As the Middle East suffers from drought caused by weather patterns and climate change, a population in the region has been enduring water shortages for years. The culprit in this case is human. Since the beginning of the occupation of Palestine, Israel has controlled and limited the Palestinian access to water. Israel controls the water resources and uses over 80% of water pumped from the mountain aquifer which is located in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Palestinians have an annual quota of water set by Israel and they are not allowed to dig any new water wells. The figure below shows the difference water consumption between Palestinians and Israelis. While Palestinian consumption is well below the 100 liters per capita per day recommended amount set by the World Health Organizations, Israel’s declared consumption per capita is almost double that.
It has even been reported that daily water consumption in some Israeli settlements reach 430 liters per capita.
This situation is not new. Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Territories, a report published by the United Nations in 1985, found that Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ access to water for agricultural needs have pushed Palestinians away from traditional rural life to work as laborers in settlements. The farmers that have stayed in agriculture rely solely on rainfall, which has limited their harvests. In 2011 Israel destroyed 89 Palestinian water structures. At least 60 of these structures were funded by international donors, some of which were rainwater harvesting structures built by the Palestinians to overcome the water limitations set by Israel, while some dated back to the 7th century.
In the recent Israeli onslaught on the Gaza strip, more infrastructure was destroyed. The seven-year blockade and other wars on the strip have already deteriorated water facilities and infrastructure in the area. Palestinian officials report that water wells, water networks and sewage networks were targeted by Israeli bombings, leaving many of the Gazans without safe drinking water. OXFAM found that 90% of the water in Gaza is unsafe to drink. In fact, about 90% of the wells, wastewater treatment plants, and desalination plants are not functional because of lack of resources as a result of the war and the blockade. In addition to the material damage of the water sector, 7 water technicians have been killed trying to maintain the wells. This has contributed to the rise of a risky water delivery service.
Israel has been systematically using water to control and displace Palestinians since 1967. The last Gaza war has just ended but the occupation has not. The destroyed infrastructure will have various health and socioeconomic impacts, which will make life under occupation even tougher.