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In the Gaza Strip, where there is a greater water supply in theory, the majority of wells (80%) only work partially and the rest not at all. In 2006, almost half of Gazan households bought their water, either bottled or from tanker trucks, because tap water was too salty to drink. Daily consumption is approximately 90 litres per person (2013/2014). Moreover, the quality of water delivered by the municipality exceeds maximum standards for contaminants and is largely unfit for human consumption (as described in Water Quality – Gaza). In 2014, system losses were estimated at 46%, and supplies are unreliable as power cuts and electricity shortages also prevent the processing and pumping of domestic water supplies.[i]
As tap water is salty and polluted, most Gazans depend on private vendors for their drinking water. This water comes from over 40 privately owned and operated desalination plants that have started up over the past few years to meet increasing demand. Currently, there is no monitoring of the quality of water produced in these plants; and the PWA has only licensed around half of them. Lack of basic mineral content of this desalinated water is another significant issue, as the process used (reverse osmosis) removes most of the minerals found in the majority of uncontaminated surface and groundwater sources. In fact, providing “pure water”, free of these minerals, has become the competitive edge these private plants use to sell their product. The desalinated water is delivered to homes via tanker truck or individuals fill up their containers from small tanks at supermarkets and corner stores.[ii] These water supplies cost up to $1.30 for 100 litres, which can add up to more than a third of a poor family’s monthly income.
Before the December 2008 Israeli offensive, over half of the population of Gaza City had access to water for only a few hours once a week. The ongoing blockade has prevented entry of necessary spare parts, materials and equipment for the water and wastewater facilities and has resulted in the construction of new wells with poor water quality and quick aquifer deterioration from the intrusion of untreated sewage and seawater. These issues have become even more acute since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge (July-August 2014), which further damaged existing infrastructure (Fig. 10).
[i] PWA, 2014d. Gaza Sustainable Water Supply Program, April 2014. Available at: http://goo.gl/JlwQtn, accessed 28 April 2015.
[ii] World Bank, 2009. West Bank And Gaza Assessment Of Restrictions On Palestinian Water Sector Development, April 2009. Available at: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWESTBANKGAZA/Resources/WaterRestrictionsReport18Apr2009.pdf, accessed 21 April 2015.