Gaza Strip Water Management

From AquaPedia Case Study Database
Jump to: navigation, search
{{#var: location map}}

Case Description
Loading map...
Geolocation: 31° 31' 21.2196", 34° 27' 10.8"
Total Population 1.671,670,000 millionmillion
Total Area 360360 km²
138.996 mi²
Climate Descriptors Dry-summer
Predominent Land Use Descriptors agricultural- cropland and pasture, urban
Important Uses of Water Agriculture or Irrigation, Domestic/Urban Supply
Water Features: Coastal Aquifer (Israel, Palestine)
Riparians: Palestinian Territories, Israel, Egypt, Gaza
Agreements: Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Oslo II Agreement)


The Gaza Strip (Gaza) is a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north. Gaza has a total area of 378 km2 (40 km in length, 6-12 km in width) with a total population of about 1.8 million inhabitants (70% of the population are refugees abroad). [1] Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been de-facto governed by Hamas, a Palestinian faction claiming to be the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian National Authority or Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian People. Israel, US, Canada, EU, Jordan, Egypt and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, while Iran, Russia, Turkey, China and many nations across the Arab world do not.[2] Following the elections, the Quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations [UN], and European Union [EU]) conditioned future foreign assistance to the PA on the future government's commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas resisted such changes, leading to Quartet suspension of its foreign assistance program. Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, on the grounds that Fatah forces were no longer providing security there. [2] In 2012, the UN recognized the Gaza Strip as part of the State of Palestine, which includes the territory claimed by the Palestinian government in Ramallah. However, geographically speaking, Gaza is completely isolated from the West Bank and there is currently no territorial link. Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are recognized "as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period".[3] Israel, however, has changed this position and now considers the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as "two separate and different areas."[4]

The Coastal aquifer in Gaza is part of the Coastal Aquifer Basin that stretches along the eastern Mediterranean coast from the northern Sinai Peninsula via Gaza to northern Israel.[5] Water resources in Gaza are limited, and the Coastal aquifer is the only source of fresh water for the Palestinian population in Gaza.[6] For the last three decades, the aquifer has been subjected to extreme pressure due to increasing demand for fresh water relative to the limited natural replenishment rate of the aquifer. This condition has resulted in the increase of many sources of pollution including seawater intrusion, leakage of partially treated sewage, return flow from irrigation water, etc.[5] There is little rainfall and no reliable surface flow; hence water supply for different purposes is tied to groundwater. Gaza’s population presently extracts almost three times the aquifer’s sustainable yearly recharge. [6] At its present rate of deterioration due to pollution and amount of groundwater remaining, the aquifer will be unusable by 2016, and irreversibly damaged by 2020.[7] Even if the aquifer cannot be irreversibly damaged, the likelihood of the aquifer being a sustainable water resource is decreasing in the years to come.[8]

Hamas' rise to power had a significant impact on water and sanitation issues in Gaza as highlighted below. The Palestinian Water Authority was split into two, one in Ramallah and one in Gaza. However, management and long-term planning has continued to be at the hands of the PA in Ramallah because they have the resources.[9] There was a donor arrangement to work through Coastal Municipalities Water Undertaking (CMWU) as they were seen as independent enough to be trusted with donor money to channel local projects.[9] As part of an arrangement with the PA, the PWA is responsible for the water sector in Gaza.[10] Today access to Gaza is restricted under full Israeli military control. Moreover, the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which is the only gateway that is not controlled by Israel, has been repeatedly closed since the installment of the military-installed government in Cairo.[11] Israel also maintains a naval blockade along Gaza’s entire coastline (at a distance of approximately 3 nautical miles). In addition to essential items such as food or fuel, Israel’s blockade restricts the entry of materials needed to upgrade and repair Gaza’s collapsing water and wastewater infrastructure (e.g. cement) (EWASH, public presentation, March 18, 2014). Fuel shortages continue to create rolling electricity blackouts that in turn affect water distribution to household reservoirs, while many water wells have stopped working or are working at half capacity due to a lack of spare parts. [12] Crucially, this also prevents Palestinians from exploring other options in terms of accessing alternative water supplies, and has delayed the importation of additional water. Despite an agreement for Israel to provide an additional 5 million cubic meters of water per year (MCM/ year) - in addition to the 5 MCM/ year Israel is already selling to Gaza - this agreement has not been activated by the Israelis due to political reasons, even though the necessary infrastructure on both sides has been completed.[13]

Natural, Historic, Economic, Regional, and Political Framework

Economy, Environment and Land Use

Gaza is an urban economy, heavily reliant on intensive trade, communication and movement of people; however the area has been essentially isolated since 2005 given land and sea restrictions, which has led to an unviable economy. The Gaza Airport, funded by donor countries and which opened in 1998, and the Gaza Seaport project, which started in 2000, were both destroyed by the Israeli army when the second Palestinian uprising (intifada) against Israeli occupation inflamed.[14][15] As of 2014, the airport is not operational and the construction of the Gaza seaport has not resumed even though the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), following the Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, re-announced the start of the works.[14] The transfer of goods to the West Bank and exports to Israel, both traditional markets for Gazan goods, is banned with a few exceptions. For the goods entering Gaza, Israel collects customs and value added tax.[16] Restrictions on the movement of people are in place. Citing security concerns, the Israeli military has also imposed restrictions on access to farmland on the Gaza side of the fence, and to fishing areas along the Gaza Strip coast - the Access Restricted Areas (ARAs).[17]

File:Gaza Strip 2011-01-20.gif
Map of the Gaza Strip, CIA world factbook, via Wikimedia Commons

Gaza has been and continues to be kept alive through external funding and the illegal tunnel economy under the Egypt-Gaza border. According to an ILO report, the tunnel economy has benefited Hamas as they have received a considerable share of the benefits from it.[18] The tunnel economy has taken a sharp hit as Egypt's military has destroyed most of the 1,200 tunnels from June 2013 onwards, which were primarily used to smuggle construction materials for the private sector and subsidized Egyptian fuel.[19] According to OCHA, the closure of these tunnels led to a sharp spike in unemployment, an increase in food prices, and chronic electricity shortages resulting from interruptions to the operation of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), severely disrupting the provision of basic services.[17]

The people of Gaza remain worse off than they were in the 1990s, despite increases in real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita over the past three years[18]. One of the main reasons for the economy’s inability to recover to pre-2000 levels is the blockade of Gaza. The Palestinian Ministry of National Economy estimates that the blockade led to costs or unrealized growth worth US$ 1.9 billion in 2010 alone. Moreover, Israel’s Operation ‘Cast Lead’ in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 to January 2009 caused a total of US$ 181 million in direct and US$ 88 million in longer-term costs for Gaza’s agriculture; generated US$ 44 million in environmental costs and almost US$ 6 million in water and sanitation infrastructure damages.[18]

Unemployment is high and affects women and youth in particular. High levels of food insecurity persist in the Gaza Strip, with a total of 66% of households classified as food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity (UN, 2012). The main cause of food insecurity is the affordability of food and non-food items, resulting from the lack of income-earning possibilities for Gaza households.[20] Gaza’s GDP per capita is expected to grow only modestly in the coming years, making it ever more difficult for Gazans to secure a living.[18] The current import/ export conditions are unsustainable, putting Gaza’s economy at a competitive disadvantage, and eroding the resiliency of the private sector to create jobs, which is a key component for the affordability of food and non-food basic requirements for families.[21] If the current political status quo continues, the situation will only become more challenging.

Agriculture plays an important but limited role in Gaza, with about 40% of Gaza under cultivation. The agriculture sector continues to be characterized by small-scale (mainly family-based) farming. Exports of small amounts of strawberries, flowers and cherry tomatoes (mostly to Europe) are too minor to have a substantial impact on the overall economic situation.[18] Given the water crisis, there is a trend to use fewer water-intensive and more salt-resistant crops, such as dates, which is in fact a return to the traditional crops of Gaza. The climate vulnerability of residents of Gaza is compounded by the expected environmental impacts of climate change. Increased amounts of precipitation will lead to reduced yields for rain-fed agriculture, and could also mean a greater frequency of flash floods.[6] Reduced amounts of precipitation will lead to increased strain on groundwater resources. According to Clemens Messerschmid, it should not be overlooked however that in former times Gaza was esteemed for its high-quality water resources and regarded as an oasis. The climate did not change over the last thousand years, but the number of inhabitants began to explode with the mass expulsions from Israel in 1948.[22]

Political Environment

Peace Negotiations Between Israel and the State of Palestine

Direct negotiations between Israel and the State of Palestine began on 29 July 2013 following an attempt by United States Secretary of State John Kerry to restart the peace process. The negotiations were scheduled to last up to nine months to reach a final status to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by mid-2014. A deadline was set for establishing a broad outline for an agreement by April 29, 2014. On the expiry of the deadline, negotiations collapsed (AFP, 2014). The PA confirmed that the continuation of the negotiations depended on Israel agreeing in writing to: recognizing the 1967 borders of the Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital; releasing 1,200 prisoners; lifting the blockade of Gaza; returning Church of Nativity deportees; ceasing the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and other locations; uniting fifteen thousand Palestinian families, giving them full citizenship; and preventing Israelis from entering areas of the PA and Area C.[23]

Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation

In April 2014, a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas was announced, which builds on the talks between Hamas and Fatah first in Doha in February 2012 and expanded later in Cairo in May 2012. [23] This development could see the Palestinian territories under a unified leadership for the first time in years. The next steps would be the announcement of an interim government in the weeks to come, with elections possible by early 2015.[24]

Legal Environment

Water Rights

In the long-term, Palestinian water rights will be negotiated with Israel and the other riparian countries in accordance with international law and best practice with regard to the management of trans-boundary water resources. In the meantime, the Oslo II Agreement regulates the temporary allocations of water utilization to Palestinians. The Oslo II Agreement was primarily based on actual water abstraction at that time (1995), although it also included a slight increase to allow for population growth. Its aim was to regulate water allocations over a 5-year interim period, until a final agreement was reached between the State of Palestine and Israel. This interim period was not supposed to last 20 years and the Oslo II Agreement did not address what force (if any) it would have beyond the interim period. For this reason, the Oslo II Agreement utilization figures no longer meet the minimal requirements of the Palestinian people. Although there is an urgent need to amend these figures (due to population change and other environmental and socio-economic factors), this agreement is still frequently cited as a reference during discussions at Joint Water Committee (JWC) meetings.[25][6]

Additional comments from the 2014 PWA report[6]:

  • Under the Oslo II Interim Agreement, the Israelis are to supply 5 additional MCM/ year to Gaza, and Palestinians are authorized to develop an additional 78 MCM/ year in the West Bank (compared with their water use in 1995);
  • The Oslo II Interim Agreement does not clearly deal with abstraction rights on the Coastal aquifer; it does not include any figures on either the Israeli or Palestinian abstraction rate in 1995. It merely states that both sides should maintain the existing utilization.

According to different expert sources, the reasons for the Oslo accords not detailing how much Palestinians and Israelis can extract from the Coastal aquifer are:

  • Extractions from the aquifer in Gaza will not affect the aquifer yield in Israel due to the direction the water flows, so Israel is not worried how much it is extracted from Gaza since it will not affect it.
  • On the other hand, extractions from the Coastal aquifer from the Israeli side will affect availability in Gaza. Israeli over extraction of the Coastal aquifer affects the yield in Gaza but there is no good data of how much exactly. Even though it might be limited, for Gaza even limited impact of this extraction has big consequences.
  • Israel had already embedded in the Oslo accords the separation of Gaza from the West Bank, which is part of the long-term planning of Israel.

According to international law, Israel as the upstream riparian in the shared groundwater flow system is clearly responsible for an "equitable and reasonable" allocation of resources.[22] It would therefore have to supply Gaza with considerably more water.[22]

The Current Water Problems

As long as the permanent status negotiations are stalled, Palestinians will pursue their interests in connection with obtaining Palestinian water rights for the territories (Gaza and the West Bank), including the fair right-of-access, right-of-control and right-of-use to water resources shared with other countries, in line with international law.[6] Ideally, Gaza would get its water from a transfer of high water volumes from Israel to the State of Palestine based on equitable and reasonable reallocation of the existing fresh water resources shared between the State of Palestine and Israel; however this is deemed unfeasible given the fact that there is no guarantee that a territorial link will exist between Gaza and the West Bank.

The Aquifer extends from its northern edge at the Carmel Range to the Sinai Peninsula. Flow is generally toward the Mediterranean sea. [26]

According to different stakeholders operating in the State of Palestine, there is no difference between the Israeli and Egyptian blockage of Gaza and the Israeli occupied West Bank as Israel is in control of both territories. For example, in the West Bank, water wells cannot be drilled without the approval from Israel and movements of Palestinians are severely hampered (Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks). In Gaza, import restrictions of certain materials are in place, movements of Gazans into the West Bank or Israel are only allowed in exceptional humanitarian cases and additional water transfers from Israel are very difficult to negotiate, etc. The Israeli Government is ready to provide the Palestinians with additional water as long as it is on a cost basis, which is not acceptable to the PA. In most water authority meetings between the State of Palestine and Israel, Israel says that it is ready to support the Palestinians in the following way as reflected in the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM):[27]

  • Ready to encourage donors to build desalination projects;
  • Ready to help with the desalination of water; and/ or
  • Ready to allow the entry of all the materials needed to build and operate a desalination plant.

The problem is that this does not fully translate into actions on the ground (e.g. restricted access to construction materials through the official crossing).

Technical Matters

  • As noted by the CMWU of Gaza in 2010, the supply of fresh water to the population is almost totally reliant on the underlying groundwater (the aquifer);
  • Minor volumes of fresh water (5 MCM/ year, recently) are imported from Israel, and it has not been possible to date to increase those flows;
  • Further very small volumes arise from several scattered desalination facilities in Gaza,[28] but these are currently insignificant at the strategic level;
  • The annual sustainable yield of the aquifer within the geographical boundary of Gaza is widely quoted as 55 MCM;[13]
  • Recent rates of pumping from the aquifer are estimated at 180 MCM/ year (in 2014) with the main problems highlighted below:
  1. Abstraction rates have increased markedly over the last three decades, due to a combination of inadequate available water imports to Gaza; the expanding population; and the drilling and use of unlicensed wells (especially to provide irrigation for agricultural activities) (The Comparative Study of Options for an Additional Supply of Water for Gaza [29];
  2. Gaza’s current salt input from the Southeast, which stems from natural lateral ground water inflow from Israel, has been increasing (amounting to 37 MCM/ year) with the bulk of it being contaminated by a very high natural salt content (Messerschmid, 2011)
  3. Contamination of shallow groundwater from activities at the surface or near-surface of the land in Gaza,[30] which arises mainly from wastewater (almost all of which is generated within Gaza); and
  4. Military incursions by Israel caused environmental damage[31] and water sector infrastructure damage[32][22] following Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009.

The result of these problems in combination is that: (a) the water quantity available to the population in Gaza is inadequate (supply and demand gap is discussed in more detail below); and (b) the water quality falls well short of accepted international guidelines for potable resources (i.e. for use as drinking water, or more broadly for domestic use, but also for the agricultural sector where yields are beginning to be impacted by the poor water quality). The overall effect of poor water quality is a very high incidence of water-related disease amongst the population as a whole.[32] [33] Many commentators have characterized this as a humanitarian crisis. In addition, the groundwater quality is so poor in some areas of Gaza that agricultural yields suffer[34][22] because of the saline intrusion (chloride negatively affects plant growth).

Several parties have stated (usually on the basis of modeling future water salinity and quality) that Gaza’s groundwater will soon become so contaminated that its entire volume will cease to be available for use. This is commonly known as ‘aquifer failure’ or ‘aquifer collapse.’

There are short-term and long-term interventions that can potentially stop this from happening, which will be discussed further below. However, it must be noted that short-term interventions are humanitarian in nature and can only reduce the rate at which the situation worsens. Only medium-term and longer-term interventions, which can only succeed if the Gaza blockade is lifted, can generate sustainable improvement and allow the aquifer to recover.

Beyond the status quo

The continuation of the status quo in the water sector in Gaza is not acceptable given the reasons mentioned in the paragraphs above. Based on a 2011 report produced by the Comparative Study of Options for an Additional Supply of Water for Gaza (CSO-G in acronym), which was a joint effort by PWA and some of the donors, there is need for rapid interventions to retrieve the situation in the water sector in Gaza. Many studies have been completed on the water sector in Gaza, however, the CSO-G is different in both its timing and its overall approach. The CSO-G represents the first component of an envisioned emergency response to the problems in the water sector in Gaza, and provides proposals for an overall strategy to address and resolve the current problems.[29]

Since then, the PWA has drafted the National Water Strategy (NWS) based on previous studies including the Coastal Aquifer Management Program (CAMP), a project funded by USAID, and the CSO-G report for the Gaza parts[35]. The NWS is a document presenting the framework of action in the water sector for the sustainable management of water resources in the State of Palestine[6]. The NWS covers a time period until 2035, including a short-term implementation plan designed until 2017 assuming no change in the political situation, and a long-term investment plan assuming a comprehensive peace deal where the Palestinian people will recover their full rights over natural water resources according to the 1967 border. The short-term implementation plan includes only investments, water resources management and actions that can be completed in the present political situation because of the constraints and restrictions due to the Gaza blockade (e.g. abnormal delays and difficulties importing materials and equipment, restrictions on the movement of people etc.). After 2017, the plan includes an improvement of the industrial and tourist sectors’ water consumption, access to water resources and an expansion of the agricultural sector, etc.[36]

During the first semester of 2013, PWA presented the NWS to other ministries, donors, NGOs, civil society, etc. The civil society technical experts have challenged some aspects of the NWS, not so much because of the document’s contents, but because they feel that they were not consulted enough[37]. The NWS is about to be introduced in the PA Cabinet.

In 2014, different UN and INGO organizations working in Gaza, the PWA and the CMWU decided to come up with a multi-stakeholder roundtable co-hosted by UNICEF, the PWA and the CMWU to get water and energy stakeholders together and to get the attention of donors and diplomats regarding the enormous challenges to implement the CSO-G’s recommendations.[37] The roundtable was meant to bring the appropriate people together to discuss the on-going lack of water resources, WATSAN installations and services and electricity (why is there a lack; material and people movement restrictions; lack of welfare of the population)[20]. The organizers of the roundtable felt that there is comprehensive and complex thinking missing when it comes to water and its linkage to the energy and food security sectors, which is critical for translating the NWS into action.[38] There is a need to create alliances and partnerships to advance from a more conservative mindset. The first such roundtable was held in Gaza on April 30, 2014, with another planned for September 2014.[20] According to one of the participants, for future roundtables, more private sector representatives, community-based organizations (farmers, users), and food security experts should be at the table.

Water Supply

Groundwater resources

In Gaza, groundwater resources are contained in a shallow sandy aquifer, extending eastward to Israel and southward to Egypt. There are more than 5,000 water wells, most of them for agriculture purposes and with an average depth of 40-70 meters, and the water table lies between 20-50 meters below the ground surface.[6] Gaza is a dry area and local aquifer recharge is very limited (55-60 MCM/year on average). Abstraction by all users (Israelis, Egyptians and Palestinians) already far exceeds natural recharge.[5] Consequently, the aquifer has been depleted and suffers from seawater intrusion. Groundwater abstraction in Gaza has reached 180 MCM/ year, whereas the natural aquifer recharge on this portion of the aquifer is estimated to be only 55 MCM/ year.[39] For this reason, the long-term strategy aims to reduce total groundwater abstraction in Gaza from the current rate of 180 MCM/ year to 70 MCM/ year in 2032.[6]

Desalination of seawater

There is only one seawater desalination plant located in the middle area of Gaza Strip (Deir El Balah) with a total capacity of 600 m3/ day (0.25 MCM/ year). By using two beach wells, it will be expanded to about 2600 m3/ day by year 2014.[6]

Desalination of brackish groundwater

Most of the water supplied through the network is not directly used for drinking purposes due to the high content of chloride and nitrate (exceeding the drinking limit). There are about one hundred water vendors that supply water (for cooking and drinking) from brackish water desalination plants operated for 4-6 hours/ day. The total supplied quantities are 2.8 MCM/ year. The actual groundwater abstraction by these plants is about 4.8 MCM/ year.[6]

More than 80% of Gaza’s people are buying water from these private vendors at a cost of 40 Israeli Shekel (ILS)/ m3. The average household (5 persons) consumption of such expensive water is about 0.5-1.0 m3/ month. The remaining people use in-house reverse osmosis units to desalinate and purify the water. In addition, there are eight groundwater desalination plants operated by the CMWU in the southern parts of Gaza (Khan Younis- Deir Al Balah and Rafah) whose water is distributed through domestic distribution networks, mixed with well water (with a total capacity of 1 MCM/ year).[6]

Reuse of treated wastewater

There are different small demonstration reuse activities as pilot projects in scattered areas with total reuse quantities of around 1 MCM/ year.[6]

Water transfer from Israel

As of Oslo II, 5 MCM/year of drinking water are imported into Gaza through the Israeli water company Mekorot, which Gaza has to pay for. According to the Oslo II Agreement, water supply from Israel should increase by an additional 5 MCM of desalinated water annually (Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Annex III: Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs) but so far the delivery of this water is pending and Mekorot has not started pumping this water, despite a letter from the PWA to do so. [6]

Table 1: Gaza Unaccounted for Water (UFW) Percent and Baseline and Projected Production/ Import Needs

Gaza Strip Water Supply values in Mm3/year baseline short term action plan Long term strategy
2012 2012-2017 2017-2022 2022-2027 2027-2032
UFW% 42,0% 36,5% 31,0% 25,5% 20,0%
Production needs 102 113 134 151 276
Groundwater abstraction 93 48 50 37 176
- from springs 0 0 0 0 0
- from wells 93 48 50 37 176
Desalination 4,0 55 70 100 129
Import 5 10 14 14 14

Source: PWA. The current per capita water production rates in Gaza vary from just over 200 litres/ day in northern Gaza, to marginally over 100 litres/ day in Rafah in the south. Water consumption rates are considerably lower than these values, due to system inefficiencies of various types (leakage, illegal connections, etc.), which approach or may even exceed 40% in certain areas.

Issues worth mentioning regarding water supply

There are regular power cuts in Gaza as the provision of electricity remains below demand. As of May 2014, there is an 8 hours ‘on’ and 8 hours ‘off’ electricity supply schedule, which will decrease to 6 hours ‘on’ and 12 hours ‘off’ during the hot summer months.[20] The problem is that Gaza’s infrastructure - including the water and sanitation (WATSAN) facilities - needs electricity. Gaza used to get fuel from Israel but in October 2007, following its declaration of Hamas-controlled Gaza as a “hostile territory”, Israel began limiting the amount of industrial diesel the Palestinian Fuel Authority is allowed to transfer to Gaza.[40] At the end of 2009, the European Union (EU) stopped funding the purchase of industrial diesel for the power plant. After that, the amount of diesel entering the Gaza Strip dropped even further due to a domestic Palestinian dispute concerning its funding.[40] Since January 2011, no industrial diesel fuel has entered the Gaza Strip from Israel. The power plant was using regular diesel purchased by the Energy Authority in Gaza through tunnels from Egypt. However, the entry of cheap fuel came to a near complete halt due to tunnel closures and/ or destruction by the Egyptian authorities.[20] The only reason that the GPP is not completely shut down is due to subsidized Qatari fuel (P. Ironside, personal communication, May 15, 2014). The service providers could not afford to pay higher fuel prices, and the costs of fuel imported from Israel is double the price of fuel that used to come from Egypt.[20] However, Qatar’s US$ 60 million six-months fuel subsidy is ending in June 2014.[38] As of May 2014, none of the Gaza stakeholders know what will happen after June 2014. However, Gaza receiving millions of dollars in fuel subsidies is not a sustainable way to keep the WATSAN facilities functioning.

According to multiple Gazan stakeholders, many different solutions to the electricity problem have been discussed in the past but without any significant result. The energy-water discussions have been activated during the donor-PWA-CMWU roundtable that was held in Gaza on April 30, 2014, as the water strategy cannot be implemented without additional electricity.[38] Some of the options being discussed include the following:

  • Expansion of existing GPP?
    • The GPP was originally designed for a capacity of 140 mega watts (MW) but currently has a limited capacity of only 60 to 80 MW because of spare parts and fuel shortages[41]
    • After the GPP’s transformers were hit by Israeli missiles in 2006 (after the capture of Israeli *Upgrade existing GPP from diesel to natural gas to ease reliance on fuel, which is costly?
    • The GPP was originally designed to be operated by gas but due to a shortage of gas, it is now operated by diesel[42]
    • Upgrade of the GPP would cost US$ 32 million and could be completed in eight months[38] which is less money than the US$ 60 million in Qatari subsidized fuel for a period of six months ending in June 2014
  • Increase amount of electricity from Israel?
    • Israel is in a difficult situation when it comes to electricity (at capacity); on the other hand quantities needed in Gaza are very small (to sell 100 MW to Gaza should not be an issue) (anonymous, personal communication, unknown date)
    • Israel is also starting to benefit from gas off its coast in the eastern Mediterranean
      • In a few years Israel will have much more gas then they need to meet their own demand
      • Israeli’s gas companies could start to negotiate with various partners - including Gazans - to sell gas, but Israel’s political lobby might not be on board (e.g. Israel should not be doing anything for Gaza and Egypt should become the supplier for anything to Gaza).[37]
      • GPP could be connected to gas line
  • Increase amount of electricity from Egypt?
    • Additional supply could also come from Egypt; however it is not clear if Egypt is in a position to export more energy[43]
    • If additional infrastructure is built, the electricity coming from Egypt could be more than doubled [38]
    • Gaza could be connected to the electricity grid shared among the Arab countries (similar to the system that exists in Europe), which the PA and Egypt have been negotiating for a long time with no outcome so far
      • Solar energy?
    • PWA and donors started to think about solar with a small project to minimize the stress on the grids; however solar power needs space and Gaza is very crowded
    • As of May 2014, PWA together with the World Bank are drafting a ToR to do a 3-month study regarding solar energy’s affordability and feasibility in Gaza[44]
  • Desalination plant to combined with energy plant to be self-sufficient?

Water Demand

The population of the State of Palestine has been increasing at a very high rate for the last ten years, approximately 3.5 % per year.[45] The Ministry of Planning and Administrative Development (MoPAD) expects the growth rate will remain very high over the coming years, but it is expected to slow slightly as a result of changes in education and family structure, as has been observed in other Mediterranean countries. MoPAD has also made a demographic projection, which includes: a progressive decrease from the present population growth rate to a more modest rate by 2032; and a dramatic inflow of Palestinian returnees as a consequence of a final agreement with Israel.[6]

One of the most relevant water service parameters is the quantity of water made available to each citizen. The total amount of water supplied in Gaza provides each person with an average of 96 liters per capita per day (lpc/ day) in Gaza; however 95% of Gaza water is of unacceptable quality. The objective of the PWA is to provide 120 lpc/ day of quality water by 2030; however, this increase will be constrained not only by the customers’ capacity and willingness-to-pay for this service, but also by consumers’ support to limit water wastage and the over-abstraction of limited water resources. [6]

Table: Average water available in liters per capita per day in Palestine by year

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Palestine 85 83 81 83 88 82 82
West Bank 80 78 76 79 86 75 72
Gaza 91 90 89 88 91 92 96

These estimates from the Technical, Planning and Advisory Team (TPAT) calculations using PWA sources are for total availability and is greater than the amount reaching endusers due to loss

Table: Gaza Baseline and Projected Water Demand, Domestic and Industrial Demand (Mmm3/year)

baseline short term action plan Long term strategy
2012 2012-2017 2017-2022 2022-2027 2027-2032
population (MoPAD estimate) 1 644 293 1 994 680 2 339 313 2 645 554 3 001 518
Domestic Water Demand 58 70 89 106 132
Industrial Water Demand (Mm3/year est as 3% domestic) 1.7 2.1 3.8 6 9.2
total demand (domestic + industry) Mm3/year 59 72 93 112 141

Source: PWA. Baseline and projected demand for domestic and industrial water in Gaza. The 58 MCM/ year reflects the consumption quantity, which is less than the total abstraction due to leakages, distribution losses, theft, etc. System efficiency is around 60%.

There are no large industrial facilities (chemical plants, cement factories, etc.) consuming high volumes of water in Gaza, and most industries are small factories that use the urban water supply network as their sole source of water.[6] Some industrial facilities also use private wells, which are mainly registered as irrigation wells, as PWA has not issued abstraction rights for industry wells.[6] According to PWA estimations, industrial consumption is very low, as farmers already struggle to find sufficient water to irrigate their land and are therefore unwilling to resell this water to industry. The baseline for industry is 3% of domestic demand, which equates to 3 MCM/ year. [6]If political constraints are removed, the market opportunities for Gazan industries will increase and more investors will venture to develop small factories.

According to the most recent data, there are 133,355 dunum (equivalent to 13,425 ha) of irrigable land in Gaza.[46][47]. </ref> However, demand for water has been assessed on the basis of irrigated, rather than irrigable, land. The amount of water required per dunum varies from one place to another and is dependent on rainfall, temperature, quality of soil, the type of crop being grown and the irrigation technology used (submersion, sprinklers, drip irrigation, etc.). For overall planning purposes, the MoA recommends using an average figure of 500 m3/ dunum/ year taking the recent development of drip irrigation into account.[46] If the current political situation persists, it is considered that the amount of water available for irrigation will be severely constrained.

Issues worth mentioning regarding water demand

Most Palestinian (including Gazan) localities have no continuous water service. The water operator manages to pipe water to each section of the network for a few hours per day (or a few hours every two days or more) and customers have to invest in storage facilities if they wish to have water available all day long (UNICEF, personal communication, unknown date). As the network lacks pressure for several hours of every day, it becomes very vulnerable to contamination by wastewater infiltration.[6] In addition, intermittent water distribution causes the network to deteriorate at a faster rate and reduces its lifespan.


Unaccounted for water (UFW) is calculated as the difference between water produced and water billed to customers, and is expressed as a percentage of water production. This figure aggregates leakages in the network (distribution losses) and water that is stolen. Non-revenue water (NRW) is the addition to UFW of the percentage of water that has been accounted for, but not billed (e.g. mosque, camps, fire fighting, etc.). It is generally slightly higher than UFW and it is expressed in percentage. In Gaza, PWA has calculated that UFW stands at 41 to 46 %, which by international standards is high for an area that is almost flat and mainly equates to stolen water.

Collection rates

In addition to high UFW, service providers suffer from low bill collection rates and NRW is very high. The average collection rate in Gaza is 25- 50 %.[6] When compared with neighboring countries (such as Jordan or Egypt, not to mention Israel), it is clear that the performances of the Palestinian water providers with regard to NRW are poor.

Problem Statement: Total recharge is only one third of total abstractions

In 2014, the total abstracted groundwater volume is about 95 MCM for municipal uses (domestic and industrial) in addition to about 85 MCM/ year for agricultural uses[48]. This is in addition to 4.8 MCM/ year from the groundwater small-scale desalination plants (with a supply of 2.8 MCM/ year due to system inefficiency) and 0.25 MCM/ year from Deir El Balah seawater desalination plant.[48] Hence the total abstracted volume is about 185 MCM/ year, which means that the total recharge (55-60 MCM/ year) is only one third of total abstractions.[48] This gap will only increase further with the expected population growth rate remaining very high over the coming years and a potentially drastic inflow of Palestinian returnees as a consequence of a final agreement with Israel. The PWA expects demand for fresh water to grow to 260 MCM/ year by 2020, an increase of 60% over 2012 levels of abstraction from the aquifer.[6]

Note that the 5 MCM/ year supplied from Israel (Mekorot) and the 1 MCM/ year from pilot schemes wastewater reuse are not part of the abstraction calculation.

Issues and Stakeholders

Establishing permanent water rights

NSPD: Water Quantity, Water Quality, Governance, Assets, Values and Norms
Stakeholder Types: Federated state/territorial/provincial government, Sovereign state/national/federal government, Local Government, Non-legislative governmental agency, Community or organized citizens

As long as the permanent status negotiations are stalled, Palestinians will pursue their interests in connection with obtaining Palestinian water rights for the territories (Gaza and the West Bank), including the fair right-of-access, right-of-control and right-of-use to water resources shared with other countries, in line with international law [6]

Feasibility of developing desalination Infrastructure given insecurity and instability

NSPD: Water Quantity, Water Quality, Governance
Stakeholder Types: Federated state/territorial/provincial government, Sovereign state/national/federal government, Local Government, Non-legislative governmental agency, Development/humanitarian interest, Environmental interest, Community or organized citizens

Analysis, Synthesis, and Insight

What is an ASI?

Individuals may add their own Analysis, Synthesis, and Insight (ASI) to a case. ASI sub-articles are protected, so that each contributor retains authorship and control of their own content. Edit the case to add your own ASI.

Learn more

ASI:Additional Notes on Gaza Water Management

This ASI is a note on the process of case development. Christine.Buesser contributed the original case and 2 other ASI articles linked to Gaza Water Management.(read the full article... )

Contributed by: Christine Buesser (last edit: 22 October 2014)

ASI:Threats to Addressing a Water Strategy for Gaza

The task faced in improving the water sector in Gaza is thus of significant scale and difficulty. No ‘magic bullets’ exist, at least in the absence of an equitable and reasonable reallocation of shared fresh water between Israel and the State of Palestine, and there will be a need for a major overhaul of the sector as a whole in Gaza. In the event of not being able to settle a final agreement with Israel on the final status, there will be no possibilities to implement the long-term water strategy objectives and it will have a very negative impact on the water situation in the territories, which will give right to announce these territories as water disaster areas. Practical difficulties even for the short-term solutions can only be addressed if [a] the blockade is dealt with; [b] water is ‘kept out of politics’ and [c] there is the formation of an interim government decided upon by Fatah and Hamas. Current challenges are just too manifold for any technical solution to work effectively and efficiently. These challenges are presented and discussed here.(read the full article... )

Contributed by: Christine Buesser (last edit: 26 June 2014)

ASI:Short and Long Term Solutions for Water Problems in Gaza

An immediate priority should be to dramatically reduce current groundwater abstraction rates in order to reverse the damage being done to the Coastal aquifer underlying Gaza. The PWA’s short-term strategy aims to reduce the total groundwater abstraction in Gaza to about 150 MCM/ year in order to bridge the gap between water supply and demand. This would allow the aquifer to gradually replenish itself predominantly through natural recharge. However, a complete replenishment of the aquifer can only be achieved if the total abstraction is further reduced to about 70 MCM/ year and if the agricultural needs can be met with treated wastewater. A number of options exist spanning water demand management for both agricultural and domestic use to supply side options utilizing technology (desalination) or water transfer. These options are described here, including SWOT analysis of major options.(read the full article... )

Contributed by: Christine Buesser (last edit: 25 June 2014)

Key Questions

Technological Innovation: What roles can desalination play in a country's national water policy and what energy ecological and water quality considerations ought to go into making such a decision?

Brackish water desalination and sea water desalination provide a small portion of the total water needs in the Gaza Strip. Discussion of a large desalination plant has occurred for over 20 years, but political and economic instability have made the process of funding and implementing such a plant infeasible.

A big desalination project takes time and a significant amount of money hence short-term, low volume (STLV) desalination is relevant because relatively small volumes of desalinated water can be produced rapidly to address the drinking water problems. However, the STLV desalination cannot solve the existing problems of the over-abstraction of the aquifer [29]

The current water strategy includes building three STLV desalination plants with a total of 13 MCM/ year for emergency needs to improve quality of water and a regional high-volume desalination plant with a total of 55 MCM/ year (that can be expanded later on) to be completed by 2017 [6]

While some of the funding has been secured for this large project, there are still questions of feasibility and sustainability. One of these concerns is related to energy - as there is a large energy deficit and electric power is not available all day. Using fuel for pumping water adds considerable cost. Energy concerns cannot be de-linked from desalination projects.

If the currently planned STLV plant is not successfully implemented, Gazans are concerned about the prospects for building the required additional desalinization infrastructure.

One of the staff of the PWA in Gaza said the following: “If we do not succeed with this small plant, then everything else will be a big problem hence it is like a test case at the very small scale.” [49]

The given value was not understood.

Technological Innovation: What types of benefit sharing models can be used to make desalination more economically feasible and beneficial in water-scarce regions?

There have also been discussions on desalinating water in Egypt and supplying fresh water to Gaza. This option remains highly controversial as it will be a protracted affair.[29] However, fresh water supply to El-Arish and other parts of the Sinai in Egypt is very poor, with highly saline groundwater being present in many areas (Geriesh et al., 2004; Ghodeif & Geriesh, 2004). This would suggest that the Egyptian authorities may be amenable to a trans-boundary project pertaining to desalination, with shared benefits. However, for that option to materialize, the political landscape in Egypt or Gaza would have to change (UNICEF, personal communication, unknown date).[49]

The given value was not understood.

  1. ^ Al Yaqoubi, A. (2014). Water Resources Management, Use and Sustainable Development in the Gaza Strip, Palestine [PowerPoint Slides].
  2. ^ 2.0 2.1 Hamas. (2014, June 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:21, June 15, 2014, from
  3. ^ Palestinian freedom of movement. (2014, May 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:19, June 15, 2014, from
  4. ^ Hamoked & B'Tselem (January 2014). So near and yet so far—Implications of Israeli Imposed Seclusion of Gaza Strip on Palestinians’ Right to Family Life. Retrieved from
  5. ^ 5.0 5.1 5.2 United Nations- Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia - Coastal Aquifer: report of the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources (2012).
  6. ^ 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 Palestinian Water Authority. (March 2014). Gaza Strip: No Clean Drinking Water, No Enough Energy, and Threatened Future. Gaza, occupied Palestinian territory.
  7. ^ United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), UNRWA leads the way with region’s first ‘Green School’. 24 March 2014,’s-first-‘green-school’.
  8. ^ Personal communication between Christine Buesser and J. von Toggenburg, May 15, 2014.
  9. ^ 9.0 9.1 Z. Lunat, personal communication with Christine Buesser, May 24, 2014)
  10. ^ M. Milner, personal communication with Christine Buesser April 24, 2014)
  11. ^ UN official, personal communication with Christine Buesser, April 25, 2014
  12. ^ Palestinian Water Authority & Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (2014, April 30). ‘Water and Energy’ - Time for solutions: from risk to resource [PowerPoint Slides].
  13. ^ 13.0 13.1 A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser, April 24, 2014)
  14. ^ 14.0 14.1 Yasser Arafat International Airport. (2014, May 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:17, June 15, 2014, from
  15. ^ Gaza Seaport plans. (2014, February 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:22, June 15, 2014, from
  16. ^ Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. (November 2011). Scale of Control: Israel’s Continued Responsibility in the Gaza Strip. Retrieved from
  17. ^ 17.0 17.1 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Fragmented Lives Humanitarian Overview 2013: report of OCHA in the occupied Palestinian territory (March 2014), available from
  18. ^ 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 United Nations, Gaza in 2020 - A liveable place?: report of the United Nations Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territory (August 2012).
  19. ^ Court bans activities of Islamist Hamas in Egypt. (2014, March 04). Reuters. Retrieved from:
  20. ^ 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 M. Muenchenbach, personal communication with Christine Buesser, April 25, 2014.
  21. ^ World Food Programme (WFP) occupied Palestinian territory Country Office. Gaza – eased or uneased? Changes on Gaza Market and Household Conditions following Israel’s 20 June 2010 New Access Regime [PowerPoint Slides].
  22. ^ 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Messerschmid, C. (2011). Water in Gaza: Problems and Prospects. Available at
  23. ^ 23.0 23.1 Gaza Strip Summary - Update on Reconciliation. (2014, April 03-16). Gaza NGO Safety Office (GANSO) Bi-weekly Safety Report, 7(21).
  24. ^ Hamas, Fatah announce talks to form Palestinian unity government. (2014, April 23). CNN World. Retrieved from
  25. ^ Brooks, D., & Trottier, J. (March 2012). An agreement to share water between Israelis and Palestinians: The FoEME proposal. EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East, 3, 54-61. Retrieved from$%5E~Water_Agreement_FINAL.pdf
  26. ^ Weinberger, G. et al. 2012. The Natural Water Resources between the Meditteranean Sea and the Jordan River. Israel Hydrologic Service. Jerusalem. online:
  27. ^ A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser, May 12, 2014
  28. ^ Hilles, A.H., & Al-Najar, H. (2011). Brackish water desalination is the merely potable water potential in the Gaza Strip: Prospects and limitations. Journal of Environmental Science and Technology , 4 (2), 158-171.
  29. ^ 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Palestinian National Authority & Palestinian Water Authority, The Gaza Emergency Technical Assistance Programme on Water Supply to the Gaza Strip: the updated final report (Report 7 of the CSO-G) of The Comparative Study of Options for an Additional Supply of Water for the Gaza Strip (CSO-G) (2011, July 31).
  30. ^ Shomar, B., Osenbrück, K., & Yahya A. (2008). Elevated nitrate levels in the groundwater of the Gaza Strip: Distribution and sources. Science of the Total Environment, 398, 164-174.
  31. ^ United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Environmental Assessment of the Gaza Strip following the Escalation of Hostilities in December 2008-January 2009: report of United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva (2009).
  32. ^ 32.0 32.1 The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) - Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Household Survey, Gaza: report of UNICEF and the PHG (April 2010).
  33. ^ The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Protecting Children from Unsafe Water in Gaza: Strategy, Action Plan and Project Resources: report of UNICEF in the occupied Palestinian territory (March 2011).
  34. ^ Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit (2010). A Strategic Plan for the Introduction of Wastewater Reuse in Palestine. Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territory.
  35. ^ A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser, n.d.
  36. ^ A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser, April 27, 2014"
  37. ^ 37.0 37.1 37.2 INGO working in the State of Palestine and Israel, personal communication with Christine Buesser, April 27, 2014
  38. ^ 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 P. Ironside, personal communication with Christine Buesser, May 15, 2014
  39. ^ Al Yaqoubi, A., Assessment of Risk and Uncertainty Related to Coastal Aquifer Management in the Gaza Strip/Palestine: report of Palestinian Water Authority (September 2012).
  40. ^ 40.0 40.1 Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. (Undated). Gaza Power Plant. Retrieved from
  41. ^ M. Milner, personal communication with Christine Buesser, April 24, 2014
  42. ^ A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser May 01, 2014
  43. ^ A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser, May 12, 2014
  44. ^ A. Al Yaqoubi, personal communication with Christine Buesser, May 09, 2014
  45. ^ Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (2011). A special bulletin on the Palestinians on the Occasion of World Population Reaching 7 Billion. Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territory: Author. Retrieved from
  46. ^ 46.0 46.1 State of Palestine Ministry of Agriculture (2011). Agriculture Sector strategy 2011-2013. Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territory.
  47. ^ Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (2010). A Comparative Study on the Social, Familial, Marital, Educational and Economic Characteristics of the Households in the Palestinian Territory (1997–2007). Ramallah, occupied Palestinian territory: Author. Retrieved from
  48. ^ 48.0 48.1 48.2 Christine Buesser, public presentation, MIT Water Diplomacy course, May 15, 2014 archived online at: File:Buesser, Christine - Gaza Water Management Presentation MIT May 2014 external use.pdf
  49. ^ 49.0 49.1 Christine Buesser, ASI:Short and Long Term Solutions for Water Problems in Gaza. (2014, June 25). AquaPedia Case Study Database, . Retrieved 18:31, June 26, 2014 from

Facts about "Gaza Strip Water Management"RDF feed
AgreementIsraeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Oslo II Agreement) +
Area360 km² (138.996 mi²) +
ClimateDry-summer +
Geolocation31° 31' 21.2196", 34° 27' 10.8"Latitude: 31.522561
Longitude: 34.453
IssueEstablishing permanent water rights + and Feasibility of developing desalination Infrastructure given insecurity and instability +
Key QuestionWhat roles can desalination play in a country's national water policy and what energy ecological and water quality considerations ought to go into making such a decision? + and What types of benefit sharing models can be used to make desalination more economically feasible and beneficial in water-scarce regions? +
Land Useagricultural- cropland and pasture + and urban +
NSPDWater Quantity +, Water Quality +, Governance +, Assets + and Values and Norms +
Population1,670,000 million +
RiparianPalestinian Territories +, Israel +, Egypt + and Gaza +
Stakeholder TypeFederated state/territorial/provincial government +, Sovereign state/national/federal government +, Local Government +, Non-legislative governmental agency +, Community or organized citizens +, Development/humanitarian interest + and Environmental interest +
Water FeatureCoastal Aquifer (Israel, Palestine) +
Water UseAgriculture or Irrigation + and Domestic/Urban Supply +
Has subobjectThis property is a special property in this wiki.Gaza Strip Water Management + and Gaza Strip Water Management +