West Bank water “unequally shared”

A deepening drought in the Middle East is aggravating a dispute over water resources after the World Bank found that Israel is taking four times as much water as the Palestinians from a shared aquifer, Reuters reported. Although Israelis and Palestinians share the mountain aquifer that runs the length of the occupied West Bank, the World Bank found huge disparities in water use.


As the region faces a fifth consecutive year of drought, Palestinians have access to only a fifth of the water supply, the bank said, while Israel — which controls the area — takes the rest. Israelis were found to use 240 cubic metres of water per person each year, against 75 cubic metres for West Bank Palestinians and 125 for Gazans. Increasingly, the Palestinians must rely on water bought from the Israeli national water company, Mekorot.


In some areas of the West Bank, Palestinians are surviving on as little as 10 to 15 litres per person each day, which is at or below humanitarian disaster-response levels recommended to avoid epidemics. The situation is worse in Gaza, the bank said. There, Palestinians rely on an aquifer that has become increasingly saline and polluted, and only 5% to 10% of the available water is clean enough to drink.


Israel has disputed the bank’s figures and the scale of the problem on the Palestinian side, and argued that the water problem should be solved by finding new sources, through desalination and water treatment. The Palestinian water authority asserts that Israel, as the occupying power, has “equitable and reasonable” water-allocation obligations under international law.


“The bottom line is there is a severe water crisis out there, predominantly on the Palestinian side, and it will be felt even worse this coming summer,” said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East.


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