Water everywhere, and not a drop to drink

How Israel controls water resources in the West Bank

Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – March 22nd marks World Water Day. Since 1993, this day has been commemorated to raise awareness of 2.2 billion people living without access to clean water. On July 28th, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. The UN acknowledged that access to safe water is essential to the realization of all human rights through Resolution 64/292.

In the occupied Palestinian territories, water access is a matter left to Israel to decide upon. Abdel Rahman Al Tamimi, a lecturer at the Institute of Sustainable Development at Al Quds University, spoke with Jerusalem24 on how Israel controls water sources in the West Bank. “Israel, since 1967, announced that it wanted to control water resources in Military Order No. 194, which considered all water resources to be under the control of the military governor.” Tamimi continues to say that, “all information about water is classified and considered to be military information.” As such, the quantities of water in the West Bank as well as the location of its sources were considered classified by Israel since 1967.

Since then, Israeli policy towards water access has not changed much. According to Al Tamimi “all of Israel’s policies are integrated, systematic and accumulated, and considers the future of water as the most effective means for expanding settlements.” Israeli settlements in the West Bank are always constructed with access to fresh clean water sources, at the cost of Palestinian towns, cities and villages. Tamimi says that at the same time Israel is forcing Palestinians to purchase desalinated water from Israeli companies, maintaining the West Bank aquifers for the Israeli settlements constructed there after 1967.

Israel’s control over water resources in the West Bank is not limited to the natural aquifers and springs in the region. Military Order No. 99 specifies that all licenses for water wells and networks fall under the authority of the military governor. This order was changed in 1976 as Israel established the Civil Administration, and transferred to it the jurisdictions over water sources from the military.

Al Tamimi warns of dark days to come should the issue of water remain unresolved. He says that, “we have a relatively large population growth, and a need for agricultural production in addition to urban development. If the issue is not resolved at the political level and the Palestinian National Authority does not pay attention to the coming danger, we will fall into a catastrophic situation.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended that a person has access to 100 liters per day, this access is meant for general uses such as cooking, drinking and others. The average water consumption in the Occupied Palestinian territories is 20 liters, far less than the average water consumption recommended by the WHO.

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