News Feature | November 13, 2013

U.N. Report: Clean Water Scarce In Gaza Strip

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Access to clean water is a growing problem in the Gaza Strip, according to a United Nations report. 

"In the Gaza Strip, 90 percent of water in the underlying coastal aquifer beneath the Gaza Strip is unfit for human consumption as a result of pollution caused by raw sewage and rising seawater infiltration," the report said.

Water is a "constant point of conflict with Israel," the Financial Times reported

The coastal aquifer that most people on the Gaza Strip depend is in dire condition and could become unusable within the next three years, and irreversibly polluted by 2016, the UN had previously found.

"Polluted tap water has forced many families to buy expensive water from external vendors or to rely on desalinated water supplied by the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, putting an unreasonable burden on average household incomes, which are already struggling at or below subsistence levels," the report said. 

Gaza's water is polluted by sewage and chemicals, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, its population is growing. 

"With no streams or rivers to speak of, Gaza has historically relied almost exclusively on its coastal aquifer, which receives some 50-60 million cubic meters of refill each year thanks to rainfall and runoff from the Hebron hills to the east," Reuters said. 

Desalination facilities "and their public taps are a lifesaver for some of Gaza's 1.6 million residents," Reuters said. 

Most Gaza strip residents drink about 70 to 90 liters of water per day, "which is well below the global standard set by the World Health Organization," according to the UN report.

Israel announced in September that is would build a pipeline to improve water access for Gaza Strip residents. 

"The new pipeline will increase supplies to the Gaza Strip to 10 million cubic meters," Bloomberg reported. The West Bank water allotment "will rise by 4 million cubic meters to 57 million."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the water request, even though Gaza has been ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas since 2007, Bloomberg said.

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