HEBRON: Water inequalities

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CPTnet
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September 9, 2002
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HEBRON: Water inequalities
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<P>by Kathleen Kamphoefner
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<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;Most of the city of Hebron has been without water for more than two
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months, since the most recent Israeli invasion, but some areas have been
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waterless for as much as two months.
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<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;Mekarot, the Israeli water authority, reported in a recent Ha'aretz
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article that its efforts to get Israelis to conserve water have largely
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been unsuccessful and that the supply is quite low this year, in spite of
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good winter rains. Unsuccessful in promoting voluntary water
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conservation inside Israel, the water authority is forcing such
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conservation on the West Bank by turning down the supply and
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&nbsp;&nbsp;prohibiting water use for agriculture.
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<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;Two years ago, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported that 80% of the
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water goes to Israelis on both sides of the green line, while 20% is left
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for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. A 1999 study by the World Bank
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showed that the Palestinians are the thriftiest consumers of water in the
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Middle East. Annual per capita use is 375 cubic meters for Israelis and
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115 cubic meters for residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;In late May, the water coming to Hebron had slowed to a trickle
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of 1,000-2,000 cubic meters per day. The Municipality complained to
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the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA). The PWA requested that Israel
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crack down on black market water dealing, which decreases the water en
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route to Hebron. The PWA complains that it cannot prevent the theft of
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water from the pipes in Areas B and C, as the areas are under the control
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of the Israeli army. The PWA also cannot increase the supply available,
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which depends on Mekarot allocation.
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<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;During the shortage, those who could afford it purchased tanks of
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water from the Hebron Municipality, which were trucked in. But the supply
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was so far behind the demand that the City soon fell a month behind in
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those deliveries. The Israeli army bars the water trucks from inside the
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Old City of Hebron and neighborhoods bordering Israeli settlements,
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leaving them only the supply in the water pipes.
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<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;The Municipality rotates the meager supply of water in the pipes
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from neighborhood to neighborhood. Once every fifteen days it is turned on
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in each area. However, the water pressure has been so low, it could
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not refill many residential tanks. In the Hisbeh, the Old City's
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covered market, shops are on the first floor, while homes are on second,
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third, and sometimes fourth floors above. With the current supply, the
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water has only been reaching the ground floor shops. Some families have
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borrowed electric water pumps to refill their rooftop tanks, while many
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carry buckets from below, often limiting their consumption of water to
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drinking and cooking. Areas high in elevation or population density have
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had special difficulty getting enough water.
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<P><P>&nbsp;&nbsp;Now in the hottest weeks of the year, in the Israeli settlement of
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Kiryat Arba overlooking Hebron, an automatic sprinkler system continues to
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water their green lawns and flower gardens.
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