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Water Resources and Management Issues

(Gaza Strip/Palestine)

Co-authored by:
Khairy Al-Jamal Ahmad Al-Yaqubi
Ph.D. & Post Doc M.Sc. Hydrogeology
B.Sc. Mech.Eng. B.Sc. Geology

Palestinian Water Authority

Abstract

The Gaza Strip is located on the extreme edge of the shallow coastal aquifer that borders
the eastern Mediterranean Sea. There is little rainfall and no reliable riparian flow, hence
water supply for Gaza resident (about 1million inhabitants) is limited to that available
from the part of the coastal aquifer that underlies its 365 km2 of land. Over exploitation of
the coastal aquifer has resulted in continuous lowering of regional water levels and
worsening of water quality. The greatest threats to existing water supplies are seawater
intrusions and up coning of deep brine fossil water. There are serious water quality
problems in the Gaza Strip Aquifer. Less than 10 percent of the aquifer's yield is water
meeting the WHO drinking standard.

The population of the Gaza Strip will grow to over two million by 2020, and the demands
for water will far exceed the sustainable capacity of the aquifer. Continuous urban and
industrial growth will place additional stress on the aquifer system, unless appropriate
integrated planning and management actions are instituted immediately. It is evident that
drastic action must be taken quickly to save and sustain the aquifer to allow the Gaza
Strip to support its people and continuous agriculture in the future.

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1.0. Introduction:

Water is the most precious and valuable natural resource in the Middle East in general
and in Gaza Strip in particular. It is vital for socio-economic growth and sustainability of
the environment.

Gaza Strip is in critical situation that requires immediate efforts to improve the water
situation in terms of quality and quantity. Demand greatly exceeds water supply. In
addition water quality is very poor and the aquifer is being over pumped. Very limited
water supplied for domestic use is potable. More than 70% of the aquifer are brackish or
saline water and less than 30% are fresh water. About 65% of the total pumped water are
used for agricultural purposes. If uncontrolled pumping is allowed to continue the
aquifer, which is the primary source for the Gaza Strip, will become unusable as a source
of fresh municipal water and most agricultural extraction will be too saline for crop
irrigation.

This paper presents an overview of the water resources as well as the current and future
water demands for the different use. The problem is expected to grow and water deficit in
terms of quantity will reach to about 100mcm/y by year 2020, while the water quality
will be deteriorated dramatically. .

In recognition of this worsening situation, Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and the
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have jointly developed
and begun implementation of an Integrated Aquifer Management Plan (IAMP).

This paper presents the water situation in Gaza Strip and overall guidelines for the
management through year 2020, with associated investment requirements for
infrastructure facilities to meet all goals and objectives. It has been estimated that a
capital investment program of about US$ 1.5 billion is needed to finance the
implementation of such plan. The engineering component of the IAMP were largely
conceptualized and defined through the application of 3-dimentional coupled flow and
transport model.

It has been concluded that implementation of IAMP will have overall beneficial impacts
on the Gaza coastal aquifer, and it is predicted that seawater intrusion and up coning can
be significantly reduced and/or stabilized over the next 20 years.

One of the goals of Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) is "to manage the limited
available water resources and to exploit it in a sustainable and an environmentally safe
manner". To achieve this goal it requires developing a clear comprehensive management
plan. The main component of such plan is wastewater collection, treatment, distribution
and reuse. New water resources to be added to the aquifer system are needed to minimize
the water deficit and to improve the groundwater in terms of quality and quantity.
Implementation of the management plan will require sustainable sources of revenue as
well as strong regulatory body.

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Lebanon

Syria
Tib er ia s

n Sea
rranea
Medi te
Jabalya

Jer u sal em #
Gaza Strip

Sea
D ead
Gaza

A
SE
N
n

EA
Jorda

AN
R
ER
Egypt

IT
ED
M
Deir al-Balah

Red Sea

Khan Yunis
Regional road
Main road
Local road
Wadi
Rafah
Israeli Settlement
EGY

Area under Israeli


PT

control
e
Airport
Built up Area
e

N
Israeli Military
zone
1 0 1 2 Kilometers

Fig.1.Location map of Gaza Strip

2.0. GEOLOGY:

The coastal aquifer of the Gaza Strip consists of the Pleistocene age Kurkar and recent
(Holocene age) sand dunes. The Kurkar Group consists of marine and aeolian calcareous
sandstone (“kurkar”), reddish silty sandstone, silts, clays, unconsolidated sands, and
conglomerates.

Regionally, the Kurkar Group is distributed in a belt parallel to the coastline, from north
of Haifa to the Sinai in the south. Near the Gaza Strip, the belt extends about 15-20 km
inland, where it un-conformably overlies Eocene age chalks and limestone, or the
Miocene-Pliocene age Saqiye Group, a 400-1000 m thick sequence of marls, marine
shales, and claystones. The transition from the Kurkar Group to the Saqiye Group is
sometimes obscured by the presence of a thin, basal conglomerate. Figure.2 presents a
generalized geological cross-section of the coastal aquifer.

The Kurkar Group consists of a complex sequence of coastal, near-shore and marine
sediments. Marine calcareous sandstone forms the base of each transgressive sequence,

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and marine clays form the end of regressions. Cycles of deposition may be incomplete,
depending on location; hence sedimentary sequences may be truncated and rest
unconformable on one another. The calcareous sandstone are interbedded with irregular
layers and pockets of uncemented sand, thin red-brown sands and silty sands, and
especially at greater depth, marine silts and clays.

Within the Gaza Strip, the thickness of the Kurkar Group increases from east to west, and
ranges from about 70 m near the Gaza border to approximately 200 m near the coast.
Israeli literature suggests that the Kurkar Group becomes more clastic towards the east.
The distinct ‘layering’ of sedimentary cycles becomes less obvious, and the presence of
red silty-clayey sandstone becomes more dominant. In addition, alluvial clays and soils
become more evident along the courses of major drainage features such as Wadi Gaza.
Clay formations or units within the Gaza Strip, and the coastal aquifer in general, are of
two types: marine and fluvial. Marine clays are present along the coast, at various depths
within the formation. They pinch out about 5 km from present coastline, and based on
existing data, appear to become more important towards the base of the Kurkar Group

Fig.2.Typical hydrogeological cross section of Gaza Strip

Three major clay layers were defined that can be correlated between boreholes from
north to south in Gaza. They extend inland about 2 to 5 km, depending on location and
depth. Limnic and fluvial clays near ground surface are present along Wadi Gaza, in the
middle area along the Gaza border, and in the Beit Hanoun area. Where cemented
sandstone are present near the surface, they form distinctive topographic ridges with
vertical relief up to 60 m. These “Kurkar” ridges, from which the coastal aquifer has
obtained its name, typically extend in a NE-SW direction.

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The dune sands (and loess soils) which overlie the Kurkar Formation consist of mostly
fine, well-sorted sands of aeolian origin. They are predominantly present in the north and
along the Mawasi area in the southwest. Thickness of these sands and loess range from a
few meters to 15 m. In addition, alluvial sediments, consisting of sand, loess and gravel
beds, are present along wadi courses. In Wadi Gaza, the reported thickness of alluvial
sediments is between 30 to 40 m.

3.0. HYDROGEOLOGY:

Gaza’s water resources are essentially limited to that part of the coastal aquifer that
underlies its 360km2 area (Fig.1). The coastal aquifer is the only aquifer in the Gaza
Strip and is composed of Pleistocene marine sand and sandstone, intercalated with clayey
layers. The maximum thickness of the different bearing horizons occurs in the northwest
along the coast (150m) and decreasing gradually toward the east and southeast along the
eastern border of Gaza Strip to less that 10m. The base of coastal aquifer system is
formed of impervious clay shade rocks of Neogene age (Saqiyah formation.

Depth to water level of the coastal aquifer varies between few meters in the low land area
along the shoreline and about 70m along the eastern border.

The coastal aquifer holds approximately 5x109m3 of groundwater of different quality.


However, only 1.4 x109 m3 of this is “freshwater”, with chloride content of less than
500mg/l. This fresh groundwater typically occurs in the form of lenses that float on the
top of the brackish and/or saline ground water. That means that approximately 70% of
the aquifer is brackish or saline water and only 30% is fresh water.

The major source of renewable groundwater to the aquifer is rainfall. Rainfall is sporadic
across Gaza and generally varies from 400mm/yr in the North to about 200mm/yr in the
south. The total rainfall recharge to the aquifer is estimated to be approximately 45m3/yr.
The remaining rainwater evaporates or dissipates as run-off during the short periods of
heavy rainstorms.

The layered stratigraphy of the Kurkar Group within the Gaza Strip subdivides the
coastal aquifer into 4 separate subaquifers near the coast. Further east, the marine clays
pinch out and the coastal aquifer can be regarded as one hydrogeological unit. The upper
subaquifer “A” is unconfined, whereas subaquifers “B1, B2, and C” become increasingly
confined towards the sea.

The thickness of the entire coastal aquifer sequence at the coastline is on average about
120 m. At the eastern Gaza border, the saturated thickness is about 60 m in the north,
and only 5-10 m in the south near Rafah. Localized perched conditions may exist in the
unsaturated zone throughout the Gaza Strip, due to the presence of shallow fluvial and
limnic clays.

The Transmissivity values of the upper 20-30m tested sateurated part interval of the
aquifer are ranging between 700 and 5,000 m2/d. The corresponding values of hydraulic

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conductivity (K) are within a relatively narrow range, 20-80 m/d, with a few outliers
greater than 100 m/d. Based on lithology and information from studies carried out in
Israel, the specific yield of the unconfined coastal aquifer is in the 0.15-0.3 range.
4.0. WATER WELLS:
There are an estimated 4,000 wells within the Gaza Strip. Almost all of these are
privately owned and used for agricultural purposes. Approximately 110 wells are owned
and operated by individual municipalities and are used for domestic supply. The average
density of wells per km2 is about 5. In some areas north of Gaza City, the density of
wells is greater than 20 per km2.

There is significant uncertainty around historical pumping in Gaza, it is believed that


large-scale abstraction started in the early 1960s, when agricultural development of the
Gaza Strip began.

Total groundwater abstraction in the Gaza Strip in recent years is estimated at 140-
145x106 m3/yr. Agricultural abstraction is estimated to account for about 85-90x106
m3/yr, while municipal (55x106 m3/yr) and settlements (5-7x106 m3/yr) pump the
remainder.

Agricultural wells are mostly drilled and installed as large diameter boreholes (<2.5 m) to
the water table (using regular excavation techniques and placing caissons in the
subsurface), and as drilled holes (<10-inch) thereafter to total depth. Most agricultural
wells in Gaza are shallow and extend only a few meters (5-15) below the groundwater
table, tapping almost exclusively Subaquifer “A”.

It is estimated that more than 3,900 agricultural wells are operational today. Agricultural
wells have not been metered since 1994, and hence current production totals are not
exactly known. About 1,500 wells were metered from about 1980 – 1993 during Israeli
occupation. The Israeli Civil Administration recorded abstraction on a monthly,
quarterly, and/or semi-annual basis.

The metered data from the Ministry Of Agriculture (MOA) indicated that the total
average annual abstraction for the 1,500 metered wells over the period of records (1988-
1993) was approximately 43x106 m3/yr. Prorating this average to the estimated 3,900
wells in operation today, yields an estimated total agricultural abstraction of about 85-90
x106 m3/yr.

Municipal wells are deeper, and may tap Subaquifers A, B1, and B2 depending on
location and distance from the coast. Municipal wells are typically screened throughout
their lengths from the water table and down, and are not selectively screened across
individual subaquifers. Hence, subaquifers are hydraulically connected in places
(including near the coast). Detailed abstraction records have not been obtained for years
prior to 1996. Based on Israeli reports from the 1970s, basic records on pump capacities,
as well as information on typical pumping hours by season, it is estimated that municipal
abstraction has increased from about 12 x106 m3/yr in 1967 to 35 x106 m3/yr in 1990, and

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55 x106 m3/yr in 2000. The number of municipal supply wells has also increased from
about 40 in 1973 to 56 in 1993 to 110 in 2000.

There are about 35-40 or so known israeli settlement wells within the Gaza Strip. Almost
30 wells were drilled inside Gush Qatif settlement, the largest settlement in the south.
The abstraction records that have been obtained from Mekorot(Israeli Water
Company)indicated that the annual total abstraction of the isreali settlement wells is
about 5 x106 m3/yr.
5.0. GROUNDWATER FLOW REGIME
Regional groundwater flow is toward the Mediterranean Sea. However, natural flow
patterns have been disturbed by pumping and artificial recharge. Within the Gaza Strip,
large cones of depression have formed over the past 40 years within the Gaza, Khan
Younis, and Rafah governorates (Fig.3).

Regional water levels have been lowered by several meters, and flow directions are
impacted by major pumping centers in the south and near Gaza City. The total aquifer
abstraction in the early-1970s is estimated to be about 100 Mm3/y. The lowering of
regional water tables has continued, and hydraulic gradients have been significantly
reversed (from the sea) in the south and around Gaza City. Water levels around Gaza City
and in the southern part are more than 2m and 5m below sea level respectvely as a
function of high total abstraction.

5.1. Vertical Gradients


There are very few data to infer vertical hydraulic gradients between sub-aquifers along
the coast. Piezometers installed to different depths in the early 1970s by Israeli
researchers provide the only data related to gradients near the coast. Today, most of the
piezometers have been vandalized and filled in with sand. While measurements exist for
many of these piezometers throughout the 1980s, the data will be treated with caution.
The piezometer data indicates that there are vertical head differences between subaquifers
along the coast in the order of 10-50 cm. This would suggest that intervening clay layers
are sufficiently impermeable to induce head gradients between the subaquifers. However,
many municipal wells are screened across more than one subaquifer, which may equalize
heads and provide a pathway for water mixing and movement of saline water between
subaquifers. Hydraulic separation between subaquifers has also been demonstrated in the
coastal plain in Israel from hydraulic heads, isotope studies, and water quality data. The
existing piezometer data are not sufficient to reliably infer flow directions within
individual subaquifers.

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Fig.3. Calibrated Average Water Level Contour Map (2000)

5.2. Water Level Trends


Long-term records of water levels (>20 years) are available for about 130 wells in Gaza.
The records mostly span 1970-1993, but many wells that are now monitored by PWA
also have data from 1994 to present. The lateral inflow to the aquifer is estimated at
between 10-15 x106 m3/yr. Some recharge is available from the major surface flow (Wadi
Gaza). But because of the extensive extraction from Wadi Gaza in Israel, this recharge is
limited to, at its best 1.5- 2x106 m3 during the ten or 50 days the Wadi actually flows in a
normal year. As a result, the total freshwater recharge at present is limited to
approximately 56.5-62 x106 m3/yr.

Under natural conditions, groundwater flow in the Gaza Strip is towards the
Mediterranean Sea, where it discharges to the sea. However, Pumping over 40 years has
significantly disturbed natural flow patterns. Large cone of depression have formed in the
north and south where water levels are below mean sea level, including inflow of
seawater towards the major pumping centers (Fig.3).

5.3. Water Balance:


The water balance of the Gaza coastal aquifer has been developed based on estimate of
all water inputs and outputs to the aquifer system. The Gaza coastal aquifer is a dynamic
system with continuously changing inflows and flows. The present net aquifer balance is
negative, that is, there is a water deficit. Under defined average climatic conditions and
total abstraction and return flows, the net deficit is about 40-50MCM/y. Implication of
the net deficit include:
-Lowering of water level (documented).
-Reduction in availability of fresh groundwater (documented).

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-Seawater intrusion (documented), and potentially up-coning of deep brines (partly
documented).

It is estimated that only 10 percent of the total aquifer volume may be considered fresh,
meeting with the WHO drinking water standard. This corresponds to a total of about 500
x106 m3. The time frame for complete depletion of fresh groundwater will depend on
continued abstraction volumes and patterns. Using a rate of aquifer depletion of about 40-
50 x106 m3/yr, it can be theoretically calculated that depletion would occur in 10-13
years. The net deficit has led to a lowering of the water table in the past 30-40 years and
inland migration of seawater. Of these two factors, seawater intrusion accounts for a
greater fraction of the volume loss, but it is less visible and thus tends to lessen the
perception of the worsening aquifer evolution.

In general, long-term water level responses can be classified in three broad categories:
Category 1:
Continuous decline since 1970, with a flattening of water level trends or slight recovery
in the wet year of 1991/1992. Most of these responses are observed in the southern parts
of Gaza, in Qarara, Khan Younis and Rafah. An example wells is L/57 (Fig.4).

Category 2:
Steady trend or a continuous, slow decline from 1970-1991, then a relatively fast
recovery during 1991/92, followed by either a flat or declining trend in the 1990s. Most
such responses are observed in northern Gaza, north of Gaza City. An example well is
A/115 (Fig.4).

Category 3:
Continuous decline from 1970 through the mid-1980s, then a gradual recovery (partial or
complete) during the late 1980s and 1990s. The majority is located in the middle areas
towards the Gaza border. An example well is S/28 (Fig.4).

The initial water level rise seen in all wells in 1991/92 is believed to be a natural response
to the 1991/92 wet year when rainfall in the region was about 150% of the long-term
average. However, in subsequent years, water levels remained high. Water levels rose by
as much as 6 m in some welle in Israel in the early 1990s and recovered to former levels
measured in the 1950s. Most wells in Israel for which data are available show identical
characteristics. In the north of the Gaza Strip, Hydrographs responses are very similar,
although the magnitudes of the water level changes are less than in Israel. It therefore
seems that the hydraulic regime of the coastal aquifer in Israel in the early-1990s
influenced water levels in the northern Gaza Strip.

The fact that water levels remained high may be partly explained by artificial recharge
practices in Israel. Data obtained from Mekorot indicate that in the years 1991/92 and
1992/93 alone, approximately 35 Mm3 of potable water from the National Water Carrier
were recharged into 3 recharge basins quite close to the Gaza Strip. The quantities
recharged in any given year are determined by how much excess water is in the Israeli
national supply. Artificial recharge is carried out only during years when excess water is
available .

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Category1-MostlyintheSouth

ASL)
3
ater Level (m
2

0
W

-1

-2
1969

1971

1975

1977

1983

1989

1995
1967

1973

1979

1981

1985

1987

1991

1993

1997

1999

2001
Date
Wate r Le v e l (mASL)

Category2Wells-MostlyintheNorth

-1
1971

1975

1977

1983

1989

1995
1967

1969

1973

1979

1981

1985

1987

1991

1993

1997

1999

2001
-2

Date
Water Level (mASL)

Category3Wells-MostlyintheM
iddle/East

-1
1969

1971

1991
1967

1973

1975

1977

1979

1981

1983

1985

1987

1989

1993

1995

1997

1999

2001

-2

Date

Fig.4. Typical Water Level Hydrographs

The post-1991/92 steady water levels in Israel and northern Gaza may also be influenced
by other factors. One potential factor is increased agricultural return flows in Israel. Data
obtained from Mekorot shows that in 1999, approximately 100 Mm3 of reclaimed
wastewater was supplied to farmlands surrounding the Gaza Strip. This water originates
as reclaimed water from the Dan wastewater treatment plant in Rishon LeZiyyon (South
Tel Aviv).

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Continuous water level declines are observed primarily in the southern parts of Gaza,
near Khan Younis and Rafah. Measured water levels in the north have remained
remarkably constant considering the density of abstraction wells and high rates of
pumping in this area.

The different Hydrographs responses observed from south to north in Gaza are influenced
by many factors, including:
 Return flows (from irrigation, municipal supply, and wastewater in urban areas)
 Abstraction patterns
 Lateral inflow
 Seawater intrusion

During 1970 and 1993, water levels dropped on average 1.6 m, but mostly in the south.
Using an effective porosity value of 0.2 for the coastal aquifer, and a total land area of
365 km2, the annual depletion rate of aquifer storage is about 5 x106 m3/yr. This does not
account for increased seawater intrusion, which further decreases the fresh water storage
in the aquifer.

Measured seasonal water level fluctuations range on average from about 0.5 m in the
south to greater than 1 m in the north. Calculating recharge from seasonal fluctuations
may be reasonable where such fluctuations are the result of recharge from rainfall alone.
However, given the density of wells in Gaza, there are few areas where this may be
undertaken. This approach was attempted by the WRAP project (WRAP, 1995), and
using a specific yield of 0.25%, total recharge was estimated at 64 x106 m3/yr. It was
concluded, however, that this probably represents an overestimate due to pumping
influences and return flows on local water level responses.

6.0. WATER QUALITY:

More water was pumped from the aquifer than was recovered. This over extraction has
resulted in draw down of the groundwater with resulting intrusion of seawater and up-
coning the underlying saline water. The major water quality problems are high salinity
and high nitrate concentrations in the aquifer. Chloride concentrations in municipal wells
in 1999 are shown in Fig.5. The WHO drinking limit is shown by the red line.

High levels of chloride in the groundwater cause high salinity in the water supply. Less
than 10% of the aquifer's yield is water meeting the WHO drinking standard. Some
agricultural wells are currently reporting salinity levels of more than 1200mg/l. Sources
of high chloride content have been determined to be; sea water intrusion, lateral flow of
brackish water from east in the middle and southern area and up-coning of the brine
water from the base of the aquifer. Seawater intrusion and uplift the deep brine water are
the direct consequences of over pumping, and represent the greatest threats to municipal
and agricultural water supplies in the Gaza Strip. The lateral inflow of brackish water
from the east is believed to be groundwater from the Eocene age rocks that underlie the
coastal aquifer in the east and is therefore of natural origin.

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1400
World Health Organisation Drinking Water
Standard for Chlorides = 250 mg/l

1200

1000
Chloride (mg/l)

800

600

400

200

Rcnnew
R-162B

R-162H
R-162G

R-162L
R-25C
E-11C

E-25B

R-25A

R-25D
E-156

E-154

E-157

P-124
E-11A

E-11B

Q-40B
A-180

A-185

E-138

R-112

R-254

L-127

L-179

P-139
M-2B
J-132

J-146

L-159

L-176

M-2A
A-32

D-20

D-60

D-61

D-68

D-69

D-70

E-90

E-92

R-74

N-22

P-10

P-15
D-67

L-14

L-43

L-86

L-87
E-4

N-9
Fig.5. Chloride Concentration of Domestic Municipal Wells in Gaza

Chloride concentrations in the monitored, shallow portions of the coastal aquifer are
generally better in the north of the Gaza Strip than in the south (Fig.6). The relatively low
values of chloride in the north, and demonstrates the shallow nature of wells that are
sampled. This suggests that brackish water from Israel is flowing toward the northern
well fields in Gaza City and Jabalya. The increasing chloride trends in the Khan Younis
municipal well field are demonstrated by the deeper wells.

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100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
112
111
110
109
N ##
#
# #
# #
# #

108 # #
#
# ##

# ## #
107 ##
W E #
## # # ##
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106 # # # # # ## ## ## ##
# # #
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105 # #
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#

104
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#
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# # # ## # # #
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103 ##
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102 #
# # # #
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101 #
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100 # #
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99 #
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ea
#
98 # ##
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nS
#
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ea
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an
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96 #
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err
## # # ##
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95 #
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dit
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94 Me # # ## #
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# #
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93 # ## # #
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92 # # #
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91 #
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# #
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88 #
# # # #
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87 # #
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85 #
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84
83
#
#
#

# # #
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#
#

#
#
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#

#
Chloride Conc. Legend
# # ## # # # #
## # # # # #
82 # #

0 - 250 mg/l
# # #
# # # #
# # #
# # #
81 ### #
# ## #

250 - 500 mg/l


# # # #
80 #
#
#
#
#
# # # # #
## # # #
79 ## # # #
# #
# #

500 - 750 mg/l


# # # # #
# #
78 #
# # #
# #
#
77 #

750 - 1000 mg/l


#
#
76
75
74
1000 - 1500 mg/l
73 Greater than 1500 mg/l
72
71
70

Chloride Concentration Contour Map


Prepared by: Water Resource Department
Hydrology Section
August 2001
A.M .

Fig.6. Chloride Ion Concentration Contour Map (mg/l)

Most municipal drinking wells in Gaza show nitrate level in excess of the WHO drinking
water standard of 50 mg/l (Fig.8). In urban centers nitrate concentrations are increasing at
rates up to 10 mg/l per year. The main sources on are domestic sewage effluent and
fertilizers. In contrast to salinity, groundwater flowing from east has relatively low nitrate
levels.

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500
World Health Organisation Drinking Water
L-87=952 mg/l
Standard for Nitrates = 50 mg/l
450

400

350

300
Nitrate (mg/l)

250

200

150

100

50

Rcnnew
R-162G

R-162H
R-162B

R-162L
E-11C

Q-40B

R-25D
A-180

A-185

E-138

E-156

E-154

E-157

R-254

P-124

P-139
E-11A

E-11B

E-25B

R-25A

R-25C

R-112

J-132

J-146

L-127

L-159

L-176

L-179

M-2A

M-2B
D-60

D-61

D-67

D-69

D-70

R-74
A-32

D-20

D-68

E-90

E-92

L-14

L-43

L-86

N-22

P-10

P-15
L-87

N-9
E-4

Fig.6. Nitrate Concentration of Domestic Municipal Wells in Gaza

The extent to which the aquifer may be impacted by other pollutants such as organic
chemicals, metals and pesticides has not been fully defined. A screening of total
petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) and Organo chlorine pesticides from 130 wells was
conducted. None of the wells had a TPH level exceeding 1 mg/L, the detection limit for
the analytical method used, even though floating oil product has been observed in several
agricultural wells. Low levels of Organo chlorine pesticides were found in 5 agricultural
wells and 8 municipal wells, primarily in the Khan Younis and Rafah areas.

14
100
101

102
103
104
105

106
107
108
109
110
74
75
76

77
78
79
80
81

82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91

92
93
94
95
96

97
98
99
112
111
110 N
109
108
107
106
105
104
103

a
102

Se
101

an
100
99

ne
98 a

rr
97

te
96

di
95 e
94 M
93
92
91
90
89
88
87 Nitrate Conc. Legend
86
85
0 - 50
84 51 - 100
83
101 - 150
82
81 151 - 200
80 201 - 250
79 251 - 300
78
77
301 - 350
76 351 - 400
75
74
73
72
71
70

Nitrate Concentration Contour Map


Prepared by: Water Resource Department
Hydrology Section
September 2001
A.M .

Fig.8. Nitrate ions concentration Contour Map (mg/l)

7.0. FFUTURE WATER DEMAND:

Mainly the population growth and socio-economic development control water demand
for the different uses. The annual population growth rate in Gaza was recorded at 5.9and
6.8% between 1980 and 1996, by which time Gaza had a population of 963,000
inhabitants.
Based on Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics census (PCBS) Dec 1997, Gaza
population was recorded at 1,020,080. Using a conservative growth rate of about 3.5%
and assuming an influx of 50,000 returnees by 2010, the estimated population in 1999
was slightly over 1,100,000 and forecast population of 2,140,000 by 2020. This means
that population is expected to be double after 20 years.
In 1999, it was estimated that a proximately 140x106m3/y of water was pumped from
about 4000 wells. Of which, about 90x106m3/y of water uses was used for irrigation and
50x106m3/y were pumped for domestic and industrial from 90 municipal wells.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an average of 100 liters per capita
per day (l/c/d) as a minimum standard for individual water use. In 1999, it is estimated
that 80 l/c/d were actually made available to consumers. On the other hand, only about 13

15
l/c/d meet WHO quality standards. As social development occurs, the demand for water
will increase to meet the average WHO recommendation of 150 l/c/d in future years.

These facts make it evident that the Gaza Coastal Aquifer is in extreme danger of
becoming unusable for drinking water and irrigation. Over exploitation of the aquifer has
resulted in salt-water intrusion and continuous decline in groundwater levels has been
observed in most of the areas of Gaza Strip since mid-1970s. The ability of the aquifer to
sustain life for the increasing population and a basic agriculture industry will be
destroyed in twenty years if no action will be taken.

7.1. Domestic and Industrial Water Demand (D&I):

Population growth, the changing water needs of households and industry and changing
demands of agriculture will shape in the future (D&I) water demand.
The projected (D&I) demand for the next 20-years is graphically presented in Fig.8.

The D&I demand include net demand for domestic, industrial, public customers and
livestock water supply. Water losses through transmission pipeline and water distribution
system are included. Therefore, D&I demand presents quantity of water at water supply
source that should be delivered to the D&I customers. It is clear that the total D&I water
needs will reach to about 182mcm by 2020 assuming an overall efficiency of water
distribution of 20%.

7.2. Agricultural Water Demand:

If the demand for irrigation is calculated on the basis of the food requirements of the
growing population, it appears that it will increase from the present usage of about 90
x106m3/y to 185x106m3/y by2020. However that figure is not realistic projection for Gaza,
because neither the water nor the land to support an increase in agricultural activity
exists. Fig.3 illustrates the continuing trend in decreasing the agricultural water demand
reflecting the decrease use of both irrigated and rain fed agricultural land area in Gaza.

That is occurring as result of the growth of urban areas, which expand onto agricultural
land. This encourages farmers to bring what had been marginal land into production. It
also means that farmers are turning to more intensive methods of agriculture, which
require expensive inputs. In general, there is a trend to select crops of less water needs.

Generally, the overall water demand in Gaza Strip is estimated to increase from present
of about 145x106m3/y to about 260x106 m3/y in 2020, as shown in Fig.9. This includes
D&I demand at water supply source and agricultural demand.

16
275
Agri
250
M&I/mcm
225
total
200

175
Demand (mcm)

150

125

100

75

50

25

0
2000 2005 2010 2015 2020
Years

Fig.9. Overall Water Demand in Gaza until the Year 2020

The effect on the water balance in the aquifer without any water resources management is
dramatically illustrated in fig.10. The figure shows that the water deficit will reach to
about 100mcm/y by year 2020. The results will be continuing water level decline and
water quality deterioration through seawater intrusion and saline water up coning.

50

40

30

20

10

0
2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020
-10

-20
MCM/year

-30

-40

-50

-60

-70

-80

-90

-100

-110
years

Fig.10. Overall Aquifer Balance without water resources management

17
8.0. PALESTINIAN WATER RESOURCES POLICY:

Water resources must be developed and managed efficiently in order to meet present and
future water needs, in an environmentally sustainable way. Wastewater reclamation and
reuse, desalination and storm water recharge together with renewable aquifer capacity
will provide quantity of the water that would satisfy water demands in the Gaza Strip for
the next 20-years. However, comprehensive aquifer protection is necessary to maintain
its sustainable capacity. Certain aspects of water demand management and water quality
management should be considered to support management of the aquifer at its sustainable
capacity.

The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) has considered the following three principal
objectives for sustainable water resources management:

• Provide quantity and quality of water for domestic purpose in compliance with WHO
standards.
• Supply adequate quality and sufficient quantity of water that is required for the
planned agricultural production in Gaza Strip.
• Managing the Gaza Coastal Aquifer at its safe yield and preventing further
deterioration of the aquifer water quality.

Accomplishment of those principal objectives is based on the following fundamental


promises:

• Reclamation of wastewater and maximum use of the reclaimed water for agriculture.
• Introduction of new water resource(s) into the Gaza Strip water sector as soon as
possible to meet the projected water demands.
• Improve pumped groundwater quality needed for domestic use by desalination
facilities.

The aquifer must remain the backbone resource for supplying water to the Gaza Strip.
Over-drafting has led to a dramatic deterioration in the aquifer's water quality and
immediate limits must be placed on extraction. In addition to meet the increased overall
water demand and to reverse the process of saltwater intrusion, sustainable quantities
must be added to the water cycle and wastewater should be used to the extent feasible.
Successful implementation of those issues will be able to maintain water balance and
prevent further deterioration of the aquifer. In parallel, clear and precise legislation and
strict water sector implementation policies are must for successful implementation.

8.1. Wastewater Reuse:

Reclaimed water is a potential valuable water resource. All wastewater in the Gaza Strip
should be made available for direct irrigation as needed or recharge into the aquifer
during the off-season. Three regional wastewater treatment plants will be constructed in
Gaza Strip in stages to reach capacities of about 120mcm/y in year 2020.

18
It is becoming evident from on-going model simulation that to protect the aquifer,
pumping in the Gaza Governorate in particular must be severely restricted to prevent
further rapid seawater intrusion. Given the future demands of population, priority must be
given to municipal wells, which will require the staged closing down of many agricultural
wells. To achieve the goal of maintaining an agricultural sector, irrigation water from
other sources must be provided to replace groundwater. The reclaimed water can be
distributed directly from the regional treatment plants to the farmers when needed for
restricted crops. Therefore, its quality (class -C) must be established to satisfy the
requirements of agriculture, both economic and cultural to encourage its acceptance by
farmers. During the winter seasons the reclaimed water would be stored in the aquifer
through the infiltration basins and can be reused by agriculture through recovery wells,
particularly in the dry seasons. By that process the treated wastewater would be purified
and filtered as it passes down to the aquifer and moves laterally to the recover wells to
allow unrestricted use of crops and export (Tertiary class-D). In the other word, because
the agricultural demand varies seasonally, while the municipal supply remains nearly
constant, storage is needed for the water produced during low demand periods. This goal
of options assumes that the peak agricultural demand for reclaimed water exceeds the
supply, which is true only if the wastewater is of a quality that can be used on most crops.

Recovery of water and distribution back uphill to the agricultural areas will therefore
require an extensive distribution network and considerable pumping energy and facilities.

It has been estimated that about 75% of the water used in irrigation are lost to the aquifer
through evaptranspiration. Therefore, more efficient use of water for irrigation by
encouraging the use of drip-type irrigation system wherever possible. Farmers should be
educated on the need to conserve water by efficient management of the open-channel
type irrigation for certain crops. The quality of the reclaimed water for irrigation must
meet the demands of modern irrigation systems, which require some level of filtration to
remove solid particles that can clog emitters.

With the assumption of efficient comprehensive wastewater management in terms of the


reuse of reclaimed wastewater for agriculture and recharge the surplus wastewater into
the aquifer, the proposed water balance will be improved relatively and the total water
deficit will be of about 45mcm/y in 2020 (Fig.11).

19
50

40 water deficit

30

20
deficit (x10^6 m^3)

10

0
2001

2002

2004

2005

2007

2008

2010

2011

2012

2013

2016

2017

2019
2000

2003

2006

2009

2014

2015

2018

2020
-10

-20

-30

-40

-50

-60
years

Fig.11.Overall aquifer Balance with Wastewater Reuse

Small improvement in the aquifer balance will occur because of the recharge of treated
wastewater as well as reuse by 2002/2003 as planned. The continuing increase in demand
will continue to reduce the balance. The result will be continuing seawater intrusion
which will ultimately result in the salinity in the aquifer precluding the consumption of
groundwater either by D&I or agriculture users without adding new water to the system.

To encourage the switch to using reclaimed water, metering of agricultural wells and
implementation of different tariffs of the volume water extracted are recommended. In
order for the agricultural sector to become more able to bear tariffs, the small farm must
become more profitable. Thus the future for a sustainable agricultural sector in the Gaza
Strip, given the pressure on land, will be a continuation of the trend from citrus and olive
crops into more intensive value-added crops such as table vegetables and strawberries.
Regional standards for wastewater to irrigate these crops must be achieved to permit safe
consumption of the crops in the Gaza Strip and their export to regional markets.

8.2. New Water Resources:

In order to maintain the water balance to the positive condition and to fulfill the domestic
water demand in terms of quality and quantity, a new water resources should be
introduced into the Gaza Strip water sector as soon as possible. Those new water
resources will relief stress on the aquifer and prevent further deterioration of its water
quality.
Many alternatives have been examined to minimize the water deficit and fulfill domestic
water demand, but seawater desalination has been identified as the most realistic option.
Following this concept large scale seawater desalination plant with four different
production phases is proposed as follow:

• Phase-1: 60,000 m3/d, in operation by 2004

20
• Phase-2: 60,000 m3/d, in operation by 2008
• Phase-3: 20,000 m3/d, in operation by 2014
• Phase-4: 10,000 m3/d, in operation by 2017

Total desalination capacity will be by about 150,000 m3/d (~55x106 m3/y) by 2020.

The total seawater desalination quantity in conjunction with the brackish groundwater
desalination, Mekerot water supply and beach well desalination plants will be able to
cover completely the domestic water demand (D&I) and consistent with WHO guidelines
in terms of quantity and quality.

With the option to construct large seawater desalination plant as described earlier (as new
water resources), the aquifer over drafting will decrease. As a result, it is expected that
seawater will be pushed back (transgression) toward the sea preventing further
deterioration of the aquifer water quality. Ultimately, an approximation of about
10mcm/y-aquifer water surplus will be maintained starting by year 2008 as shown in
Fig.12.

50

40 water deficit

30
quantity (x10^6 m^3)

20

10

0
2000

2001

2002

2004

2006

2008

2011

2012

2013

2015

2017

2020
2003

2005

2007

2009

2010

2014

2016

2018

2019
-10

-20

-30

-40

-50
year

Fig.12.Overall Aquifer Balance with New Water Resources and Wastewater Reuse

The figure shows the improvement beginning when the first phase of the regional
desalination plant comes on line in 2003/2004 and the positive balance achieved in
2007/2008 as the second phase of the desalination plant is brought into service.
Additional smaller phased additions in 2014 and 2018 will succeed in maintaining the
positive head of 10mcm/y required to keep seawater at bay during the planed period until
2020 despite the growing demand for water. However the downward trend in the balance
indicates that additional "new" water must be added to the Gaza Strip water cycle after
2020 from other sources that may become available.

21
Model simulation of the water balance achieved by implementation wastewater reuse in
efficient and comprehensive manner and with adding new water to the aquifer system
there will be a recovery of groundwater level in the aquifer and consequent stabilization
of intrusion in most areas of the Gaza Strip (fig.13). The positive hydraulic head will in
future reduce present and future intrusion by seawater and deep brines.

Fig.13.Simulated 2020 Water Level Contour with Implementation of Wastewater


Reuse and Adding New Water to the Water Cycle

9.0. COST ESTIMATE:

Costs for construction and for operation and maintenance of the different components of
the water resources management plans that discussed before have been estimated for the
next 20-years. The needed capital investment for the water sector including water
resources development, water supply, water conservation and wastewater collection,
treatment and reuse were estimated in yearly base with a total of about US$ 1500 million
(Fig.14). While the total of operational and maintenance cost has been estimated at about
US$ 90 million (Fig.14).

22
180

160

Capital Cost (1,000,000xUS$)


140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0
2000

2002

2004

2008

2010

2012

2014

2016

2018

2020
2006

Years
Capital Cost

Fig.14. Annual Spending Required for Capital Cost

200

180
160
O&M Cost (1,000,000xUS$)

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020

Years

O&M Cost

Fig.15. Annual Spending Required for Operational and Maintenance Cost

10.0. WATER SUSTAINABILITY:

Sustainability of the water, wastewater and agricultural reuse water systems is a primary
goal of PWA. To make these systems sustainable, there must be:

23
• Sufficient funds collected to recover costs: operations and maintenance,
administration, depreciation and debt service.
• An organization of qualified personnel to operate, maintain, administer and
manage all functions related to delivering the service.
• Appropriate legal authority for the operating organization.

The absence of any one element can lead to gradual deterioration of the effectiveness of
service delivery to the users of the systems. A strong regulatory body is also necessary to
protect the users from abuse of the powers and authorities of the operating organization.
The regulator has three specific rules:

• Assure that the public has sufficient resources of money and a qualified workforce.
• Assure the public utility is charging the least price that will enable the utility to
deliver the service.
• Assure that the utility is effectively delivering the service to the users.

Implementation of the recommended management plan will require sustainable sources


of revenue for the operating organization(s) delivering water supply, wastewater
collection and treatment, and delivery reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation. The
sustainable level of tariff for cost recover includes sufficient funds to pay for operations
and maintenance, system management and administration, depreciation or rehabilitation
reserve, and repayment of debt.

Tariff structures and levels should be developed and approved so to eventually recover all
costs of water services. Tariff levels and structure should be reviewed periodically
whenever public policy regarding water is adjusted.

11.0. REFERENCES:

1. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian Authority, “General Census”,


1997.

2. Palestinian Water Authority / Palestinian Energy Authority, ”Water Desalination


Plan”, Draft Report, 2000.

3. Palestinian Water Authority / USAID, “Coastal Aquifer Management Program


(CAMP), Integrated Aquifer Management Plan (Task-3), Gaza, 2000.

4. Al-Jamal K., Al-Yaqubi A.," Prospect of Water Desalination in Gaza", Palestinian


Water Authority, Gaza, 2000.

5. Palestinian Water Authority / USAID, “Coastal Aquifer Management Program


(CAMP), Tariff assessment (Task-19), Gaza, 2000.

24