Israel imposes severe water restrictions on West Bank villages

According to Palestinians, Israel’s national water company is supplying water twice a week for an hour to some Palestinian villages.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank have access to more than four times the water Palestinians get.

Gulf News has reported there is a clear inequality in the distribution of water between Palestinians and Israeli settlers living in the West Bank.

Palestinians are allotted 70 litres per person per day, which is below the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 100 litres per person per day.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers receive around 300 litres per person per day.

The difference can be seen clearly with the existence of lush gardens, parks and swimming pools in the Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

An aerial view over the West Bank showing a Palestinian village on the left and a Jewish settlement on the right.

Palestinians live in Al Jab’a, a mountain village situated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and unlike the Israeli settlements surrounding it, the village is facing extensive water shortages.

A reservoir, pipeline and a pipe was built in 2013 by an Italian non-governmental organisation allowing the residents of the village to have limited access to Israeli water supplies.

"Before, we had to walk many times a day to the nearby springs to fill our bottles and buckets," said Omar Musa, 18, who lives near one of the reservoirs.

"I was happy when I knew I would have water at home."

An assessment by UNICEF in 2015 showed that 400,000 Palestinians of the 1.7 million living in the West Bank were in need of improved water, sanitation and hygiene services. (Reuters)

But according to families in Al Jab’a the water is not enough, and they are increasingly worried that the system they use for water could be demolished because it is not officially approved.

Residents like Musa and his family fear that the reservoirs as well as their homes could be destroyed by Israeli authorities.  

Construction by Palestinians is forbidden in an area covering 60 percent of the West Bank, which includes Al Jab’a.

A Palestinian man washes a dish for a woman near their houses on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Yatta, south of Hebron. (Reuters)

Water restrictions

Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, is responsible for supplying water to Palestinians. However, according to Al Jazeera, it implements a policy of water cuts during the summer, cutting supply by more than 50 percent.

Many of the rural and Bedouin communities in West Bank are not connected to Mekorot’s network.

Initially, Al Jab’a was one of them, and only 10 percent of homes there were part of Mekorot’s distribution system until pipes and reservoirs built in 2013 extended water access to the remaining households.

But this didn’t completely solve the water problems of the community, because Mekerot supplied water intermittently, forcing the families to hurry and store as much water as possible before it ran out.

The water shortages in the West Bank aren't for technical reasons but rather political. (Reuters)

Other Palestinian neighbourhoods in the West Bank have been undergoing the same problem.

"Since the water crisis started in June, the municipality has been able to supply water for only one hour twice a week," Enas Taha, a resident of the village of Kafr al-Deek, told Al Jazeera.  

"It is a very stressful situation. I have to consider and prioritise every single drop of water I use. We barely have enough to drink, cook, shower and use the bathroom," she said.

A report from the UN Environment Programme said that Israel was using the majority of the water resources available in the West Bank for itself.

However, Israel has said that it shares the water and provides Palestinians with double the amount of water annually that was agreed to in the 1995 Oslo accords.

TRTWorld and agencies