Water importance in our lives
Water is the main source for life, without water there will be no industry, agriculture and construction and there will be no life without it. God Said” Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature”, Genesis 1:20. Therefore, all living creatures (humans, plant life and animals) need water for their survival. Water throughout history was the core for life; whereby civilizations have flourished wherever there was a source of water whilst others have faded away or collapsed due to scarcity of water resources. People throughout history fought for a small pitch of water. “21 The necessities of life are water, food, clothing, and a home where you can have privacy”. Sirach 29: 21
In his speech on the 22nd March 2005 addressing World Water day, the United Nations Secretary General described Water as a “source for life” confirming that the world needs to respond much better in making water not a resource of conflict but instead forging it a catalyst for cooperation. This speech comes while people in many countries around the world are facing serious problems ranging from the shortage of the potable water to the inadequate distribution and monopoly of water resources that certainly have adverse consequences on all aspects of life. Hence, unless used in equitable and efficient ways water could become the most serious altering factor to countries’ socio economic development and a dominant resource of conflict between and among countries, as has been expressed by the Commission on Sustainable Development.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not explicitly mention the right of people to basic water needs. However, this was certainly implied when assuring in Article 3 that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” this logically entails access to water, as without water life is not possible.
Access to drinking water & sanitation are main indicators of the human well-being. In adopting the Millennium Development Goals, countries of the world pledged to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water & basic sanitation by the year 2015.
The issue of the availability of water resources and their management is one of the most important and urgent issues in the Middle East in general and in the occupied Palestinian territories in particular because of the decline in the average amount of water available per capita per year for all uses. The occupied Palestinian territories is among the countries with the scarcest renewable water resources per capita due to both natural and artificial constraints, amounting to around 60 l/c/day for all purposes.
The water problem remains one of the most controversial issues needing resolution between Israel and Palestine. The current water crisis is not only a consequence of the water scarcity in the region, but also an inherent part of the general Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The main challenges and obstacles in building, developing, rehabilitating and managing the infrastructure necessary to provide water and wastewater services in the occupied Palestinian territories are as follows:
Thus, the most important problem facing the water sector is meeting the immediate and future needs of water because of population growth and the requirements of development for the socio-economic sectors.
At present, and mainly due to political constraints, water needs exceed the available water supply. The gap between the need estimated to be at least 140 MCM/year and the supply of 58 MCM/year is growing, emphasizing the need for the adoption of the integrated water resources management approach and the mobilization of any additional conventional and non-conventional water resources, thus helping to partially solve the existing problems of the water sector.
Following occupation, Israel established control over water resources in the oPt and all Palestinian water resources are declared Israeli State Property, whereby Israeli commanders are given complete authority over all water resources in the West Bank and Palestinians are prohibited from developing water resources and infrastructure without an Israeli permit, including drilling wells, maintaining springs, cisterns, reservoirs, etc..
Although the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum per capita supply of 150 liters per capita per day (150 lt./c/day), the average water supply to 57% of Palestinian communities is about 63 lt./c/day. In 7% of the Palestinian communities, the per capita supply is less than or equal to 30 lt. /c/day and in 36% it is between 30 and 50 l./c/day. Such surveys relate exclusively to 69% of the Palestinian communities that are connected to water networks; while the 31% representing 250 Palestinian communities are left without water linkages and must rely upon rainfall harvesting, springs, wells and water purchased by private suppliers.
There are three Aquifers in the West Bank and Jerusalem area with a potential yield of 679 MCM a year of which only 19 % have limited control by Palestinians for their consumption, whilst the rest of demand is being partially covered by the National Israeli Water Company Mekorot (the plural of Makor in Hebrew, literally meaning “sources”). In 1982, Ariel Sharon transferred all water supply systems of the West Bank to Mekorot for the symbolic prices of 1 ILS. (EWASH Fact Sheet 2).
Even though 81 % of these aquifers average annual natural recharge originates from the West Bank Mountains, YET most of their abstraction is being pumped from the Israeli wells that are generally situated along the West Bank-Israeli border. The limited 19% consumption permitted for Palestinians represent 11 million cubic meters a year whilst the rest is bought from Mekorot pumped from the 3 Aquifers basins in the West Bank representing 47 Million cubic meters a year.
Since available water networks are very old, there is an increasing Unaccounted for Water (loss) which reaches more than 35%, distributed between the transmission lines and the internal networks. Accordingly, of the total consumption of Palestinians for all uses reaching 58 million cubic meters a year, less the combined water loss at the transmission pipes averaging 5 MCM and the internal network loss averaging 13 MCM, net water available for consumption for all purposes is 40 MCM for a population of 2.6 Million in the Jerusalem and West Bank area. Actual average consumption is 45 l/c/day for all uses.
Although in 1994 the Oslo agreement stated that "both sides have agreed that the future needs of the palestinians in the West Bank are estimated to be between 70-80 MCM/year" and the followin close stated that " in this framework and in order to meet the immediate needs of the Palesatinians in fresh water for domestic use, both recognize the necessity to make available to the Palestinians during the interim period a total quantity of 28.6 MCM/year" and since we are way beyond the interim period, Palestinians' water share as per "Oslo agreement" is to be 108.60 MCM, which Israeli occupation does not fullfil by 47%.
Paradoxically, Israeli settlers’ within the West Bank have free access with no constraints to the same water resources available and consume 6 times as much Palestinians consume; thus the average consumption of settlers reaches not less than 270 l/c/day.
Availability of water is affected by the inadequate and unjust water share distribution in addition to water losses affected by the old networks.
Consequently, ICC within its strategic approach aims at contributing to improving conditions and access to water as a basic human right by focusing into improving the productivity and efficiency of the available water resources through any of the meduim scale interventions represented by providing additional water sources, extensions/rehabilitation of water networks, Rehabilitation of production wells, Replacement of functionality of wells from diesel to electricity.