Friday, September 18, 2009

Gaza's underground water supplies on the verge of collapse

Environment News Service: The underground water supplies that 1.5 million Palestinians depend upon for drinking and agricultural uses are in danger of collapse, finds a new report by the UN Environment Programme's Post-Conflict Assessment Branch on the environmental condition of the Gaza Strip after weeks of hostilities last December and January. The report calls for the aquifer to be "rested" and alternative water sources found.

"Unless the trend is reversed now, damage could take centuries to reverse. Since the aquifer is a continuum with Egypt and Israel, any such action must be coordinated with these countries," the report states.

Long-term overuse, increased salinity from salt water intrusion caused by "over-abstraction of the ground water" is a key concern identified in the report along with pollution from sewage and runoff of agricultural fertilizers such as nitrites. The report says pollution levels are so high that infants in the Gaza Strip are at risk from nitrate poisoning. High levels of nitrates can cause a form of anemia in infants known as blue baby syndrome.

…UNEP estimates that more than US$1.5 billion may be needed over 20 years to restore the aquifer to health. Desalination plants may be needed to take pressure off the underground water supplies, the report recommends….

NASA view of the Gaza Strip

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