Gaza water supplies dangerous low

GAZA STRIP – Dangerously low drinking water reserves, dilapidated decontamination facilities, and a nearly dry water table are the warning signs of a looming crisis in Gaza, according to Shaddad al-Atili, water and ecological affairs advisor to the Palestinian Authority. "We are heading toward an ecological catastrophe," he told Agence France Presse last week, citing as one reason Gaza’s rapidly growing population of 1.3 million people, 900,000 of them refugees.

Rain alone isn’t enough to sustain the Palestinian territory, which receives between 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion cubic feet of rainwater annually but consumes about three times that amount, Atili says. "Besides, Israel has not authorized us to import water from regions outside Gaza." Israel has offered to sell them desalinated water for $1 per cubic meter, which the Palestinians find too costly.

Water allocation is part of the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the creation of an independent Palestinian state, along with borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the return of refugees.

Some 4,300 wells are allowed by law, but scarcity has caused Gaza residents to dig another 2,400 without permission, illegally draining water from the already low water table, Atili reports.

Gaza has one of the world’s highest population densities, 8,642 people per square mile, and the population is expected to reach 2.2 million people in 10 years.