97% of reservoir water in Gaza is not suitable for drinking – NGO network

(File photo: Jordan News)
GAZA — The Palestinian NGO Network issued a report on Monday, August 7, warning that 97 percent of the water in the underground reservoir in the Gaza Strip is not suitable for drinking, according to the WHO’s standards. اضافة اعلان

The report stated that, "the water problem in the Gaza Strip is complex and compounded, involving political conditions, the continuous Israeli occupation for 56 years, as well as the Israeli blockade for over 16 years, division, and the rapid increase in population along with limited resources," Shehab News reported.

The report added that the aforementioned factors have led to a severe deterioration in the water sector, causing delays in the implementation of several projects, notably the central seawater desalination plant project in Gaza.

Water sources
The Gaza Strip includes three main valleys: Wadi Gaza in the center, Beit Hanoun in the north, and Wadi Al-Salqa in the south. The occupation has worked to divert and prevent their natural flow from within the Green Line, especially from the Hebron hills, for Israeli purposes, leading to these sources drying up.

The report clarified that "groundwater is the sole source of water,” and they added that “agriculture is the primary consumer of water in the Gaza Strip, accounting for more than 55 percent of the total extracted groundwater, while the rest is used for domestic water supply and industrial purposes."

The report continued, "The coastal aquifer in the Gaza Strip receives an annual recharge and infiltration rate ranging between 55 and 60 million cubic meters annually, primarily from rainfall, in addition to 30 million cubic meters per year from lateral groundwater flow and leaks."

Water consumption
"The intensive annual groundwater withdrawal rates from the aquifer are approximately 200 million cubic meters, resulting in an annual cumulative water deficit ranging between 90 and 110 million cubic meters." According to the latest statistics issued by the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, the total water supply for domestic use reached about 98 million cubic meters in 2022, extracted through 288 municipal water wells.

The report mentioned that "drinking water is produced by 296 private and public desalination plants (brackish and seawater) distributed throughout the Gaza Strip, in addition to 15 million cubic meters of drinking water obtained from the Israeli water company 'Mekorot' under the Oslo Agreement between Palestinians and Israel."

Decreasing water quality
The report confirmed that excessive water extraction has led to a continuous intrusion of seawater into the groundwater, contributing to the deterioration of water quality by increasing salinity levels.

They highlighted that there chloride salt concentrations in the water range from 500 to 3000 milligrams per liter, which should not exceed 250 milligrams per liter for drinking water. There are also high nitrate concentrations, ranging from 100 to 800 milligrams per liter, especially in the northern part of Gaza.

Possible solutions
The report argued that to overcome the water crisis in the Gaza Strip, resorting to seawater desalination is necessary, including the establishment of a central desalination plant for this purpose. Another solution involves desalinating the brackish groundwater and providing it through public and private desalination plants.

The Gaza Strip needs non-conventional water sources, such as the establishment of seawater desalination plants, importing more water from outside, rainwater harvesting, and reusing treated sewage water. To achieve this, there is a need for international support and increased community awareness about the importance of water conservation, as well as the development of governmental policies and strategies to enhance water desalination and improve water resource management.

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