September 9, 2002
HEBRON: Water inequalities
by Kathleen Kamphoefner
Most of the city of Hebron has been without water for more than two
months, since the most recent Israeli invasion, but some areas have been
waterless for as much as two months.
Mekarot, the Israeli water authority, reported in a recent Ha'aretz
article that its efforts to get Israelis to conserve water have largely
been unsuccessful and that the supply is quite low this year, in spite of
good winter rains. Unsuccessful in promoting voluntary water
conservation inside Israel, the water authority is forcing such
conservation on the West Bank by turning down the supply and
prohibiting water use for agriculture.
Two years ago, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported that 80% of the
water goes to Israelis on both sides of the green line, while 20% is left
for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. A 1999 study by the World Bank
showed that the Palestinians are the thriftiest consumers of water in the
Middle East. Annual per capita use is 375 cubic meters for Israelis and
115 cubic meters for residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In late May, the water coming to Hebron had slowed to a trickle
of 1,000-2,000 cubic meters per day. The Municipality complained to
the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA). The PWA requested that Israel
crack down on black market water dealing, which decreases the water en
route to Hebron. The PWA complains that it cannot prevent the theft of
water from the pipes in Areas B and C, as the areas are under the control
of the Israeli army. The PWA also cannot increase the supply available,
which depends on Mekarot allocation.
During the shortage, those who could afford it purchased tanks of
water from the Hebron Municipality, which were trucked in. But the supply
was so far behind the demand that the City soon fell a month behind in
those deliveries. The Israeli army bars the water trucks from inside the
Old City of Hebron and neighborhoods bordering Israeli settlements,
leaving them only the supply in the water pipes.
The Municipality rotates the meager supply of water in the pipes
from neighborhood to neighborhood. Once every fifteen days it is turned on
in each area. However, the water pressure has been so low, it could
not refill many residential tanks. In the Hisbeh, the Old City's
covered market, shops are on the first floor, while homes are on second,
third, and sometimes fourth floors above. With the current supply, the
water has only been reaching the ground floor shops. Some families have
borrowed electric water pumps to refill their rooftop tanks, while many
carry buckets from below, often limiting their consumption of water to
drinking and cooking. Areas high in elevation or population density have
had special difficulty getting enough water.
Now in the hottest weeks of the year, in the Israeli settlement of
Kiryat Arba overlooking Hebron, an automatic sprinkler system continues to
water their green lawns and flower gardens.
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