Palestinians and Israeli settlers are running out of water in their West Bank communities as Israel’s Water Authority is unable to keep pace with high summertime needs given its inadequate infrastructure.
This includes the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and adjacent Beitunia.
The problem is particularly acute in the Samaria region where people are receiving water from barrels rather than their faucet, including in the settlements of Yitzhar and Shavei Shomron.
“It’s scandalous,” said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan who added that “it’s impossible to accept that hundreds of families are drinking water out of bottles and barrels.”
Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor stressed that water supplies have not been lost in the region.
“The infrastructure in the old Samarian area is not really suitable for all needs and for the growth of the population there – the Jewish population and the Palestinian population,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
According to the Samaria Regional Council there is a shortage of 15,000 to 20,000 cubic meters of water in Judea and Samaria, which impacts both Israelis and Palestinians.
Last summer there were also shortages and “there is no long-term solution” in sight, the council added.
The inauguration of one infrastructure project did increase the amount of water by 5,000 cu.m. last summer, but it has not resolved the issue, the council said in a statement.
It added that, “those who are responsible have not advanced infrastructure projects quickly enough,” the council said.
It added that in a few weeks work would end on another pipeline that would provide 3,500 to 4,000 cu.m. of water, but that the problem was still acute.
Schor explained that for years rehabilitating that infrastructure was impossible due to the inactivity of the Joint Water Committee. After the committee’s recent revival, however, work has begun on improving conditions in the region, he said.
“Today we are working in order to expand the capability of supplying water in all Judea and Samaria,” Schor continued. “It’s a very complicated plan and it will take time, but once we finish, it will solve most of the problems.”
“In parallel, we are doing whatever we can to supply more water to the area directly these days as well,” he added.
The crisis in the region is mainly caused by two problems, according to Schor. The first revolves around the huge amount of Palestinian water theft that occurs in the West Bank, he explained. In the entire Judea and Samaria region, there are about 250 unauthorized drilling spots, predominantly in Areas A and B, in the Jenin and Jordan Valley regions, Schor said. Every year, authorities must disconnect hundreds of pilot connections to pipelines, he added.
The second problem is rooted in the dramatic rise in water consumption, from both the hot weather and agricultural use, Schor explained.
“The infrastructure in the area does not have the capacity to get more water, even if they wanted to,” he said.
Nonetheless, Schor said that in the past few years, settlements have been requested to build water tankers in their vicinities in order to ensure that people would receive enough water during peak usage days.
“If you look at the situation today, you can see that in places where they did build those tankers, they hardly have problems, but in places that didn’t, for different reasons, you have problems,” he said.
Emphasizing that the entire country is combating the ramifications of an ongoing multi-year drought, Schor said that the Water Authority recently launched a campaign about wise water usage, particularly focusing on Israel’s north.
“I’m calling all over the country to use water wisely, and not waste water,” he added.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said he wanted to thank officials for their efforts, including Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz and Deputy Defense Minister Eli Dahan.
But at the same time, he said, there are some four projects that need to be advanced including a central pipeline of water that would service thousands of Jews and Arabs.