Thousands of people in Gaza are without water in the wake of repeated Israeli airstrikes. Environmental scientist and water expert Amir Dakkak tells DW why Gaza needs the chance to manage its own scarce water supply.
DW: How has the current bombardment affected water infrastructure and supply in Gaza?
Amir Dakkak: Since July 29, almost all of the population has little or no access to clean water. Three of the five wastewater treatment plants have been hit directly. That led to sewage going into the Mediterranean Sea directly, up to 90,000 liters [24,000 gallons] per day. It has become too dangerous for workers to perform any maintenance on the damaged water infrastructure, so they can't repair it and provide clean water to the public. A lot of the water infrastructure had already been affected by earlier bombing in 2012, 2008 and 2009.
One of the biggest factors in the water situation is scarcity of fuel and energy sources, because even if there were desalination plants to provide drinking water, and wastewater treatment plants, these need a lot of electricity - which Gaza doesn't have. Especially now that their only electricity plant has been hit. People can't live without food and energy.
DW: So a lot of the problem is related to the air strikes. But didn't the region already have a huge water scarcity problem?
Amir Dakkak: Even before the latest bombardment, Gaza had problems with water scarcity. They only have one underground aquifer, the coastal aquifer. Ninety-five percent of the water is unusable because there's a lot of pollution from sewage, seawater and agricultural runoff. Gaza is only responsible for 26 percent of all withdrawal from the aquifer. Israel is the biggest user, accounting for about 66 percent of the water extracted.
The Palestinian Water Authority in Gaza has been buying water from Israel and other places, almost 56 million cubic meters [45,400 acre-feet] per year, just to offset the deficit because we can't supply most of the water from the aquifer we have.
Gaza is a very hard place to live. According to the UN, by 2016 it could become unlivable because all the water will be polluted. That would lead to a spread of disease. There are already a lot of cases of diarrhea, lice and fever across Gaza right now.
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