Palestinian access to water is severely restricted as a result of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Rather than utilising their own water resources, which are fully under Israeli control, Palestinians are forced to buy water from Israel at full price. This is largely because the Israeli government hinders the development of infrastructure within the Palestinian territories. The discrepancy in water consumption between Jewish settlements within the West Bank and Palestinians is staggering: some settlements consume around 400 liters per capita per day, compared with 73 liters per capita per day for Palestinians residing in the West Bank. In the event of water shortages, valves supplying the Palestinian communities are turned off, while those of Israeli settlers are not.1 This discrepancy is starker with Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel, whose consumption is as low as 10-20 liters per capita per day.2
The Oslo Accords in 1993 set out guidelines for how water would be managed in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This created a situation whereby the Gaza Strip is meant to be entirely self-reliant and is not allowed to depend on water supply from the West Bank, where the major Palestinian water aquifers are located. Existing drills barely allow for the extraction of sufficient quantities of water to meet demand.
The Gaza Strip relies almost entirely on the coastal aquifer for its water. Such a heavy dependency on a single aquifer means that this body of water is over-pumped. 95% of the water coming from the coastal aquifer is unfit for drinking.3 The blockade on the Gaza Strip, in place since 2007, means that there are chronic shortages of electricity and fuel. This aggravates contamination and other water problems.4