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Doubling of the Mekorot Water Supply to Gaza Strip


Putting the Statement into Perspective
Version 4 24 June 2015
Israel announced on 4 March 2015 that it would double the amount of water supplied into the Gaza
Strip through Israel, which would amount to an publicised increase from five to ten million cubic
meters (MCM) per year.1 Attracting wide media attention the announcement came a few months
after the 2014 summer escalation of hostilities and against the backdrop of a continuously
deteriorating water crisis in the Gaza Strip.
This document aims to gather information and put disseminated information into perspective. It is
intended to provide interested parties and individuals with information based on technical evidence.

Key Facts

The previously committed amount of 5


MCM/year of Mekorot water equals 2.5 per cent
of the 200 MCM/year total water need of the
Gaza population. If Israel doubles the amount,
coverage increases from 2.5 per cent to 5 per
cent. Mekorot w ater meets for only part of the
water needs in Gaza.
Lack of available water resources has resulted in
the fact that 96 per cent of available water from
the aquifer is not potable. The Gaza Strip water
sector strategy outlines the combined solutions
required, including the repair of water networks
leaks, seawater desalination, collection and re-
infiltration of rainwater, wastewater treatment
re-infiltration and re-use and the import of
Mekorot water. All elements of the strategy
need financial and political support.
The 2014 summer escalation of hostilities
resulted in the total destruction of the Al-Muntar
reservoir (Gaza City). The reservoir is a key
component of the water network and is
supposed to receive the additional Mekorot
water. It is needed for storage, pressure
regulation and water blending. International
law guarantees the protection of water
infrastructure during conflict.
Introduction of new Mekorot water through the

Nahal Oz pipeline directly to the Gaza City


network meets 10 per cent of the citys needs and
has allowed the most saline ground water wells
to be taken offline. However, the absence of a
functioning reservoir limits network control and
therefore the amount of water that can be
received. Despite current water network
limitations of Nahal Oz, Mekorot water should
continue to be received.
Mekorot water costs the Palestinian Authority
(PA) 2.6 to 3.44 NIS per cm, deducted at source
from the PAs tax revenues collected by Israel on
its behalf. Gazas economy needs to be
improved to allow the population to pay for
water import.
Only 4 per cent of available groundwater in Gaza
is still potable; the rest must be treated to reduce
salinity before drinking.2 Mekorot water
complies with World Health Organisation (WHO)
drinking water standards and its importance
therefore lies not only in its quantity but its
quality. It can be blended 50/50 with
groundwater and still be potable, thereby
increasing the available potable water. The
reconstruction of the Al Muntar reservoir is
however instrumental to the blending
process.

Background
According to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA)
in Gaza, about 98 per cent of water consumed by
Gazas population of 1.8 million is supplied through
abstraction from the Coastal Aquifer (200 MCM per
year).3 With an average annual recharge of 55 MCM,
the abstraction levels from the aquifer are four times
the recharge capacity, resulting in seawater intrusion
and increased groundwater salinity.

place?" states that the aquifer could become unusable


as early as 2016, with the damage irreversible by
2020.6 The Gaza water sector strategy includes the
supply of Mekorot water as one of several

It is estimated that 96% of Gazas water supply is


contaminated with unacceptable high levels of nitrate
(NO3) and chloride (CI), posing significant health
risks.4&5 The UN report "Gaza in 2020: a livable

All water and sewage [] systems and resources in


the Gaza Strip shall be operated, managed and
developed (including drilling) [], in a manner that
shall prevent any harm to the water resources.

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Water in the Oslo Accords II 1995


Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs (Annex 3)
Article 40

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components for addressing this. Other components


include creation of seawater desalination plants,
increased collection and re-infiltration of storm water
into the aquifer (currently 30-40 per cent) and the re-
use of treated wastewater to decrease the abstraction
of groundwater for agricultural purposes.

The supply of Mekorot water to Gaza was included


in Article 40 of Oslo Accords II (1995). Mekorot
water supply of 5 MCM resembles 2.5 pe rcent of the
total water requirements (5 MCM/200 MCM total =
2.5 per cent), doubling the amount would resemble
a total of 5 per cent.

Fig. 2 . Nitrate values for Gaza Strip wells 2012

Fig. 1 . Chloride values for Gaza Strip wells 2012

Khan Yunis and Middle Area Mekorot Supply before 2014 Summer Hostilities
A Mekorot water line that was established in the
1970s between Israel and the Gaza Strip has been
supplying 4 MCM of the existing 5 MCM.7 A charge of
2.6 NIS per CM is taken from PA tax revenue for the
supply of this w ater.
The pipeline enters Gaza to the east of Khan Younis,
Khan Younis Governorate, and then splits to feed
reservoirs in Bani Suheila and Beit Said. At these
reservoirs Mekorot water is mixed with salty well
water and then distributed as potable water. From
Bani Suheila the potable water is distributed to the
eastern villages of the Khan Younis governorate.
From Beit Said the water is distributed to Al Maghazi,
Al Bureij, Al Zawayda and Al Nuseirat.

Planned Gaza City Mekorot Supply


Since 1995, it was foreseen that a second Mekorot
line w ould be created to deliver water into Gaza City.
However several constraints delayed this new water
supply, the construction of the line, construction of
the Al Muntar reservoir and the supply of the water
itself. Similar to the Southern line, the design of the
second, so-called Nahal Oz pipeline (named after
the nearby Israeli community of Nahal Oz) aimed to
mix Mekorot water with water from groundwater
wells in the Al Muntar reservoir, in the eastern part
of Al-Shujaiyya. The mixed potable water would be
supplied to the east and south/eastern areas of Gaza
City.
The PWA started construction works on the Nahal
Oz pipeline in 2002 on the Palestinian side.7 In
2005, the pipeline was almost completed barring a
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Destroyed Al Muntar Reservoir, taken 1 September 2014


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missing connection between pipes on both sides of


the border, estimated to be 166 meters long. Between
2005 and 2011, this issue was put aside as a result of
political differences. In October 2013, the ICRC
committed to assisting the PWA to complete the
missing 166m section. The coordination, tendering
and implementation of the work took four months,
and the connection of both pipelines was completed
in February 2014. The total cost of the linking
process was around $140,000 and was covered by
ICRC.8 However, pumping of Mekorot water from the
Israeli side through the completed pipeline did not
commence due to further political differences.

Reservoirs are necessary in any water supply


network and therefore included in any given country,
without the reservoir a water supply system cannot
function effectively.

Reservoir Pressure Schematic

Water at
0bar in tank

Incoming
Water
pumped at
4bar
pressure

The Al-Muntar Reservoir was established in the


1970s by the Israeli administration with a capacity of
5,000 CM.9 The Al Muntar reservoir is an essential
component in the water supply system for the
reception of Mekorot w ater:
1. The reservoir provides storage that allows for
regulated water distribution according to need
regardless of the pattern of pumping hours from the
Israeli side.
2. Stored water can be distributed at pressure
levels suitable for the fragile Gaza networks,
regardless of incoming pipeline pressures. (Refer to
schematic) ??
3. Blending of Mekorot water with water from
Gaza groundwater wells increases the amount of
potable w ater distributed through the network.

20m Height
difference

Outgoing
water flows at
2bar created
by height
differential

Blending of Mekorot and Well Water


Both sources are free of microbial hazards and can be
mixed as follows:
50 per cent Mekorot w ater 200 TDS and zero Nitrates
+ 50 per cent Gaza groundwater wells 700-1000
chloride and 50-200 Nitrates
<= WHO d rinking water chemical standard for Cl in
mg/l is 250 mg/l and Nitrate 50mg/l.
A total dissolved solid (TDS) measures combined total of organic
and inorganic substances contained in a liquid.

Destruction of water infrastructure during 2014 Summer Hostilities


During the Summer 2 014 escalation of hostilities, the
already-fragile water and sewage networks and
infrastructure incurred large-scale damage. The Al-
Muntar Reservoir in eastern Al-Shujaiyya was totally
destroyed. The cost of damages to the water and
wastewater infrastructure according to the Damage
Assessment Report is $34 million. The cost of
damages to Al-Muntar Reservoir and the related
boosters is estimated at $1.5 million.10

KfW have funded CMWU with $9 million to repair 32


km of water networks, rebuild Al-Muntar Reservoir
and Al-Muntar and Saraya well.11 To date, the
technical planning and tendering process is ongoing.
A delay in the start of work was caused because the
continuous modification to the design and connection
to existing networks. It is estimated that the
reconstruction of the reservoir will take up to one
year.

Announcement of second five MCM Mekorot water supply


In November 2014, three months after the 2014
summer escalation of hostilities, Israel informed the
PWA that they were ready to start pumping the
additional five MCM per year through the Nahal Oz
pipeline. Despite the network damages and
destruction of Al Muntar reservoir severely
restricting the ability to efficiently receive and
distribute this water, the PWA/CMWU agreed to
received as much water was possible using
temporary measures.

network repairs accelerated to link Mekorot water


directly to the Gaza City network. After flushing and
initial testing the pumping process started on 23
March 2015.12 Water flowed directly into the
network west of Gaza City at a rate of 10,000 CM per
day. Though hard to control, Gaza municipality tried
to use network values to perform online water
blending, with limited success.7 During pumping,
leaks were reported in a number of different areas
due to damages to the water networks, and valves
leading to Al-Shujaiyya - one of the most affected
areas by the recent conflict had to be switched off.13

A bypass to the Al-Muntar reservoir was created and


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On 31 March 2015, the PWA received reports from


farmers near Nahal Oz in East Gaza about large
amounts of water submerging an agricultural area.
On April 8 2015, after arranging for security
coordination, teams from the PWA, the Municipality
of Gaza, and the contractor identified leakage in a
manhole, located 140 meters away from the border.
After 9 days of pumping Nahal Oz water was halted.
Water meter reading comparisons on Israeli side
90,000 CM and at Al-Muntar 86,000 CM, showed
estimated leakage losses of 4,000 CM. An attempt to

repair the leak was conducted on 19 April 2015,


which led to the discovery of further damages.
With ICRC funding and coordination, repairs to the
Nahal Oz manhole and surrounding network were
completed mid-May. Pumping of Mekorot water was
resumed as of 26 May 2015 and is still ongoing.
To alleviate access issues ICRC plans to relocate the
manhole from the border zone to as close to the Al-
Muntar Reservoir as possible. ICRC expects these
plans to be implemented in 2016.8

Current Status
The Municipality of Gaza (MoG) is working in close
cooperation with PWA and CMWU to manage the
Mekorot water through the Nahal Oz pipeline.

The conflict damage and age of the Gaza City network


continues to cause issues regardless of the lack of Al
Muntar reservoir. A comprehensive study of the
network is required to map the current network and
analyse the upgrading needs for both the Mekorot
water and future seawater desalination.

Since the water has been flowing directly into the


Gaza City network a period of trail and error has
been undertaken to control the flow to certain parts
of the city. With network damages, limited control
valves and monitoring ability of the flow within the
city, the MoG have been able to stabilise the current
incoming Nahal Oz flow rate of 800m3/hr for an
average of 12hr/day (equivalent to 3 .5MCM/yr). This
limit has been imposed to protect the network, as
currently the MoG have no ability to control the
incoming water pressure (4bar). The incoming water
has been channelled through the more robust main
lines (see diagram), further testing of flow to smaller
sub-lines is on-going.

Plans are in place for further trial and error testing to


allow for an increase of the Nahal Oz flow rate and
pumping hours to meet the higher summer water
demand.

The volume of Mekorot water is 10 per cent of Gaza


Citys daily need and has allowed the MoG to take
some of the most saline ground water wells (>1200
chloride) offline. This both reduces the overall
salinity of the network water and reduces the ground
water extraction, resting the aquifer. However
control of online blending has not been possible due
to the differential pressures in pipelines. Network
water is therefore still not suitable for drinking.

Nahal Oz Mekorot water flow in Gaza City main lines 14 June


2015. Disconnected A l Muntar reservoir shown as circle

References
Haaretz: Israel to double amount of water supplied to Gaza. March 4, 2014. Available online at:
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.645351
2 The majority of the p opulation receives drinking water from an unregulated p rivate sector.
3 Palestinian W ater Authority. Gaza Strip: Desalination Facility P roject: N ecessity, Politics a nd Energy. M arch 2 015. Page 1.
4 Palestinian W ater Authority. Gaza S trip: W ater Crisis Deepens: W ithout S ustainable S olutions, Future at Stake. March 2 015. Page 2 .
5 The drinking water standard for Cl in mg/l is 250 mg/l and Nitrate 50mg/l.
6 U nited Nations. Gaza in 2020: a L ivable P lace? August 2012. Page 1 1. Available online at:
http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/file/publications/gaza/Gaza%20in%202020.pdf
7 Interview 1 : Ahmed Yaqoubi and Marwan B ardawil, PWA, 1 6/4/2015. PWA, Gaza W ater Resources S tatus Report, December 2014,Pg1
8 Interview 1 0: Francios Boher, ICRC G aza, 2 1/5/2015.
9 Interview 6 : Taleb Syam, G aza Municipality, 2 3/4/2015
10 CMWU/PWA d amage assessment report & Gaza M unicipality: Initial damage a ssessment t o the Municipality of G aza's Facilities a nd
Services damaged during the War (8 July 4 August).
11 Interview 7 : Farid Ashour, Director of Project Management Unit, CMWU, 2 3/4/2015.
12 Interview 3 : Medhat Al-Masri, engineer, PWA, 16/4/2015.
13 Interview 9 : Saedeldeen Al-Attbash, M unicipality of G aza, 19/5/2015.
14 Interview 1 1: S aedeldeen Al-Attbash, Jamal Fehmy, Maher S alem, Municipality of G aza, 1 5/6/2015
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