Access to clean and safe water is a basic human right, but it is a right denied to Palestinians in Gaza under Israel’s occupation and blockade.
Gaza has long faced a water crisis. Overexploitation of the Coastal Aquifer on which Gaza relies—combined with contamination from chemicals, wastewater, and other pollutants—has created a situation in which 96 percent of Gaza’s water supply isn’t fit for human consumption.
This situation is compounded—and, in part, caused—by repeated Israeli military attacks on Gaza that have damaged or destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure, including desalination plants, wells, and waste management facilities. The blockade has also prevented Gaza from repairing or replacing this infrastructure, as Israel prohibits the import of key materials that are needed.
As a result of damaged infrastructure, over one-third of Gaza’s population gets only six to eight hours of running water every four days. And at least 100,000 people remain completely disconnected from the water network. Twenty-eight percent of the population is not connected to the sewage network. Even where the sewage network is accessible, the energy crisis has forced wastewater treatment plants to shorten treatment cycles, causing a backflow of sewage onto streets and the discharge of partially treated waste into the Mediterranean Sea.
All of this leads to serious public health consequences. High levels of nitrates impact infant health; pollutants contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, liver problems, and kidney failure; and waterborne diseases are rampant. Diarrheal infections and high nitrate levels contribute to nutritional deficiencies and anemia among young children.
- Israel siphons off more than 80 percent of Gaza's groundwater through wells tapping Gaza aquifer sources—a key reason why the aquifer is not replenishing and is becoming increasingly contaminated.
- About 60 percent of Gaza's population relies on private water supplies that are expensive, unregulated, and often have lower hygiene standards.
- Pumps, concrete, welding supplies, pipes, water purification chemicals, and other items needed to maintain water and sewage infrastructure are blocked from entering Gaza by Israel.
- Up to 95 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage is discharged into the Mediterranean Sea daily, partly due to electrical and fuel shortages.