The ICRC is working hard with local people in the West Bank to ensure an uninterrupted supply of clean water to villages. Bernard Barrett reports on two recently completed projects.
In June, the ICRC completed work on a new municipal reservoir and a seven kilometre distribution network for the village of Ar-Rehiyia, located south-west of Hebron.
The mayor of Ar-Rehiyia, Mohammed Al Hallaq underlines the importance of the project.
"When people feel insecure about the water supply, it breeds tension and suspicion amongst neighbours," he says.
Before the reservoir's construction, the water supply to the village had not been constant because of pressure variations in the network. In the summer, water has to be distributed to villages on a rotating basis in order to stretch the supply.
"The new reservoir should ensure a better provision of water to the 4,000 residents of Ar-Rehiyia," says Geert de Vries, the ICRC's water and habitat coordinator for the West Bank.
"In addition, the new transmission and distribution lines will eliminate the losses caused by leaks in the old system."
The mayor says around a fifth of the water used to leak away.
"In the summer, the water supply could be cut for as long as two to three weeks," says Al Hallaq.
"When that happened people had to buy water that was trucked in to fill their own reservoirs. Often, two or three families would join together to be able to afford it."
In the past, around 60 of the villagers were employed in Israel. Since the second Intifada, most have lost their jobs.
"About one quarter of the families have no income," says the mayor, "Another fifteen to twenty per cent are involved in agriculture but that requires water."
"A reliable water supply will encourage residents to plant gardens and improve their diet," he adds. "We may even plant trees along the sides of the roads to make the village better."
"Because there were so many leaks in the old system, we were losing over 6,000 cubic metres of water per month," says Taqoa's municipal engineer, Nabil Subeeh.
In June, the ICRC completed work on the construction of a new municipal reservoir as well as the installation of more than 10 kilometres of pipes to replace the antiquated transmission and distribution system.
"The reservoir has been constructed at the town's highest point so gravity will ensure the proper pressure," explains Abed al-Jalil Rimawi, the ICRC engineer in charge of the project.
"Previously, the municipality had to pressurize its distribution system, which put stress on the network and caused leakage. This can also lead to contamination if the pressure drops."
"Because of the unequal pressure," adds Subeeh, "as much as 35 per cent of the town's 1,300 households were not served by the municipal system during the summertime. They had to rely on private wells where the quality of water is not guaranteed."
The municipality provided the land for the reservoir and is connecting homes to the distribution network.
"We couldn't have afforded the project ourselves", says Subeeh. "We have little income. About 60 per cent of the people used to work in Israel and are now unemployed. Even the public servants haven't been paid because of the international boycott."
"With the new reservoir and the rehabilitation of the distribution system we will be able to ensure sufficient pressure to provide clean water to each household all year round."