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B’Tselem: Grave water shortage in the West Bank

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Average water consumption in Israel is 3.5 times that in West Bank

B’Tselem today (Tuesday, 1 July) warned of a grave water shortage this summer in large areas of the West Bank. The shortage will have serious repercussions on the economy and the health of tens of thousands of Palestinians. The chronic water shortage results in large part from Israel’s discriminatory policy in distributing the joint water resources in the West Bank, and the limits it places on the Palestinian Authority’s ability to drill new wells. The shortage will be worse this summer due to the accumulated effects of recent arid years.

According to figures of the Palestinian Water Authority, 40-70 million cubic meters are lacking to meet the needs of West Bank Palestinians. Per capita consumption of water in the West Bank now stands at 66 liters a day, about two-thirds of the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum amount. In parts of the northern West Bank, water consumption is one-third the WHO minimum, and the consumption figures include water for livestock. The average water consumption per capita of Israelis is 3.5 times that of Palestinians.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank are not connected to a water network, and have to buy water from tankers, which cost three to six times more (depending on location and movement restrictions) than water supplied through a water network. Many poor families draw water from unsupervised wells, leading to an increase in infectious diseases in many rural areas in the summertime.

Even Palestinians who are connected to a water system do not enjoy a constant supply of water. Many residents report lengthy interruptions in supply. According to testimonies to B’Tselem, in the summer, the Israel water company Mekorot, reduces supply of water to Palestinian towns and villages in order to meet the increased need of the settlements.

The water shortage is compounded by theft of water by Palestinians in parts of Area C, which are under complete Israeli civil and military control. Israeli law-enforcement authorities fail to properly cope with this phenomenon.

Access to water without discrimination is recognized by international law as a fundamental human right.

Furthermore, the discrimination practiced by Israel in its division of water is a violation of its obligations under International Humanitarian Law. B’Tselem calls on the government of Israel to ensure immediate, regular, adequate supply of water to every resident of the West Bank without discrimination, and to allow the Palestinian Authority to develop new water sources.