After two Intifadas and a blockade that has lasted for more then two years now, the 1.7 million people of Gaza feel abandoned. There is a lack of everything, and everyone struggles. Despite all the media coverage, however, one critical aspect of the Gazans struggle to survive has been overlooked: water. If nothing changes, Gaza will have no safe drinking water by 2016. Already today, only 5% of Gaza’s groundwater meets the WHO standards and is drinkable, according to the UN report, “Gaza 2020: A Liveable Place?”
People have to buy ‘safe’ water from tank trucks that come to the neighborhoods. The water is not safe anymore, because the aqua fare (the groundwater mirror) is lowering, consequently the seawater is entering the groundwater reserves, which means the nitrate in the water is reaching dangerous levels.
During the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza, last December – January at least eleven water wells were bombed or destroyed, and the Israel Defense Forces targeted water reservoirs. With the blockade still in effect, cement and spare parts are not allowed into Gaza, which means those wells and reservoirs have not yet been repaired.
Once upon a time, the Wadi Gaza was freely flowing, bringing water from the mountains near Hebron to Gaza, and providing one third of the ground water Gazans need. But years ago, Israel built a dam so the water can be used for irrigation on the Israeli side. This turned the river now into an open sewer, which flows straight into the Mediterranean. Although there are some sewage treatment plants which still function, most of the raw sewage ends up in the sea. Some 90,000 cubic meters of untreated or partially treated wastewater flows daily into the Mediterranean, resulting in contamination, health hazards and damage to the fishing industry. Fishermen are nowadays only allowed to fish only as far as three miles from the coast, due to the blockade. Only further from the coast the sea is not contaminated with sewage anymore.
This story is part of Climate Change by NOOR.