Gaza: A land without water

Gaza: A land without water
Clean water is becoming an impossible luxury for the people of Gaza. Years of war and blockade is taking its toll on residents, and the situation is only going to get worse.
3 min read
19 November, 2014
Gaza's only aquifer will be unusable by 2016 [Anadolu]

When I decided to install a water filter for my house in Gaza, my friends laughed at me. First, because I cared about such trivial matters in the aftermath of a war, and second the water is so salty here that a filter wouldn't work anyway.

I was undeterred, and after having read near daily reports about water pollution in Gaza I began fact finding on the internet about what I could use for the house. Before long I knew everything about water filters, from reverse osmosis to salinity levels.

As it turned out, installing a household water filter in Gaza is impossible due to the high level of water salinity.

I asked my friend, Abu Nabil, an expert on all things electrical, “aren’t filters made to desalinate water?”

Surprised by my innocence, he replied: “Filters purify contaminated water, they do not desalinate sea water. As you know, our drinking water comes straight from the sea and to make sea water drinkable you need a desalination plant, not a filter.”

Life watered down

As the Palestinian proverb goes, “even what I settled for would not settle for me”. I knew all there was about the problems I might encounter with a water filter, such as wasted water and having to find expensive new parts every few months. I did not know that no filter in the world could survive the high salinity of Gaza’s water.

     Bottled water costs about $1 for three litres, meaning a monthly bill of hundreds of dollars for a family.

The only option I was left with was to buy bottled water, which is also difficult in Gaza. Bottled water costs about $1 for three litres, meaning a monthly bill of hundreds of dollars for a family. But even bottled water is not always safe in Gaza, as it must be imported and remains stored for months at Israeli border crossings under poor conditions.

The water crisis in Gaza affects everyone in Gaza, rich and poor. UN reports have stated that by 2016, Gaza’s single coastal aquifer would be unusable. Sewage frequently mixes with sea, rain and ground water causing a host of diseases in residents, particularly children.

A UN report published in 2012 warned that if the siege of Gaza were to continue, services vital for human habitation would collapse. Demand for water will increase by 60 percent, while “damage to the aquifer, the major water source, would become irreversible without remedial action now”.

Experts say that the only solution to the crisis is to construct an industrial-scale desalination plant to cater for demand in Gaza, but this is a project that nobody seems willing to undertake.

The idea of children being able to drink clean water in Gaza is becoming a dream, which has no prospect of being realised. After all, Gaza is a place where displaced people are banned by the international community from even buying a bag of cement to fix holes in the walls of their homes.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.