Prepaid water meters have been implemented in 12 villages in the north of the West Bank, and soon will be in many more communities if swift action is not taken. Salaam Fayyad’s government has been promoting prepaid water meters as a way to recover costs for water supplied by the Israeli national water company Mekorot. In 2009, the West Bank Water Department and the Palestinian Ministry of Finance reached an agreement where at least some villages would have all of their development projects frozen by the Ministry of Finance – including upgrades to water networks, roads, and schools – unless the local councils began paying their debts to Mekorot. Local councils quickly began installing prepaid water meters without giving citizens choice and without implementing any protections for households living in extreme poverty. As a result, the water consumption gap between rich and poor is increasing. The World Bank is openly pushing for private sector control of public water resources and infrastructure in Palestine, even though this system has been disastrous in so many parts of the world. In Palestine, LifeSource is beginning to bring together a coalition to resist this trend towards prepaid water meters and water privatization.
The Tovlan landfill in the Jordan Valley is operated by Veolia Environment, a French multinational corporation, which is profiting from dumping garbage from Israel into occupied Palestinian territory in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. LifeSource research helped to break the story that waste being brought to the landfill originated inside of Israel. Veolia also has the contract with Israel for the controversial Jerusalem Light Rail project, which is connecting illegal Israeli settlements to West Jerusalem. Veolia buses discriminate against Palestinians in their service to the settlements, denying service to Palestinians.
Veolia is the lead privatizer of water in the world. Veolia is buying up our global water commons for private profit. Veolia has more than 389 water and sanitation contracts in the US alone, serving “approximately 14 million people in 600 communities.”[i] Veolia Water is a permanent operator in 67 countries, supplying 100 million people with drinking water worldwide.[ii] There are countless stories of Veolia failing to deliver on its water and sanitation contracts, and collecting public money all the same.
LifeSource is active in supporting a boycott against Veolia even though Veolia has no water or sanitation contracts in occupied Palestinian territory at this time, because LifeSource is against the privatization of water and sees that this campaign can bring together water rights activists and Palestinian solidarity activists to support each other in local/global struggle.
Who Profits, “Veolia's Involvement in the Occupied Jordan Valley – An Update,” October 10th, 2011
Watch the unedited LifeSource interview with a Veolia worker.
[i] "600-plus communities served; 190-plus wastewater treatment plants operated and maintained; 90-plus water treatment plants operated and maintained; 74 industrial wastewater treatment facilities; 35 industrial water treatment facilities; 2,900 employees in North America; More than 2.2 billion gallons of water and wastewater treated everyday; Services to approximately 14 million people in 600 communities" from http://www.veoliawater.com/about/locations/united-states.htm. Check and see if they are active in your community, sorry, US residents only: http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/contracts
Eden Springs bottles water in the occupied Golan Heights for profit. The same company profits from the sale of water from local sources throughout Europe. Israeli water bottling companies directly profit from Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian and Syrian water resources. Meanwhile Palestinians are denied sufficient water and must purchase tankered water, with increased cost and risk of waterborne disease. LifeSource supported the London School of Economics in their successful campaign to boycott Eden Spring Water on their campus in 2010.
There have been many successful boycotts of Eden Springs throughout Scotland, the UK, and Europe. Join a local campaign or get in touch with organizers of past campaigns to learn more about organizing a campaign on your campus.
Palestinians in the West Bank purchase more than half of their domestic water supply from the Israeli National Water Company Mekorot. Mekorot also supplies the vast majority of water consumed by illegal settlements from wells inside of Israel and from more than 42 wells that it controls and operates in the West Bank in violation of international law. Being dependent upon water supply from Israel leaves Palestinians in a highly vulnerable position. Mekorot frequently cuts water supply to Palestinian villages and neighborhoods.
While it is true that Israel is selling Palestinians far more water than it is obligated to sell to Palestinians according to the 1995 Oslo II Article 40 water agreement, it is also true that Israel is preventing Palestinians from developing additional quantities of water from new Palestinian wells approved under Oslo.[i] Israel’s obstruction of Palestinian water development has forced Palestinians into a state of dependence upon purchasing water from Israel.
LifeSource’s documentary film Filling Point, shows the effect of Mekorot restrictions and violations of international law on the 20,000 residents of As-Samou – South Hebron. The As-Samou Well Pumping Station had been pumping water since 1955 to the residents of As-Samou and an additional 25,000 Palestinian residents in the area. In 1982, in violation of international law, the Israeli Military Commander sold all Palestinian water infrastructure under its control to Mekorot for one symbolic shekel – including this well and pumping station. After years of negotiations, As-Samou was permitted to access some limited additional quantities of water from Mekorot via a new filling point to be constructed, but on the condition that this water not be distributed to residents through their existing water network. Thus residents are forced to rely on slow and expensive water tankers with increased risk of water-borne disease, while a simple pipe is all that is needed to bring water to residents in their home.
[i] Israel agreed to allow Palestinians to develop additional quantities of water as “immediate needs” to be realized before the year 2000, as well as “future needs.” While Israel is indeed selling Palestinians more than they are obligated to sell, it is also the case that little over half of the additional quantities that Palestinians were promised to be able to develop as “immediate needs” have actually been realized today and Israel is currently withholding approval for 82 well drilling projects that would allow Palestinians the quantities approved under Oslo. World Bank (2009), p. 36.
Israel controls 100% of the waters of the Jordan River, in direct violation of Palestinian rights. The diversion of the Jordan River is a central feature of Israel’s National Water Carrier. Mekorot, the Israeli national water company, which supplies 52% of the domestic water in the West Bank today, was the contractor for the National Water Carrier, which was completed in 1957.
Israel diverts the lower Jordan River to Israel’s coastal plain and then to the Negev desert in the south, with major repercussions today for the health of the ecosystem,[i] peace in the region, and access to water for many Palestinians and Jordanians,[ii] who have depended upon this resource for centuries. In the 1967 Six Days War and shortly afterwards, Israel destroyed or confiscated all 140 pumping stations on the east and west banks of the Jordan River.
In the Jordan Valley, Israel demolishes Palestinian homes, schools, clinics and water infrastructure, while encouraging the growth of illegal Israeli colonies, including large agricultural plantations exporting water intensive crops to Israel.
See section on the Jordan Valley
[i] Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are diverting tributaries to the Jordan River within their territories, which is also contributing to the reduction in flow of the Jordan River.
[ii] While Israel is occupying Syrian territory to control the Jordan River system including the Sea of Galillee and its tributaries in the Golan Heights, Israel’s diversion of the Jordan River doesn’t have a major impact on access to water in Syria.
"Dead Sea ecological disaster 1967-2007" from Hoshana, creative commons
Since 2006 Israel and the international community have been imposing a siege on the Gaza Strip, which was intensified in 2007. Israel’s siege on Gaza prevents the entry of spare parts, materials and energy needed for the day-to-day functioning of the water and wastewater networks, and furthermore obstructs much needed development of these systems. Today Israel is preventing fisherman from fishing beyond 3 nautical miles, even though according to the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, Palestinians are allowed a 20 nautical mile fishing limit.
The plight of the besieged Gazan people is receiving increased international media attention following the Gaza War of 2008-9, also known as “Operation Cast Lead”. It was the finding of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict that water and sanitation resources and infrastructure were intentionally targeted by Israel during the 23-day offensive, which killed more than 1400 Gazans.[i] Damage to water and sanitation infrastructure cost an estimated US $6 million.[ii] The siege continues to interfere with rebuilding.
The Free Gaza Movement is a coalition of human rights activists and Palestinian solidarity groups who are challenging the siege of Gaza by sailing humanitarian aid ships to Gaza, also known as the Freedom Flotilla. The Freedom Flotilla had two successful missions breaking the Israeli siege in 2008 and bringing symbolic humanitarian shipments to Gazan civilians before Israel’s navy began to intervene, illegally attacking and hijacking the boats in international waters. In May 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the ships at night killing nine Turkish citizens, including one dual Turkish-American citizen. The Freedom Flotilla continues to be a powerful symbol of civil disobedience and direct action citizens can take to highlight the inaction of governments and to put pressure on governments to do the right thing and open Gaza’s seaport to receive much needed parts and materials for improving local water and sanitation systems, rebuilding Gaza and developing the territory.
Go to: Water Resources in Gaza
Watch LifeSource film Gaza is Floating
[i] “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” para. 1023, UN Doc. A/HRC/12/48 (15 September 2009).
[ii] Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, Damage Assessment Report: Water and Waste Water Infrastructure and Facilities, (January 2009), p. 5, in LifeSource (January 2009) “Israel’s military bombardment and ongoing siege of Gaza is threatening residents with a water and sanitation catastrophe.”
In Gaza the Coastal Aquifer is basically the only source of ‘freshwater.’ Aquifer levels are extremely low, the aquifer is highly polluted and the salinity level is sharply increasing. Up to 95% of the 116 municipal supply wells in Gaza that tap into the aquifer produce water that isn’t fit for human consumption, as chloride levels are greater than 250 mg/l. It is important to note that the British Hydrological Service observed overpumping of the Coastal Aquifer as early as 1933 before the territory became overcrowded as a result of the 1948 War.
The map of Aquifer Levels in Gaza shows that the aquifer levels are most depleted in Gaza City (population 450,000) and Khan Younis / Rafah (joint populations 251,000). Contrary to common assumption, the increase in salinity of the aquifer in Gaza comes from Israeli territory in the east, and not from seawater intrusion. The contour of the aquifer portrayed in this map is in line with this conclusion. As a result of Israeli obstruction of wastewater treatment plants, untreated and partially treated sewage is being released into the ground and into the sea.
Gaza is a city and is best supplied like other cities, i.e. not from within city boundaries. Desalination plants are un-ecological, dependent on fossil fuels, highly expensive, unsustainable, and easily disrupted. According to international water law, Gaza has a right to an equitable and reasonable share of water from the Coastal Aquifer within Israel.
Watch LifeSource film Gaza is Floating
Related page: Siege on Gaza
In contrast to Gaza, the West Bank lies in a mostly sub-humid climate where bountiful rainfall provides for high groundwater recharge rates into the shared Mountain Aquifer, which consists of three basins – the Eastern, North-Eastern and Western Aquifer Basins. Among these three basins the Western Aquifer Basin or Western Aquifer is the purest and most abundant ground water reserve in the region. Israel has prevented Palestinians from drilling a single new well in the Western Aquifer since 1967.
According to a World Bank study, “about 85% of the recharge of the Western Aquifer is in the West Bank.”[i] But the Israeli military is limiting Palestinians to a mere 6% of this precious resource. If Palestinians had access to only half of the sustainable yield of this aquifer, Palestinians’ total water supply in the West Bank would double.[ii]
This cross-section of the Mountain Aquifer shows that within the West Bank the land above the Western Aquifer is mountainous and has sharp inclines. Only a relatively narrow strip along the Green Line has productive conditions as the slopes and mountains are unproductive. Israel has constructed the Segregation Wall or Apartheid Wall to capture these future abstraction zones.
[i] World Bank (2009), “Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development,” p. 35.
[ii] The “estimated potential” of the Western Aquifer at the time of Oslo was 362 million cubic meters. According to the Israeli Water Authority, total water supply to Palestinians today is 180 million cubic meters annually in the West Bank. Israel Water Authority (April, 2009), “The Issue of Water between Israel and the Palestinians,” (p. 15).
This gallery contains 189 photos.
Israeli Wells & the Wall
In 2002 Israel began to construct the Segregation Wall or Apartheid Wall, impacting Palestinians’ current access to water, more significantly, it will have a much greater impact on future access if it becomes an internationally recognized border.
The Wall grabs Palestinian wells, springs, and cisterns that Palestinians have been dependent upon for centuries. The Wall is also designed to capture most of the few future potential Palestinian abstraction zones of the Western Aquifer Basin. The Wall stands to cut Palestinians off from areas that would yield an addition 90 million cubic meters annually.[i] Compare this amount to Palestinians total current water supply in the West Bank, which is just 180 million cubic meters according to the Israeli Water Authority.[ii] Palestinians in Nabi Saleh and elsewhere are engaged in weekly demonstrations against the Wall to reclaim their water resources.
Today Israel dominates the Western Aquifer by preventing Palestinians from drilling new wells, by imposing quotas on existing Palestinian wells, and by drilling many very deep wells on Israel’s side of the Green Line for Israeli use. Israel’s deep productive wells tap into the Western Aquifer almost exclusively from within Israeli territory, compared to less than a handful of Israeli wells accessing the Western Aquifer from inside Palestinian territory, as seen in the map Israeli Wells and the Segregation Wall. But if the Wall becomes the new internationally recognized border between Israel and Palestine, then Israel will retain near-exclusive control of this basin and its benefits, even though it is recharged largely inside the West Bank. Thus it would be able to prevent Palestinians from accessing significant reserves in the Western Aquifer even after the formal military occupation is over.
[i] From Clemens Messerschmid (2011), “The Last Sip: Water crisis in Palestine [Arabic publication],” p. 6.
[ii] Israel Water Authority (April, 2009), “The Issue of Water between Israel and the Palestinians,” (p. 15).