Gaza has long had water and sanitation challenges, but today it is in a state of emergency.
Gaza’s dual water crisis combines a shortage of potable water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene with a lack of wastewater sanitation. As a result, over 108,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage flow daily from Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea, creating extreme public health hazards in Gaza, Israel, and Egypt. While these problems are not new, rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, strict limitations on the import of construction materials and water pumps, and a diminished and unreliable energy supply have accelerated the water crisis and exacerbated the water-related health risks. Three wars between Israel and Hamas since 2009 and intra-Palestinian rivalry between Hamas and Fatah have further hindered the rehabilitation of Gaza’s water and sanitation sectors.
This report describes the relationship between Gaza’s water problems and its energy challenges and examines the implications of this water crisis for public health. It reviews the current state of water supply and water sanitation in Gaza, analyzes water-related risks to public health in Gaza, and explains potential regional public health risks for Israel and Egypt. The authors recommend a number of steps to ameliorate the crisis and decrease the potential for a regional public health disaster that take into consideration current political constraints. The audience for this report includes stakeholders involved in Gaza, including the Palestinian, Israeli, and Egyptian governments, various international organizations and nongovernmental organizations working on the ground in Gaza, and the donor community seeking to rehabilitate Gaza.