Water and Energy Crisis in Gaza:
Seeking a multi-stakeholder partnership for solutions
In partnership with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), UNICEF convened a one-day event consisting of a field tour and roundtable discussion on the critical, interrelated issues of water, sanitation, and energy in Gaza on 30 April 2014, as part of the marking of World Water Day. The round table was presided by James Rawley, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. Diplomats, Palestinian and international NGOs, UN agencies contributed ideas to the theme of this year's World Water Day: 'Water and Energy'. This outcome document lists the issues that were identified and the possible solutions put forward.
1 - There is a lack of adequate clean water resources for human use in Gaza
2 - Current supply of energy is insufficient to operate 281 WASH facilities and unsustainable
3 - Delayed entry of materials and restricted import of most construction raw materials and spare parts of materials impedes maintenance of existing water and sanitation facilities, and development of new infrastructure
4 - Allocated budgets tend to focus on meeting ad hoc and immediate humanitarian needs at the expense of developing sustainable mid-to-longer term solutions
5 - Restricted movement of persons impedes update of human technical knowledge and skills in Gaza, and entry of experts
Facts & Figures
Gaza's sole aquifer will become unusable as early as 2016, with the damage irreversible by 2020.
--95 % of water from the aquifer is unfit for human consumption.
Gaza is currently supplied with only 208 Megawatts (MW) of electricity from three sources: purchases from Israel (120 MW) and Egypt (28 MW), and production by the Gaza Power Plant (currently 60 MW). This supply meets only 46% of the estimated demand (452 MW).
Since December 2013, the plant has been entirely dependent on industrial fuel donated by Qatar to produce 60 MW, which is almost half of its production capacity. This arrangement expires end of June 2014. Rolling power outages currently reach up to 12 hours per day. With the upcoming summer, electricity is expected to be available only 6 hours per day.
Up to 90 million liters of raw and partially treated sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea daily. Due to the energy crisis, wastewater plants have shortened treatment cycles, increasing the pollution level of the sewage discharged.
The critical shortage of electricity and fuel needed to operate municipal water pumps and public desalination plants results in insufficient supplies of water. There is also a constant risk of back-flow and flooding of sewage onto the streets, due to the critical lack of fuel to keep sewage systems running, creating a health hazard and increased risks for children.
An integrated approach: humanitarian response & sustainable development
The cost of inaction to address the inter-related issues of the water, sanitation and energy is extremely high in terms of human, financial, operational, and environmental consequences. There is a need to take immediate action. A dual approach is required, combining humanitarian response to meet immediate humanitarian needs, and a focus on sustainable, mid-to-longer term development. This can be achieved through the pursuit of both:
They also require strategic financial investment from the international community.
Economic development is key: Palestinians in Gaza need to be able to resume their livelihoods in order to pay for the sustainable operation and maintenance of water, sanitation and energy infrastructures providing services.
Dialogue is needed with both Israel and Egypt. Both countries would benefit from an improvement in the water, sanitation and energy situation in Gaza. The collapse of the coastal aquifer and the discharge of sewage in the sea is particularly detrimental for Israel, and for and other Mediterranean countries.
Partnerships are key as joint efforts among relevant authorities, the international community, technical experts and civil society are essential to address the unsustainable situation in Gaza.