Published 24 July 2008
Observations on Palestine
Eight tankers are parked on the rough ground at the filling point. The drivers look anxiously at a metal box attached to a large water-pipe that carries a trickle of water into the nearest tanker. Dr Hassan of the Palestinian Hydrology Group explains: "They are looking at the pressure gauge. Pressure is very low and the drivers are worried. No water deliveries, no pay." This is the Dhahiriya water filling point, a few miles south of Hebron in the West Bank. Many nearby Palestinian communities - the "unconnected villages" - rely on this water.
"When the pressure is good," says Dr Hassan, "a tanker can be filled in 20 to 30 minutes. But now it takes about three hours. At this rate it will take two months to supply all the people on this list. But new names are being added every day." There is no immediate solution.
Israel controls 80 per cent of West Bank groundwater, an arrangement that would have been addressed under the Oslo peace process. Because the process unravelled, little has changed: Palestinians bear the brunt of the area's water shortages.
Under Oslo, the West Bank was divided into three areas, with 60 per cent of it, known as Area C, under full Israeli military control. About 70,000 Palestinians, mainly farmers and shepherds, live in this area, eking out a precarious living in circumstances that deteriorate year on year.