According to the preliminary findings of a study conducted in May and June by the World Health Organization (WHO), seven of 30 seawater areas sampled in Gaza are now contaminated with either human or animal feces, or both. In the contaminated areas, tests registered levels of bacteria two to five times greater than the amount deemed safe, says Mahmoud Daher, WHO’s national health officer for Gaza.
Due to sewage seeping into the ground, the aquifer beneath Gaza, which provides water for drinking and washing, is now so polluted with nitrates that only 10 percent currently meets WHO standards for safety, adds Monther Shoblak, the director of the World Bank-funded Gaza Emergency Water Project.
“If I would use WHO standards to supply the people here with water, no one would drink,” says Mr. Shoblak.
Gaza’s water problems stem from the territory’s dilapidated water and waste infrastructure. According to the United Nations, 60 percent of
Gazans have access to water in their homes every other day for four to six hours while 15 percent have access only once a week, for the same amount of time.
The lack of running water has motivated Gazans to dig at least 4,000 illegal wells in the past two years, adds Shoblak. The illegal wells, dug directly into the aquifer, have drained it at some places below the water table of the sea, leaving the aquifer salinated and unusable even for washing and cooking. Einav Shimron Grinboim, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Health Ministry, said in a statement that Israel is “worried concerning this problematic situation.”