Gaza Sewage Threatens Israel’s Water Supply

A desalination plant in Ashkelon. (Edi Israel /Flash90)
A desalination plant in Ashkelon. (Edi Israel /Flash90)

Untreated waste water dumped into the sea in Gaza has been carried northward to Ashkelon where it has disrupted the operations of desalinization plants and polluted some beach areas, according to Ynet on Monday.

Although a new water treatment facility was built in the northern Gaza Strip with international funding, it has yet to come online because the electricity needed to run it is unavailable. Israeli authorities are legally responsible for the electricity supply in Gaza.

In response, the coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories confirmed that “Israel supplies electricity to Gaza. But,” he said, “the allocation of this electricity is decided by the Palestinians. Gaza has unused power capacity which can be allocated to power the plant. We are leading an examination of possible options in order to solve the general energy shortage in Gaza.”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of gallons of sewage is being dumped offshore every day by the Palestinians, and some of it is reaching the Israeli coastline.

A month ago, the Ashkelon desalination plant had to be shut down twice due to the pollution. The Water Authority and the Ministry of Health found a dangerous amount of E. Coli and other harmful bacteria in the water. As a result, the supply from the plant to the National Water System was cut in half.

The situation affects the water supply for the entire country. “Today, while the north is suffering from a drought, and the water supply coming from the Sea of Galilee is almost zero, it is of even greater importance to keep the desalinization plants on line,” an official from the Water Authority said.

At the Energy Ministry, which is responsible for the energy and water supply, officials appear to have been in the dark about the problem until very recently. They claim that they only were informed of it in the last few days.

However, the Israel Electric Corporation insists it notified the Energy Ministry of the situation three years ago. “We went to the relevant authorities in 2013, but until today we haven’t received any applications or work orders from them.”