Stockholm event highlights Gaza desalination urgency

A meeting to present the proposed Gaza Desalination Project was held at the Stockholm Water Week at the end of August 2012.

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), represented by the Minister of Water, Dr Shaddad Attili, organized a side-event to present the UfM project, which could produce 100 million m³/year.

The panel speakers also included Ioannis Kaltsas, from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which provides technical assistance through the preparation of a Project Information Memorandum for encouraging donors; Henrik Slotte, from the UN Environment Programme, which provides consultation and technical assistance on the environmental issues; Eng Rebhy El- Sheikh, deputy head of the PWA, who presented the project and the results of the EIB’s review and first phase report; and Dr Husseini, UfM deputy secretary general for environment and water.

A report Gaza in 2020 – A Liveable Place? launched the same week by UNICEF, said that the coastal aquifer upon which the Gaza strip relies almost entirely, could become unusable as early as 2016. Current abstraction from the aquifer is estimated at 160 million m³/year, but population-driven demand is still rising.

Seawater infiltration is increasing with salinity levels well above WHO guidelines. This pollution is compounded by contamination of the aquifer by nitrates from uncontrolled sewage, and fertilizers from irrigation of farmlands.

France became the latest country to commit funds for the project during the World Water Forum in March 2012. Current estimates put the necessary investment, including distribution mains, at around US$ 450 million.