Access to safe drinking water is quite limited in Gaza. After Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, its 2 million residents have suffered a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. The lockdown and ongoing conflict have resulted in power outages and the deterioration of infrastructure.
The area relies on a coastal aquifer as the main source of drinking water, but it is quickly deteriorating in quantity and quality due to over-extraction. Last February, the World Bank announced funding support for the Gaza Central Desalination Program, to provide water security in the area. Residents get their water ─ generated at small-scale desalination units ─ from expensive and unregulated private providers. But UNICEF warns that two thirds of it is contaminated by the time it is delivered, reports the Times Free Press.
Michael Mirilashvili, an Israeli billionaire, has a solution to the water crisis in the Gaza Strip. His company Watergen makes generators that produce drinking water, extracting moisture from the air to turn it into drinking water, like a dehumidifier. Watergen has donated one of them to the Al-Rantisi Medical Center in Gaza City. The unit, a medium-sized model about the size of a vending machine, produces about 800 litres of clean water for the paediatric cancer ward per day. Although the device installed runs on electricity, it will be connected to solar panels in the future.
Initially developed for military use, the company’s technology entered the civilian market when Mirilashvili acquired the company in 2017. The largest of Watergen’s generators can produce water for thousands of people, and there is also a version for home use.
Mr Mirilashvili said he wants to deliver water generators to meet the drinking water demand in Gaza. They can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the company is willing to sell them at a discount. Watergen machines are used in more than 60 countries, including developing countries with no water infrastructure, like India, but also areas suffering from drought such as California.