The IDF has warned the international community that the water infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza will collapse as long as the Palestinian Authority refuses to cooperate with Israel.
According to Head of the Coordination for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the joint Israeli-Palestinian water distribution council—which manages water infrastructure in the West Bank—hasn’t met since 2010 due to the Palestinians' refusal to approve water infrastructure upgrades in the West Bank settlements.
The major general sent an urgent letter to the UN humanitarian aid coordinator in the West Bank, the head of the Palestinian UNRWA, the head of the Red Cross, head of USAID, and various ambassadors, including the German, UK, Italian, French and EU ambassadors to Israel.
The COGAT head said that he wants significant steps to be taken to fix the water crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, saying "the Gaza Strip almost completely relies on its aquifer, and the water quality in it has become very poor as a result of years of over-pumping and pollution."
Regarding the West Bank, he wrote that "according to Palestinian estimates, 96% of the water drawn from the aquifer there isn't fit to drink, and thus the Palestinians rely on water from Israel… the water infrastructure in place isn't enough to meet the needs of the population, leading to water shortages in certain areas (of the West Bank)."
Meanwhile, he continued "waste water treatment (in the Palestinian Authority) is seriously lacking. According to official estimates, there will be huge water shortages amounting to tens of millions of cubic meters of water in the coming years."
Israel recently approved sending 10 million cubic meters of water to Gaza and six million cubic litres to the West Bank. Yet despite Israeli efforts to help the Palestinians solve this crisis, the problem still hasn't been resolved.
"This additional supply of water to Gaza fulfills the Palestinian request for Israeli aid, and the Palestinians have made it clear that they are not interested in more water," Maj. Gen. Mordechai wrote.
The letter went on to say that "the Israeli Water Authority has commissioned a multi-year, long term plan to be written which will fix the water infrastructure for the benefit of the entire population living in the West Bank."
"In addition," the COGAT head wrote, "the State of Israel supports the promotion of desalination projects and water and sewage infrastructure in Gaza, including the building of the largest desalination plant ever planned in the Strip."
Mordechai said that discussions were currently underway about "two giant projects in Gaza; building a $250 dollar water desalinization plant—which will be able to desalinate 55 million cubic meters of water— and improving the water management system."
The Palestinian Authority has yet to provide Israel with its estimates for how much water the Authority will require in the future, thereby delaying the creation of a coordinated water management plan.
With this in mind Maj. Gen. Mordechai wrote "we are warning the international community that if there is no immediate change in the water situation, we can expect a water crisis by next summer. (Israel) will continue efforts to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority on this issue, and we hope that our efforts will bear fruit. We call on the international community to renew its support of our cooperation, and in support of our projects to advance water infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
"Mobilizing the international community to help us prevent this crisis is of the utmost importance," the letter concluded. "Israel will be happy to assist and support any effort to advance these projects."