As summer approaches, thousands of people in the West Bank – like every year – are left with no water by the Israeli national water company Mekorot. Israeli claims fail to acknowledge that their very policies are the reason for insufficient access to this most basic need.
EWASH, a coalition of Palestinian and international organizations working on water and sanitation in Palestine, on Wednesday said it was strongly concerned by recent reports of water cuts and restrictions by the Israeli water company Mekorot to thousands of people in several villages and towns in the Northern West Bank.
EWASH reports that Palestinian average water consumption in the West Bank is already as low as 73 liters per capita per day, well below the World Health Organization minimum standard of 100, and clearly lower than the 240 liters to which Israelis have access. When discriminatory water distribution measures are implemented by Israel during spring and summer months, as water demand naturally increases and supply to settlements is systematically privileged over Palestinian areas in the West Bank by Israel—Palestinians find themselves facing health hazards, and their livelihoods are negatively affected. Forced to rely on trucked water which costs over ten times more than network water, many have no alternative but to further decrease their already low water consumption.
Although worrying, this comes to little surprise to EWASH. Every year West Bank communities, from North to South, face similar issues—a direct result of Israel’s discriminatory policies and control over Palestinian water resources.
When Israel claims that the actual reason for water cuts and restrictions is the inadequate Palestinian infrastructure, it fails to explain the reasons of such state of affairs.
First, that Palestinians are dependent on the Israeli water company Mekorot for the 18.5 percent of their water needs (2014 data) because of discriminatory water sharing agreements (in place since 1995 although they were supposed to be renegotiated 5 years later) through which Israel has long denied Palestinians their rightful share of transboundary water resources. Palestinians are prevented from accessing the Jordan River and are only allocated 13 percent of the Mountain Aquifer water, the rest being abstracted by Israel. While Israel has access to another wide range of water sources (other aquifers, the See of Galilee, desalinated water, treated wastewater, etc.), those two are the only ones for Palestinians in the West Bank.
Second, that the repair, maintenance and development of the Palestinian water infrastructure— indeed inadequate—are severely hindered by the dual Israeli permit regime for water projects. Israel requires that Palestinians obtain permits for all water structures in the West Bank from the Joint Water Committee, from which Palestinians decided to withdraw in 2011 due to the clear power asymmetry and resulting dis-functioning, as Israel was having a de facto veto power and was conditioning the approval of Palestinian water projects upon Palestinian clearance of settlement ones. On the other hand, Israeli Civil Administration permits for all projects in Area C are also required. Those are notoriously difficult to obtain, with an acceptance rate between 2010 and 2014 of 1.5 percent.
Those policies have allowed Israel, since it occupied the West Bank in 1967—when it took control over all of the West Bank water resources with one of its first military orders—until today, to use water to dominate the Palestinian population and territory.
EWASH concluded that, now more than ever as Israel has reportedly managed to achieve a water surplus thanks to its advanced water and waste-water technology but also its control over Palestinian water resources, little excuses are left to Israel not to give back to Palestinians their water rights. Palestinian towns and villages will be no longer left unable to enjoy the most basic of rights—access to water—in hot summer months.