The B'Tselem human rights organization says the West Bank is facing a severe water crisis in the coming months. The Israeli rights group, that monitors Palestinian areas, issued a report on Tuesday morning blaming the shortage on two parties – drought, and Israel.
According to the report the average water consumption of Israelis is three and a half time more than the Palestinian equivalent, yet the Palestinians receive much less water.
The organization asserts that Israel has complete control over the joint water resources and forbids Palestinian drilling without Israeli approval, under a military order. Israel, it says, pumps some 44 million cubic meters of water in the West Bank, primarily in the Jordan River Valley, which constitutes 5 million cubic meters more than amount it supplies to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel allots only 20% of the shared mountain aquifer waters to the Palestinians, and prevents the PA from developing additional water resources which would allow the supply of water to grow. B'Tselem says the existing problem has been aggravated by the drought in the region.
According to the Palestinian Water Authority, this year alone there is a shortage of 40 to 70 million cubic meters for Palestinian needs. The Water Authority said it has requested aid from Israel.
B'Tselem notes that the shortage exists despite the fact that the per capita average water consumption figure stands at 66 liters a day, some two thirds of the minimal amount recommended by the World Health Organization.
In certain areas in the northern West Bank, water consumption is at a third of that amount. The amount also includes the water consumption of livestock.
The report says that 227,000 Palestinians in 220 villages and towns are not connected to infrastructure allowing for plumbing – of these, 75% reside in the northern West Bank. An additional 190,000 Palestinians reside in villages or towns were the water infrastructure is minimal.
Even towns that are connected to the water grid suffer from a faltering supply and water is supplied only part of the day and often alternates between neighborhoods. In remote areas, the water can be turned off for days or weeks.
Ynet has learned that last month Jenin was virtually without water after a faulty pump was sent to Israel for repairs.
The B'Tselem report says that the West Bank villages that are connected to Israel's national water company – Mekorot – suffer from discrimination as the company limits their supply to keep up with the
growing demand from settlements.
The group says the shortage has led Palestinian farmers to pirate water from grids leading to Palestinian villages.
Israel, says B'Tselem, as an occupying force, has the legal responsibility to ensure such facilities in the land it occupies without discrimination. The international treaty for economic, social and cultural rights, which Israel is signatory to, requires it to provide clean drinking water without discrimination.