Residents of the Palestinian city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, receive their water supply from five outdated wells – al-Far’ah, al-Badhan, Sabastiya, Odala and Deir Sharaf. Together, these wells produce an average of 1,000 cubic meters (CM) of water an hour. The residents of Nablus receive an additional 200 CM an hour from local fresh water springs. The Nablus Municipality estimates that meeting the daily needs of the city’s population would require another 400 CM an hour, making the total amount required 1,600 CM an hour.
Since about a third of the water pumped into the city is lost due to leaks in the outdated pipes and other technical difficulties, the shortage is actually worse and residents actually receive on average only 800 CM an hour. The municipality also directs some of the city’s water supply to local villages that are also suffering from an acute water shortage. As a result, Nablus residents must make do with about 65 liters per person a day, according to 2016 data.
According to B’Tselem, the Nablus Municipality tried to increase supply by purchasing water from the Israeli water company, Mekorot. In 1996, the Israeli authorities undertook to sell the municipality between 100 and 150 CM of water per hour, pumped from two wells located in the Nablus district – the Huwarah well and the Quza well. In the decade that followed the agreement, Israel delivered the water intermittently, until it stopped delivery altogether in 2006, citing roadworks and maintenance at Huwarah Checkpoint as the reason. Though the work ended long ago, the water supply has not been renewed. The Nablus Municipality has repeatedly contacted the Israeli District Coordination Office and water authorities regarding this issue, most recently this past summer, but has yet to receive a response.
Although all households in the city are connected to the water system, supply varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. About 20% of the residents receive much less water than others, mostly those living in the refugee camps – ‘Askar, Balata and Ein Beit al-Maa – and in about 10 neighborhoods that are topographically elevated and, as a result, the water pressure is lower. The chair of the Nablus Municipality Water Department estimates that the average consumption in those areas is about 50 liters per person a day.
The water shortage in Nablus grows worse with every summer that passes. This year, due to the dearth of rain, well output in the area dropped by 20-30%. In previous summers, Nablus residents received running water once every five to eight days. This year, supply went down to once every ten to fourteen days, for 12 or 24 hours each time. Residents are forced to purchase bottled water and water from tankers at a high cost, and to limit use to essential needs only.