Access to Healthy Water in Palestinian Villages
Sitting on hilltops, the neighbouring villages of Allar and Saida were far from the wells in the valley below. Access to water presented a daily burden. Residents spent a large part of their resources on collecting water, leaving only limited time and money for other investments. They harvested rainwater and their agriculture was confined to water efficient crops such as olive and fruit trees.
Rising nineteen metres above the ground, Allar’s new water tower has changed the skyline of the West Bank village in much the same way as it has transformed the lives of its 6,500 villagers.
From the top, it is possible to see a new sports ground, new workshops and farm buildings and hundreds of young trees.
All the new development would have been impossible without the construction of a water network by UNDP with funds from the Government of Japan.
However, access to a water network has reduced the price of water by 70 percent and opened up previously impossible business opportunities.
Sufian Shadid, the mayor of Allar, said, “Every day we had to get water, either ourselves or wait for the tanker to arrive. Now we just turn on the tap. We all save money and now we have access to as much water as we need to lead normal lives and run our businesses”
The municipal council of Allar has employed ten extra people to run the finance and maintenance of the water network and it has also made USD250,000 profit, which it has invested in local services.
Shadid said that the chlorinated water was much healthier for residents than harvested or tankered water. As a result, he said, stomach and skin infections among villagers, have reduced dramatically.
Allar was connected to the electricity network in 1989. Its economy is based on work in Israel, farming, public services and remittances from expatriate workers.
According to the mayor, the village has used 600,000 cubic metres of water since it began using water mains. Previously that would have cost USD1,680,672 but now it costs the village USD504,20), leaving the remainder for other investments.
The village now has an olive press, a new turkey farm, a new chicken farm and stone cutting workshops, thanks to the availability of water and investment.
Nader Kashua, 45, a stonecutter, said, “I used to travel for 40 minutes to get to work. Now everything is cheaper. I don’t need to travel so I have more time to work and the water is much cheaper. As my prices are lower, I have more customers.”
The project was for USD1.8 million. It required a mainline to the well in the village of Saida and then pumping stations to raise the water 331 metres to the water tower from where it is distributed to Allar’s 6,500 residents and 3,500 residents of the neighbouring village of Saida.
Karni Shadid, 25, a construction worker who helped build the network, said that the villagers can barely remember how they managed without running water. “We cannot imagine how it was before. There is something new every day. We can grow more and better fruit and we do not need to stop washing when the water runs out.”
Shadid said that the next project he hopes to work on with UNDP is connecting his village to a sewage network. UNDP is currently working, also with Japanese funding, on sewage mainline designed to connect Palestinian villages in the west of the West Bank to sewage treatment plants in Israel.