Mekorot: Water supply to West Bank is high

Water company denies B'Tselem allegations of a severe water shortage faced by Palestinians.

gaza dirty water 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza dirty water 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
National water company Mekorot on Tuesday denied allegations made by NGO Bt'selem that Israel is creating a severe water shortage in the West Bank through a discriminatory policy, saying it provided more water to the West Bank than was required under the Oslo agreement. In a report published Tuesday, B'Tselem asserted that Palestinians living in the northern West Bank drink one-third of the per capita water consumption recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The human rights organization wrote that on average, Israelis drink 3.5 times as much water as Palestinians. It charged that "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." But Mekorot said it provided 500 million cubic meters per year, or 30 percent more than required under Oslo. Moreover, the water supply to the West Bank has even increased, it said, despite water cutbacks and severe shortage in Israel. The company also accused Palestinian water thieves of stealing up to 50 percent of supply in some areas, such as Bethlehem and Hebron. Water Authority spokesman Uri Shor told The Jerusalem Post that the distribution of water between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is based on an agreement between the sides. "Israel has observed the agreement and then some," he said. According to B'Tselem, the problem in the West Bank has been compounded this summer by the lack of rainfall over the past few years. This past winter, rainfall was 64 percent of the annual average in the northern West Bank and 55% in the south. The total water shortage could reach 79 million cubic meters. According to WHO, the total number of cubic meters required by an urban individual for all his needs amounts to 100 cubic meters. In Tubas, the average water consumption, including for livestock, available to residents is 30 liters per person. In Jenin, it is 38 liters. In Israel, the average per capita water consumption is 235 liters in the city and 214 liters in towns. Another problem faced by the Palestinians is that 227,500 of them, living in 220 villages and towns, are not connected to the water system. They are forced to purchase water from vendors at three to six times the regular price. It said families that cannot afford to buy water draw it from unsupervised wells, leading to an increase in infectious diseases in many rural areas in the summer. According to Shor, the last four years have all been years of draught, including the past one, which has been the worst of all. The probability of this happening is two percent, he said. Israel is also suffering from a severe water shortage and all three of its water sources have reached their bottom red lines. Shor added that the Palestinians do not do a good job of distributing their water resources. While some parts of the West Bank suffer shortages, others have too much. He also blamed the shortage in the West Bank on Palestinians who tap into the water lines and steal water. "The PA does nothing about it," he charged. Israel supplies 80% of the West Bank's water needs.