Limited availability of water in West Bank
Limited water availability also affects the West Bank, where Israel retains control of all underground and surface water resources, the construction of new wells and cisterns as well as upgrading existing wells and other water infrastructure. Approximately one million people in 492 communities in the West Bank are accessing or consuming 60 litres of water per capita per day (l/c/d) or less, significantly below the World Health Organization recommendation of 100 l/c/d. In addition, an estimated 313,000 people from 113 communities are not connected to a water network, which translates into enormous costs related to water purchase.

This situation is in marked contrast to the water resources that are made available to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who consume approximately six times the water consumed by Palestinians. In some cases, the discrepancies are even wider: the Dead Sea settlements of Mitzpe Shalen and Qalya consume approximately 700 l/c/d , while the neighboring Palestinian village of al-Jiftlik has access to only 66 l/c/d and al-Nuwei’ma and al-Hadidiya are at humanitarian crisis levels with 24 and 22 l/c/d respectively.

This is the result of a discriminatory allocation of water resources between Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities. Moreover, those wells and springs that are available to Palestinians are generally degraded as the Israeli authorities deny Palestinians permits for installing, upgrading or protecting their water sources to provide sufficient quantities, whilst simultaneously continuing to drill deeper and more efficient wells for their own use. In addition, when Palestinians do have piped water, it is often siphoned off from water points for Israeli settlements, albeit with lesser volume. The diversion points are usually placed within settlements, making them vulnerable to settlers' disconnecting or shutting down the water flowing to the Palestinian villages.

In addition, physical obstacles to Palestinian movement inside the West Bank – such as roadblocks, checkpoints and the Barrier – obstruct Palestinian access to springs, wells and other water points, force Palestinians to travel long distances and hinder water tankers and sewage disposal trucks from accessing certain areas, with increased travel distance and costs. Limited availability of, and access to, water has a particularly severe impact on Bedouin communities in Area C, given their dependence on farming and herding as a source of livelihood.

The WASH Cluster Rapid Assessment 2011 indicates that there are 107 Palestinian communities (45,659 people) that pay more than 20 NIS per cubic metre of water – further restricting their access to appropriate quantities of water – in contrast to Israeli settlements which pay less than 5 NIS for water from the network.

Problems accessing water have been compounded by increased demolitions in the West Bank during this year. Over the last three years, WASH-related demolitions have escalated, particularly for wells and cisterns, with more than 82 water related demolitions noted in 2011, compared to 57 in 2010 and 10 in 2009. When figures on sanitation-related demolitions and the number of confiscations are added, in 2011 a total number of 134 WASH facilities were targeted by actions by the Israeli Civil Administration, amounting to a total of 218 since 2009.

Only 31 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) are connected to the sewage network, and only one wastewater treatment plant is operational due to the Israeli authorities refusal to grant the necessary permits or security clearance for the construction and operation of sanitation and wastewater treatment infrastructure. As a result, almost all of the 40-50 million cubic metres of sewage that is generated in the West Bank each year reaches natural drainages as untreated sewage. Sections of open flow channels have been a constant source of pollution to water well sources and agricultural land and have become a serious public health and environmental concern.
Demolition of cisterns in An Nassariya

For further information see:
How dispossession happens: the takeover of Palestinian water springs by Israeli settlers, OCHA (2012)
Area C factsheet, OCHA ,2011
An Nassariya is a rural agricultural community in Area B of the Nablus governorate. On 8 September 2011, Israeli forces destroyed three of the village’s wells with a bulldozer. The army confiscated pumps, engines, filters and 4 000 litres of gasoline (at 7 NIS per litre), and threw the owners’ tools into the wells. They did not show a demolition order to anybody present. The demolition affected the livelihoods of 350 families.

Nagahe Zaad, a local farmer said, "I plant tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, melon, aubergine, peppers and many other things. Our sheep eat the foliage after we have harvested. Now we have no water and we cannot plant and our sheep drink the sewage water from the open canal. When [the demolition] happened, I just stood there. I felt so angry, but there was nothing I could do. It took about three to four hours and it all happened right before my eyes. No one was allowed to enter the area.

I was thinking of all the other farmers who depend on the water. I fell to the ground and was taken to a doctor. We are willing to live with Israelis and we will share our water. I, along with the two other owners of wells, have decided that we shall now rebuild only one well, so we can share the costs. But this means that we will produce less, and we know the Israelis will destroy our wells again, but I have been a farmer all my life. My father and grandfather also farmed on this land. We now live with this, we will not move."

Testimony given to the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).