"The United States is helping improve water conditions in the West Bank, and is addressing one of our most pressing needs," says Hebron's Governor Kamel Hmeid about the USAID-funded Dura Cluster Water Storage and Distribution System. "The project is a step in the right direction to deal with the water shortages the community is facing on a daily basis."
Once the project is completed in the summer of 2012, the Dura Water System will provide approximately 43,000 Palestinians with reliable access to potable water for the first time. Governor Hmeid sees partnerships like the one with USAID as important for improving living standards for people in the Hebron area, noting that the project will address a major problem for local residents. "I want to steer the people away from the frustration caused by harsh living conditions," he says.
The $17.5 million water project consists of more than 12 kilometers of transmission pipelines, 92 kilometers of distribution networks to rural communities, and the construction of three large, concrete water-storage tanks which have the combined capacity to hold 4,000 cubic meters of water.
74-year-old Zbeideh Awawdeh is one of the residents who will benefit from the project. She lives in the village of Fqeiqees, where the new transmission line can be seen reaching the modest homes of the village. "Look, see the new pipes," Zbeideh points out excitedly. "I will no longer have to walk to the water well, nor drag my ailing body back and forth in the cold weather or summer heat."
Fqeiqees is one of the fourteen local communities that will benefit from the Dura water project. Approximately 25,000 women live in these communities. These women are excited about the prospects for improving hygiene within their homes, washing laundry without having to haul buckets of water, and preparing infant milk in the knowledge that the water they are using is safe and fresh. Local doctors have also noted that clean, piped-in water should help reduce hepatitis cases in the Dura area.
In small villages in Hebron, such as Fqeiqees, residents collect rain water that goes into cisterns. But during the dry season, they are often forced to purchase water from commercial tanker trucks. The average family living in this region spends around $240 monthly to purchase water from these trucks - a large sum given that the average salary per household is less than $500 a month.
Waleed Abu Sharar, Head of the Dura Joint Council for Services Planning, is confident that the project will improve lives for whole communities. "It brings potable water at an affordable cost for people who never had such access - water we need to improve living conditions. The project will create incredible, long-term sustainable benefits." Abu Sharar adds: "This is the best gift ever from the American people to the Palestinian people."