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Source: USAID West Bank & Gaza
1 March 2005

USAID wraps up emergency water operations

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The American government Tuesday wound up an $18 million emergency operation that kept water flowing to 1.1 million Palestinians during the intense military activity of the second Intifada.

Emergency personnel were repeatedly deployed to avert potential humanitarian disasters by providing critical water and sanitation services to areas caught in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some 81 projects, most in combat zones, were completed during the operation's 35-month duration.

The entire operation was funded by the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Over the past decade, USAID has invested more than $300 million to improve infrastructure and management of scarce water resources in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Despite the instability of the situation, USAID coordinated with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and the Israeli IDF to provide adequate and safe water to Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza," said Dr. Ihab Barghothi, a senior PWA official. "Thanks to this successful program, unique relationships have been forged and we all have a better understanding of what long-term planning is needed."

The projects began in 2002 when military action caused extensive damage to infrastructure, disrupting water and sanitation services throughout the West Bank and leaving large sections of towns without water for several days.

After conferring with the PWA to determine the existence of an imminent threat to public health, USAID deployed rapid response teams to do emergency repair work and restore basic water and sanitation services.

The program consisted of dozens of projects aimed at saving lives by providing clean water, thus preventing the spread of water-borne illnesses and alleviating the threat to public health posed by cross-contamination.

The immediate response teams repaired wells; replaced damaged pipes, pumps, motors and valves; installed back-up pumps and generators; built temporary water storage reservoirs; opened new filling points alongside military roadblocks; and kept municipalities stocked with the supplies needed to rapidly repair damaged water and wastewater systems.

During times of crisis, the teams also trucked hundreds of thousands of liters of water to hospitals and refugee camps.

In the West Bank, the teams rapidly rebuilt the motor driving the Sair Booster Pump Station to keep water flowing from the Herodian well fields near Bethlehem to the 250,000 people in the southern West Bank. They rushed into action to replace a well facility that was the primary source of water for 10,000 Palestinians in Deir al Ghusun, Al Jarushiya and Al Masqufa.

The immediate response teams built a pumping station and equipped a tanker filling point to provide 70 liters of water per day to each of the 14,000 residents of Beit Dajan and Beit Furik. And, they restored power and repaired pumps at the Deir Sharaf and Badan-2 stations so that 52,500 people in Nablus would have uninterrupted supplies of water.

In Gaza, USAID teams replaced pumps at the over-utilized Rafah wastewater treatment plant to stop an overflow of effluent across the border into Egypt. They averted a major public health crisis that threatened Em Nassar by pumping effluent from at-capacity lagoons at the Beit Lahia wastewater treatment plant to storm water basins. And, they connected the Abu Haman well to a power grid to ensure continuous water supplies to 10,000 people in Deir Balah;

The entire emergency water program was implemented for USAID by the global engineering firm CDM.

Since 1993, Palestinians have received more than $1.5 billion in U.S. economic assistance via USAID projects - more than from any other donor country.

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