unrwa_epi_15feb2009.pdf, accessed 1 May 2015.