Against the extremely limited access to safe drinking water in Gaza, the World Bank has announced a US$15 million grant to the Water Security Development - Gaza Central Desalination Program — Associated Works Phase I Project.
The new project that aims to improve the quality and quantity of water in Gaza will benefit from a coordinated aid of US$42 million from donors*, members of the Partnership for Infrastructure Development Multi-Donor Trust Fund (PID MDTF) administered by the Bank, and US60 million in parallel financing form the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
“The Gaza ground water aquifer is rapidly deteriorating in both quantity and quality with 97% of the available water undrinkable for the rapidly growing population in the Gaza strip. Furthermore, there has been a downward trend in average rainfall by 20-30 percent over the last five years,” said Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza. “Hence we are embarking on this much needed and coordinated effort with our donor partners to increase and provide a more stable supply of safe water to Gazan families,” he added.
The over-pumping of the coastal aquifer has led to a lowering of the groundwater level with subsequent intrusion of high salinity from seawater. In addition, Gaza’s water supply has been extensively contaminated by untreated sewage. As a response, the project will provide additional fresh water of 30 million cubic meters (MCM) per year to 16 municipalities in the southern and middle governorates of Gaza by supporting the construction and rehabilitation of necessary infrastructure.
The Associated Works are part of a bigger donor-funded Gaza Central Desalination Program that covers all Gaza. It aims at constructing a desalination plant with initial capacity to produce 55 MCM per year. As interim measures to alleviate the needs for fresh water, the international community supported the construction of short-term desalination plants. The Associated Works project will construct a south water carrier, including storage reservoirs to convey and properly blend the above-mentioned desalinated water along with water purchased from Mekorot (the Israeli national water company) and groundwater sources.
“Almost everyone in Gaza is relying on water from expensive and unregulated small-scale private providers. The project will not only improve the quality of live of about 870,000 people and provide water secutiy, it will allow substantial cost savings for households in this fragile and conflict-affected environment,“ said Suhail J. S. Jme'an, World Bank Sector Leader for Sustainable Development.
In addition, the project will also work on strenghening the capacity of water institutions, including establishment of a small unit to manage bulk water supply operations in Gaza, laying a sound foundation for the future establishment of the National Water Company.