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WHO: More than 97% of Gaza's water does not meet quality standards

March 21, 2019 4:09 P.M. (Updated: March 24, 2019 12:06 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- More than 97% of the water pumped from the coastal aquifer in the besieged Gaza Strip does not meet the water quality standards of the World Health Organization (WHO), leading to the depletion of groundwater reserves with the groundwater level in the coastal aquifer reaching 19 meters below sea level, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) said on Thursday in a joint press release on the occasion of World Water Day.

The joint statement said, “The amount of water extracted from the coastal aquifer for domestic use was 178.7 million cubic meters (MCM) in Gaza Strip in 2017; but this quantity is obtained via unsafe pumping that jeopardizes sustainability of the source knowing that the basin sustainable yield should not exceed 50-60 MCM a year.”

In the West Bank, where the Palestinians have been denied access by the Israeli occupation authorities to extraction from the Jordan River since 1967, which was estimated about 250 MCM, the quantity of Water pumped from Palestinian wells in the West Bank in 2017 was 86 MCM from eastern aquifer, western aquifer and north-eastern aquifer.

The statement added that data showed that the percentage of the exploitation of surface and groundwater from available water in the year 2017 was high, with an average of 77%.

With scarce water and Israeli restrictions on access to resources, Palestinian cities are forced to purchase water from the Israeli water company “Mekorot.” In 2017, they purchased 83 MCM, which represented 22% of the water available in Palestine (375 MCM).

Additionally, 23.5 MCM of water were produced from Palestinian springs while 264.5 MCM are pumped from groundwater wells, and 4.0 MCM desalinated drinking water.

PCBS and PWA stressed that 62% of households use an improved drinking water source (piped into dwellings, protected dug well/ protected spring, rainwater, bottled water and public tab), and 95% in the West Bank and 11% in Gaza Strip. The decrease in the Gaza Strip was due to the deterioration in the quality of water extracted from the coastal basin.

As for the type of localities, these percentages were distributed to 58% in urban localities, 94% in rural localities, compared to 44% in refugee camps.

The daily allocation per capita from consumed water for domestic purposes is 88.3 liters/capita/day in Palestine. The West Bank and Gaza Strip had the same rate in 2017.

There are some localities where the average per capita consumption does not exceed 50.4 liters per day, while this rate exceeds 150 liters per day in other localities such as Jericho.

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