Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Arab water theft leaves Jewish towns high and dry - David Rosenberg

by David Rosenberg

Mekorot water company says bulk of water shortages in Judea and Samaria towns due to Palestinian Authority's illegal water connections.

A week after MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) called for an investigation into the ongoing water shortage afflicting Jewish communities in Samaria, the Knesset subcommittee on Civil Affairs and Security in Judea and Samaria held deliberations on the matter, revealing that more than half of the shortfall in the area’s water supply is due to rampant theft in the Palestinian Authority.

Meeting on Monday at the behest of subcommittee chair Motti Yogev (Jewish Home), members heard testimony from local council heads, the Mekorot water company, local farmers, and a representative of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Yogev noted that the water shortage in Samaria affected both Israelis and Palestinian Authority residents, and blamed the Civil Administration for failing to find a solution.

“The authorities have dried up the residents of Judea and Samaria, Jews and Arabs alike,” said Yogev. “The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Water Authority have known for many years what needs to be done, but it has yet to be done.”

The Mekorot water company informed the subcommittee that demand in Samaria had grown to 58,000-60,000 cubic meters of water per day, but that the existing infrastructure was capable of bringing only 51,000 cubic meters a day, resulting in a shortfall of some 7,000-9,000 cubic meters a day.

In light of this shortage, Mekorot has cut the quantity of water provided to every community – Jewish and Arab – by 15%, leaving towns perched on hilltops without sufficient water pressure to reach many homes, particularly on days of heavy usage.

During testimony to the subcommittee, it was revealed that of the 7,000-9,000 cubic meter daily shortfall, at least 5,000 cubic meters were due to illegal water hookups in the Palestinian Authority, siphoning off roughly 10% of the total supply.

“We must fight the thefts aggressively, as they are a major cause of the current crisis,” said Alex Kushnir, Director of the Water Authority.

Kushnir noted, however, that hitherto, little has been done to curb the illegal water connections.

“To date, no indictments have been filed against water thieves.”

COGAT Deputy, Brigadier General Guy Goldstein claimed the agency’s hands were tied, saying that a decision from the joint regional water committee, which the Palestinian Authority holds veto power over, was needed.

“We operate only in accordance with the government`s instructions. There needs to be a diplomatic decision for the entire region that will make it clear to the Water Authority how to plan and provide solutions.”

David Rosenberg


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