By: George Kurzom
Children in southern Gaza Strip collect drinking water for their homes from public taps in the street
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
Jordanians and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffer from a terrible water shortage.
The water crisis in Jordan is intensified by the arrival of refugees from Syria, while Israel continues to steal Arab water on one hand, and uses its special technologies to produce more desalinated water, on the other hand. Israel either sells water to Arabs directly from desalination plants, or would be involved in establishing similar desalination facilities in Arab countries.
In Jordan particularly the severe water crisis continues, and even exacerbated during the last winter due to the relatively scarce amounts of rain all over the Hashemite Kingdom. And due to disputes between Israel and the royal Hashemite family, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently refused to accept the Jordanian government’s request for additional water supplies.
For a few decades, Jordan has been suffering from a continuous and accumulated water deficit due to population growth and the lack of natural water sources. The crisis exacerbated after the entry of more than one million Syrian refugees into northern Jordan, especially in the district of Irbid.
Helmholtz Centre for environmental research which is based at the University of Leipzig, Germany, recently published a comprehensive report on the impact of the presence of refugees on Jordan's water resources. The report notes that in the last decade, water consumption in northern Jordan has increased by 40%.
The main source of water is the ground aquifers, which are diminishing. Even the pipe network and sewage treatment facilities in the area can no longer bear the huge burden on them, in addition to the constant breakdowns in them. In some places, they get supply of fresh water only one day per month.
The report of the Helmholtz Centre indicates that the situation is also critical in the capital, Amman, where residents get water once a week. The residents take advantage of the few hours during which the water flows to fill the water storage tanks installed on the roofs of their homes (as the case is for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza), and thus the water from the tanks (on the roofs) is used until the water supply arrives the following week.
The Jordanian authorities have implemented some simple improvements to increase the efficiency of the work of the water systems. As some areas in Amman began to use treated wastewater for irrigation. However, the Jordanian water economy still suffers from severe lifelong problems, the most prominent of which is the water losses in the networks, which can reach to about 50% of the amount of water due to leakage and illegal connections practiced by many consumers. Not to mention the numerous malfunctions in the sewage system that cause groundwater pollution.
According to the Wadi Araba agreement (between Israel and Jordan), Israel supplies Jordan with 50 million cubic meters of water annually from the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, while Jordan pumps water from the area opposite of Wadi Araba in southern Palestine to irrigate Israeli crops there. A few years ago, Israel decided, almost secretly, to increase the supply of the Jordan River's water (to Jordan) by 20 million cubic meters annually.
The Hashemite kingdom also agreed in principle with Israel to solve the problem of its water shortage through the process of exchanging Arab waters with other stolen Arab waters (by Israel), through Jordan's establishment of a desalination facility in Aqaba that would supply water to the Israeli settlements in southern Palestine, specifically the settlements south of the Arabah. For every cubic meter of water that Jordan will supply to the southern Israeli settlements, Israel will supply Jordan with water from Lake Tiberias, originally stolen by Israel, or from the Israeli desalination facilities in northern Palestine.
It is interesting to know that the well-known Israeli economist, Yuval Elitzur, revealed at that time that the idea of building a desalination plant in Aqaba originally came from the Israeli company Mekorot. The delegation of Mekorot company suggested the idea of building a desalination plant and "helping" in the implementation of the project, in an area about 50 km north of Aqaba, fed by water from the Red Sea.
Hydrological facts contradict with Israel’s claims about the water drought
A few years ago, the economist “Yuval Elitzur" revealed that Israel currently has a surplus of water for human consumption and for agriculture. This is basically due to the establishment of a few new desalination facilities and the development of natural gas fields that can operate these facilities at very low prices. However, despite this, and for obvious political and economic reasons, the Israeli government agencies are keen to underestimate this fact, and continue to claim that “the country” (that is, historical Palestine) suffers from a scarcity of water resources, and therefore, “every drop of water must be preserved.”
Hydrological facts on the ground, and the massive Israeli robbery of Palestinian and Arab water resources, contradict Israeli claims about water drought. The long-term (ten-year) annual average of precipitation in the Jerusalem area, for example, is very close to that of European capitals. The amount of rain in Jerusalem is higher than in Berlin, and the amount of rain in Ramallah is more than in Paris! (Messerschmidt, Clemens 2011. The Water Crisis in Palestine).
In fact, the western mountain aquifer basin, which extends along the West Bank and the Galilee, is the largest, richest and best-quality water basin in Palestine and enjoys high rate of water recharge, and Israel plunders most of its water.
The occupation uses water as a weapon to systematically abuse the Palestinians, enjoying their thirst and humiliation, to prolong their dependence on it, not only for their livelihood, but also for their water. Rather, the weapon of thirst is also used to force the Palestinians to give in to the occupation and its projects.
In this context, it is useful to recall that during the Israeli army’s siege of Beirut in 1982, Yitzhak Rabin advised his colleague, Ariel Sharon, the Zionist Minister of War at the time, to take the initiative to cut off the water and electricity to West Beirut and thirst it, in order to control and silence the besieged Palestinian resistance there. He took the advice, cutting off the water and electricity for a few weeks during the siege.
The disgusting irony is that the Israeli entity uses the water weapon to thirst not only the Palestinians, but the Arab people whose governments have signed colonial agreements with Israel and cooperate with it in security and intelligence, such as Jordan and Egypt. Noting that Israel supported Ethiopia technically to build the Renaissance Dam, which if it completes the second phase of the process of feeding it with the waters of the Nile River, it will cause millions of Egyptians to starve and it will also dry large agricultural areas in Egypt. Israel also has a security and military presence in Ethiopia, as well as Israeli air defenses to protect the Ethiopian dam.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh