Over ninety percent of Gaza’s water wells are unsafe for human consumption

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments

Samer el-Shaer finds it increasingly tiring to fill numerous buckets of water from a nearby well located beside a mosque in his neighborhood in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip. The well was dug by benevolent organizations to support destitute residents with water since they cannot afford purchasing what they need from the private desalinization stations in the city.

“I fill what my family needs each day and carry it for 300 meters till I reach my house to provide it with clean water,” el-Shaer said. He added that it is not only the high cost of this water what prevents him from resorting to it as an available source of water, but it is also the grave concerns he has over the possible health dangers. “This water is not safe, we are sure of this. Its taste, or even color are very worrying, this is why we do not trust it,” el-Shaer said.

In fact, recent comments made by the Water Authority in Gaza last week strongly support residents’ concerns. Yaser el-Shanti, the head of the Authority said that 95 percent of the water in Gaza is not safe and improper for the human use.

“We do not give permission for our people to drink the water running from their taps that is pumped from the local municipalities. This water is only to be used in the household, laundries, and showers,” el-Shanti said.

Many factors have rendered Gaza’s water unhealthy, and even dangerous, to be used by people. According to citizens’ complaints, the water is salty, polluted, and not sufficient as people in Gaza suffer regular cut offs in water supply as it is with the electricity.

Jamal Khatab decided years ago to use a filter in his house to make sure that he can get less polluted water for his family. He considered it a good option compared to the public service even as he learned that using the filer can cause osteoporosis in the long term as it absorbs iron and calcium from the water. “This fact has deeply disturbed me, what should I do to evade this result,” Khatab wondered. But he totally rejects the possibility of turning back to the service presented by Gaza’s municipality.

Other families, like Mohsen el-Jamal’s, resorted for digging their own wells inside their land to get safe water. “Three years ago, I decided along with my other two siblings to dig our own well to provide our homes with water. We were able to afford the expenses, but many of our neighbors cannot dig their own wells for financial reasons,” el-Jamal said.

Meanwhile, the majority of Gaza’s residents buy what drinking water they need from private desalinization stations that can provide it at affordable prices. The Water Authority said that it does not oversee the service presented to the public by these stations to make sure they abide with the established norms, and it has long warned citizens of drinking from these stations. Most of them are not licensed, and work without a regard to the Water Authority’s rules.

Devastated infrastructure

Monther Shbla, a director at the Gaza Water Authority explained the reasons behind the rapid deterioration of water’s status in the Gaza Strip. He said that the water saved in the wells is not protected and always mixed with sea water and even sewage water. Pollutant materials can be easily found in some main wells that provide neighborhoods with water. In addition, the lack of the necessary equipment needed to maintain and repair the water infrastructure in Gaza has delayed or prevented any genuine efforts to increase the professionalism of the local network so that the services can be better.

The frequent power outages have also made it extremely difficult for the municipalities to provide citizens’ homes with water around the clock. Local municipalities pump water for less than four hours a day, a very limited period for Gaza’s residents. According to numbers released by the Water Authority, a typical Gaza resident consumes less than 80 cubic meters of water per day. The World Health Organization says it takes at least 150 cubic meters of water per day for each individual to live a dignified life. On an annual basis, Gaza consumes 180 million cubic meters of water, while the underground aquifers do not get more than 80 million cubic meters each year to compensate what has been taken and consumed from the wells.

At the same time, the restricted amounts of water are not safe and are always at stake of possible polluting factors, such as salty seawater and wastewater along with the solid garbage that sometimes thrown close to water wells.

“Rates of chloride and nitrates have reached intimidating levels in our wells, we are very much concerned over the possible catastrophic consequences on the public health in the long term. We cannot take actions to prevent this tragedy,” Shbla added.

Samah el-Derawi has started to observe some of the consequences of this situation. “My teeth are growing to be more yellowish. Nothing seems to be working out with them to clean or make them look pretty again,” el-Derawi said. “This is what I was able to notice, but what about other hidden impacts on my health?”

The last Israeli onslaught waged on Gaza in the summer of 2014 devastated more than 750 water wells, and less than 150 were repaired while the rest are left in ruins. The suffocating Israeli restrictions imposed in Gaza further restrict the allowed quantities of cement and other raw materials that are necessary to fix the water infrastructure in the beleaguered Gaza.

“All what is being allowed into Gaza is used in constructing homes for those who are homeless after the war, water’s infrastructure is still waiting to be treated as a priority,” Shbla concluded.

About Isra Saleh El-Namy

Isra Saleh El-Namy is a journalist in Gaza.

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19 Responses

  1. Talkback
    August 1, 2016, 3:54 pm

    Israel knows how to make an area unlivable for Nonjews. As soon as Gaza is emptied of a large chunk of its population we will see next settler outposts, protected by Israeli soldiers, which will be transformed into settlements.

    • Jackdaw
      August 1, 2016, 4:47 pm

      @Talk

      You have no memory. Israel had settlers in Gaza, protected by Israeli soldiers, and quit.

      • echinococcus
        August 1, 2016, 5:34 pm

        “Israel had settlers in Gaza, protected by Israeli soldiers, and quit.”
        Quit? Is English your first language? When, instead of living inside the concentration camp, the guard personnel and the soldiery takes quarters on the perimeter in order to massacre inmates without having to mind their own casualties, the English word that applies is not “quit”.

      • Talkback
        August 2, 2016, 6:26 am

        @Jackdaw

        You have no brain. Israel got rid of the settlements, because there were to many Nonjews living in Gaza. But it knows how to make an area unlivable for Nonjews. As soon …

    • johneill
      August 1, 2016, 9:53 pm

      unlivable for anybody come 2020. when apartheid ends, will gaza continue to be used as a penal colony?

  2. Jackdaw
    August 2, 2016, 10:56 am

    Maybe Hamas should spend more time and capital repairing Gaza’s infrastructure, and less time and capital trying to tunnel into Israel.

    • Mr.T
      August 2, 2016, 6:19 pm

      I’m sure if the thieves who are enforcing JSIL’s wicked blockade went away, Hamas would be able to import that which is necessary to make those repairs.

      • Jackdaw
        August 3, 2016, 1:36 am

        Give Hamas cement and they build terror tunnels. Give them water pipe, and they build mortars.

        Hamas should build desalination plants instead of arming themselves and tunneling to Israel.

        But Mondoweiss is so tone deaf, it’s pathetic. Deafness that results from living in an echo chamber.

      • amigo
        August 3, 2016, 1:57 pm

        “Hamas should build desalination plants instead of arming themselves and tunneling to Israel. “jackduh.

        Yeah we know jackduh.If only those Palestinians would lay down their stones and slingshots and do as they are told—why in very short time Israel will anoint the 2ss and give them their freedom and security.

        Your spouting caw–caw again jackduh.

      • Mr.T
        August 3, 2016, 4:36 pm

        “Give Hamas cement and they build terror tunnels. Give them water pipe, and they build mortars.”

        Only so long as JSIL’s evil attack on the Palestinian people continue. If you want them to stop fighting back, stop your evil ways against them.

        “Hamas should build desalination plants instead of arming themselves and tunneling to Israel.”

        When your wickedness comes to an end, they no doubt will. But if you refuse to do that, you have no right to complain about their willingness to defend themselves from your depravity or the manner in which they choose to respond to your aggression and terrorism.

        “But Mondoweiss is so tone deaf, it’s pathetic. Deafness that results from living in an echo chamber.”

        No, you’re like a pig wallowing in your own filth. You’ve repeated the evil lies of your ideology so long you can’t smell them any more for what they are.

      • Mooser
        August 3, 2016, 6:55 pm

        “But Mondoweiss is so tone deaf”

        You mean, if Mondo will play the Zionist tune, Zionist organizations will fund it, and Mondo will hear the dulcet tones of coin clinking? The rhythm of pulsating pelf?

    • inbound39
      August 2, 2016, 10:46 pm

      If Israel ceased ethnically cleansing Palestinians and stealing all Palestinian land and ceased Occupying Palestine and illegally settling it and stayed within its declared borders then Hamas would not be a problem and they would have no need to tunnel because they would be free to go about their business without restriction. Israel has created the conflict with its illegal actions. Palestinian actions are an understandable response to the obvious threat Israel has shown itself to be.

    • Jackdaw
      August 4, 2016, 2:02 pm

      @talknicker

      Bought and paid for by the EU, not Hamas.

  3. Elizabeth Block
    August 2, 2016, 12:16 pm

    In the other occupied territories, Israel wants to take the land and get rid of the people. I wonder about Gaza — with the water undrinkable, perhaps they just want to get rid of the people.

    • inbound39
      August 2, 2016, 10:39 pm

      They certainly want the land but more importantly they want to break and eradicate Hamas because no matter how Israel tries they cannot eradicate their resistance and Hamas has proved to be a formidable opponent in that they have increased the cost to Israel with every battle and they work outside the square and catch Israel off guard again and again. Israel wants the land because it is the only major enclave of Palestxinians left within an otherwise all Israeli area. It is a thorn in Israel’s side. I thought Netanyahu’s statement on Palestine Chronicle today was bizarre. He stated conditions in Gaza were”awful”. Doesn’t appear to have caused him to be awful enough to end the occupation or the blockade. Gaza is as it is due to his orders and direction of the IDF. Kindly and willingly sponsored by American weapons,

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