This plan, the Gaza comparative study of water supply options (CSO-G) differs in both its timing and its overall approach. It represents the first component of an envisaged emergency response to the problems in the water sector in Gaza, and provides proposals for an overall strategy to address – and hopefully resolve – the current problems.
Rebhy El Sheikh, Palestinian Water Authority
Agriculture, Desalination, Economical, Health, Political, Reuse, Social, Technical
Many studies have been completed previously, on the water sector in Gaza. This plan, the Gaza comparative study of water supply options (CSO-G) differs in both its timing and its overall approach. It represents the first component of an envisaged emergency response to the problems in the water sector in Gaza, and provides proposals for an overall strategy to address – and hopefully resolve – the current problems. The study is at the strategic level, designed to identify a preferred broad mix of interventions that will address the existing problems in the water sector in Gaza; the timing of their preferred introduction; and their inter-relationships. Having rejected the maintenance of the status quo as an acceptable scenario, the plan considered a range of potential options for the supply of water to Gaza in the future. The resulting possibilities for future water supply (for various uses) were then screened against four criteria, these being political; technical; social; and economic. A number of the options and sub-options failed against one or more of these four criteria. The options that failed on one or more of the criteria were ‘side-lined’ for use in the short-term, but was addressed once again at a later stage of the procedure).
The options and sub-options that survived the screening procedure were addressed by the CSO-G in detail, and were sorted into a set of interventions that can be introduced in the current scenario in Gaza. A rolling schedule of interventions was then produced, this involving nine projects that are inter-linked and in combination forming a coherent programme to address the critical issues in the water sector in Gaza. The area is characterized with Mediterranean – tropical, semi arid climate with an average rainfall of 320mm in Gaza, and 650mm in the west Bank.
The plan has just started implementation in Gaza Strip where the annual sustainable yield of the aquifer within the geographical boundary of Gaza is widely quoted as 55 million cubic meters (MCM). Recent rates of pumping from the aquifer are estimated at 170 MCM/year.
The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) has been developing this solution. It initiated the program through conducting the necessary strategic review of the master plan and has initiated a fund raising process towards the smooth implementation in a rolling program of three stage: A short term intervention, a medium term and a longer term The program falls under the broad water sector reform plan endorsed by the Palestinian Government and it will be implemented in partnership with all related stakeholders including the service providers, related ministries and the donor community. A steering committee representing all related stakeholders shall be utilized to ensure the follow up of the solution. A project coordination unit shall be established at PWA to follow up all coordination issues necessary for the timely implementation of the program and will act as a secretariat to the steering committee.
The main question facing Gaza Strip in terms of water supply options is how to protect 1.6 Million inhabitants from continuous dependence on a brackish aquifer under threat of depletion and quality deterioration resulting from sea water intrusion; representing the only water resource, and in the light of political, economical and social complications. The solution has analyzed the different water supply options from technical, political, economical and social criteria and concluded the implementable options in a rolling program of interventions. Gradual reduction of abstraction from the depleted aquifer will be applied in parallel to providing good quality water from additional sources accompanied with mixing of the water streams of different qualities. The solution will provide additional amounts of good quality water for domestic uses from sea water desalination facilities. In parallel, it will expand in the reuse of the treated wastewater effluent in agriculture and improvements in irrigation water management.
- alleviate the current humanitarian and public health crisis in Gaza by improving the quality and increasing the quantity of the water available for domestic use;
- enhance water use efficiency and fairness in the water sector by reconfiguring the supply and allocation system;
- benefit the agricultural sector, which is of great importance for the present economy of Gaza;
- rehabilitate the aquifer within the boundaries of Gaza by eliminating the over-abstraction of water; and
In the longer term, contribute to the coherent joint management of the Coastal Aquifer as a whole, by both Israel and Palestine.
Additional amounts of water from the short term low volume desalination of 13 MCM in two years. * Additional amounts from the central sea water desalination plant of 55 MCM in 5 years.* Additional amounts from the treated effluent for agriculture of 25 MCM in 7 years. * Improvement of the distribution system efficiency from 55% to 80% in 5 years. * reduction of abstraction from the depleted aquifer by 50 MCM in 7 years * improved l/cap./d from 90 to 117 in 7 years with good quality water (TDS falling from 3000 ppm to 1000 ppm).
The scheme can applied in areas suffering from deficit in water resources and political instability. The programs that fall under this scheme are summarized by the followings:
• The establishment of a Gaza Program Coordination Unit (GPCU), this being required to drive and coordinate the proposed CSO-G interventions as a whole.
• The introduction of an integrated water and health monitoring project, this is to ensure that comprehensive and fully reliable data are available to act as a driver for the desired future changes in the sector, and also to monitor the success of the entire program of interventions.
• The accelerated upgrading and/or provision of the domestic water distribution and supply network in Gaza,
• Increased levels of water imports from Israel to Gaza, in relatively small volume. This matter is currently the subject of ongoing negotiations between Palestine and Israel, being facilitated by representatives of the Norwegian and American Governments.
• The introduction of short-term low-volume (STLV) desalination of sea water in Gaza, to provide relatively minor volumes of water of acceptable quality for domestic use in the early years of the CSO-G program, and to ensure that public health may be protected. The use of brackish water as a possible feedstock for the STLV desalination facilities was considered, but was concluded not to be preferred, due to the urgent need to reduce the abstraction of groundwater and attempt to protect the aquifer.
• The phasing-in of higher levels of sea water desalination through the construction of two regional facilities, in the shortest possible time. These regional desalination facilities act as one of two key drivers of the initiative to reduce the present levels of over-abstraction of the groundwater in Gaza, and are therefore critical to the CSO-G program as a whole (as well as to the long-term protection of human health in Gaza).
• The introduction and/or extension of pilot schemes for the reuse of treated wastewaters in Gaza, with the reused flows replacing pumped groundwater, as soon as possible.
• The accelerated completion of the major wastewater treatment plants in Gaza, with large-volume reuse being introduced as quickly as possible and becoming the predominant source of water used in the agricultural sector in Gaza.
• The completion of a high-quality review of the use of water in the agricultural sector in Gaza, which focuses on reducing the overall demand for water; the introduction of large-scale wastewater reuse; and the optimization of the economic returns from the sector.
The program will cost in its short term intervention components 87 Million USD, but when the medium term interventions are included, the costs increases to the order of 800 Million USD. PWA is working to release part of the international community commitments made in Sharm El Sheikh conference for the reconstruction of Gaza.
As for the main factors for success, strong indicatios show that political will and funding are among the most important.
First, the Palestinian Authority has endorsed the program from the very beginning which represents a national political commitment. The plan came out based on an audit to the PWA activities which are of concern to the international community. For instance, the first result achieved is the endorsement of the main component (Gaza Desalination Project and the National Water Carrier) by the Union for Mediterranean; representing the consensus of 43 countries on the importance of this project. Israel is a member of the union which indicates that Israel will facilitate the implementation of the project. In addition, contacts with the countries who have been committed in the reconstruction of Gaza Strip have been initiated.
Palestinian Water Authority
Rebhy El Sheikh, Deputy Head,