Israel Cut Back Already Inadequate Water Supply to Palestinians in WB

In early June 2016, during the fast of Ramadan, Mekorot – Israel’s national water company – scaled down the amount of water it supplies to several Palestinian communities in the northern occupied West Bank. These communities suffered an acute water shortage throughout the summer, and the shortage has not yet abated. Every summer Israel implements a policy of water cuts, to varying extents, forcing tens of thousands of people to make do with a supply of water that fails to meet their basic needs. According to B’Tselem “even without the cutbacks, like most Palestinian residents of the West Bank, the amount of water supplied to these communities is much smaller than the water available to Israeli citizens and falls short of the amount recommended by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).”


Mekorot’s annual summer cutbacks to Palestinian communities is just one of the many reasons for the permanent water crisis in the West Bank. Other factors include the transfer of control over joint water resources to Israel, the inequitable distribution of usage rights in these joint resources, obstacles Israel places in the way of developing Palestinian water infrastructure, demolition and confiscation of existing infrastructure, restrictions on or denial of access to local natural water sources such as springs, wells and rainwater cisterns, and a consistent preference given to settlers when water is supplied.

Israel seized control of the area’s water resources when it took over the West Bank in 1967, and has been managing them as it sees fit ever since. Under the Oslo 2 agreement, planned to remain in force for only five years, but still in effect today, Israel retained control of water resources. The agreement provides for an unequal allocation of water sources, allowing Israel to use 80% and leaving the remaining 20% for Palestinians. The agreement also stipulates that Israel sell the Palestinians 31 million cubic meters [1 cubic meter = 1,000 liters] of water every year, as a supplement to meet residents’ needs. The agreement also provides for the development of new, independent water drilling projects by the Palestinians, but despite international aid, the plan failed partly due to obstacles placed by Israel in the shape of long delays and withholding approval for projects and partly due to technical difficulties.