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The Impact of Climate Change on Access to Water for the Most Vulnerable Communities in Southern West Bank

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MA’AN Development Center
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This article was developed in cooperation with Oxfam and MA’AN development centre

Palestinian communities in Bethlehem and Hebron governorates are most affected by water scarcity in the West Bank. Restrictions imposed by Israel in Area C, limited Palestinian control over water resources, and the often inadequate technical and financial capacities of water service providers, all have a negative impact on Palestinian access to water in the southern areas of the West Bank. As a result, more than 300,000 people receive less than 50 litres per capita per day, and more than 30,000 households are not connected to water network services.

Rainfall fluctuation in the south of the West Bank

According to WASH vulnerability mapping, 75% of communities rely on rainwater harvesting as a primary or secondary water source. Average annual rainfall in the southern areas of the West Bank is 500 to 600 mm. Unserved and underserved households collect rainwater and store it in cisterns during winter for use in summer.

Recently, due to climate change, rainfall fluctuations have prevented households from collecting adequate quantities of water. Heavy rain events affect the quality of the rainwater harvested while long dry periods without rain reduce annual rainfall and the quantity of rainwater available to be harvested.

The most vulnerable households in the south of the West Bank are struggling to adapt to this situation. The construction or extension of rainwater harvesting cisterns is costly, and Israeli restrictions on construction in Area C prevent families from expanding their rainwater harvesting capacities. The restrictive permit and planning regime in place prevents development, and even routine repairs and maintenance of water structures in OPT, leaving the West Bank with inadequate infrastructure (wells, cisterns, pipelines, etc.). The Palestinian Authority does not have powers to increase the water supply from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of water for the West Bank, for underserved communities, nor does it have control over any other potential water sources. Palestinian access to water resources is severely constrained under the current water allocations specified in Article 40 of the Oslo II Accord.

Families are adopting negative coping mechanisms such as decreasing water consumption to less than 50 l/c/d, or becoming more dependent on expensive trucked water at a cost of 20 to 30 ILS/m³ to satisfy their basic water needs.