Cooperation needed to solve contaminated water crisis

A group of Israeli, Palestinian and French scientists have proposed a possible management solution to relieve the water quality crisis currently depriving residents of drinkable water in the Gaza Strip.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority share the Southern Mediterranean Coastal Aquifer. However, long-term over-exploitation in the Gaza Strip has resulted in a declining water table, accompanied by a degradation of water quality.

The ground water is the only source of water for the Gaza Strip’s rapidly growing population, but is totally unsuitable for drinking due to high levels of salinity, nitrates and boron.

Now, research published in the September-October issue of the journal Ground Water proposes a management plan which would provide a win-win situation, but only so long as there is cooperation between the two parties.

It is a three-phase effort as part of the European Union’s Fifth Framework program. Firstly, sources of salinity and patterns of contamination in the area were investigated. Secondly, models were used to simulate water flow patterns along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and thirdly, the project provided management scenarios tested by mathematical models.

“The supply of good quality drinking water is vital for the future of the Gaza Strip and stability in the Middle East,” said the authors, Avner Vengosh of Ben-Gurion University, and Erika Weinthal of Tel Aviv University. “Lack of adequate drinking water in the Gaza Strip might hinder future peace negotiations in the region.”

The authors conclude that reverse-osmosis desalination should be an essential component of any future joint management strategy between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

David Hopkins

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