World Water Day
Every year on March 22, people around the globe celebrate World Water Day.
Happy World Water Day 2023! 💧 Accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis
Few places are more in need of accelerated change in the water situation than Gaza. Last year, Anera published an On-the-Ground report on the water crisis in Gaza. Before the Taps Run Dry: Responding to Gaza’s Existential Water Crisis provides an in-depth look at the deteriorating conditions of water, sanitation and wastewater management in Gaza, and the efforts by the Gazan people, together with some international actors, to forestall the further degradation of living standards in the region.
Do you ever think about how much water you use in a day? It’s easy to forget just how much we rely on water. As an instructive exercise to commemorate World Water Day, try tracking how you use water use throughout the day today. Let’s take a look at how seemingly normal activities look different for someone residing in the region we serve.
Dental hygiene → Clean teeth are essential to overall health. In the areas we work, oral hygiene is challenged by the lack of access to resources and unsafe water. Families earn low wages and cannot afford essential hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap. In Gaza, 26% of illnesses come from contact with contaminated water. All families deserve access to the knowledge and resources they need to lead healthy lives. Find out how we’re responding.
Taking a shower → Many homes in Gaza are not connected to water networks, which makes daily tasks like taking a shower difficult. The average U.S. shower lasts 8 minutes and uses 16 gallons of water. In Gaza, the average household uses only 23 gallons for all needs for the whole day. Anera has reconnected 1,892 homes to new or repaired water networks to ensure Palestinians have the water they need to live healthy lives. Learn more about how Anera is responding.
Drinking water → Many Palestinians do not meet their daily water needs because poor infrastructure limits access to drinkable water. In Gaza, 90% of available water is unsafe to drink. Instead of drinking water straight from the tap or fridge, most Palestinians must rely on expensive deliveries from private water companies or communal water tanks. Anera works to expand water access in the communities we serve by erecting reservoirs and refilling water tanks. Learn more.
Used the bathroom → Many sewage and waste management systems throughout Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon’s overcrowded refugee camps are in poor condition. When these systems do not function correctly, neighborhoods are polluted and excess waste threatens the health of Palestinians. Anera has responded to the sewage crisis by building new sewage systems and waste treatment facilities. From homes to schools, we connect communities to sanitation networks so they have access to clean toilets and bathrooms. Learn more.
Made tea → Damaged water systems in Gaza prevent 43% of the domestic water supply from reaching households, which prevents safe food and drink preparation. Families can spend almost a third of their household income on buying water from private vendors, and event then the water is not always clean.
Made coffee → In Gaza, only 11 out of the 288 authorized water wells are drawing water suitable for drinking.
Anera has installed 38 reverse osmosis systems in Gaza to convert contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for local communities. Learn more about our innovative effort to expand water access.
Watered plants → Agriculture is an integral part of cultural identity and local economies in Palestine and Lebanon. In Palestine, farmers face difficulties due to water shortages in the region and outdated cultivation techniques. Anera helps Palestinian and Lebanese farmers overcome these challenges through innovative agriculture. We have built rainwater collection systems, rooftop gardens, and irrigated farms which promote long-term agricultural sustainability in the region. Learn how Anera is helping farmers reconnect with the land.
Washed clothes → 97% of the water from Gaza’s aquifer does not meet the quality standards of the World Health Organization due to pollution. Washing machines are often damaged or broken by high levels of salinity in the water, which makes daily tasks like washing clothes more difficult for Gazans. Anera has responded by providing families with hygiene kits, repairing water pipes, and reconnecting homes to safe, clean water. Learn more about Anera’s dynamic response.
Washed dishes → Poor infrastructure and leaking water pipes worsen the water crisis in Palestine. In the United States, hand washing a load of dishes uses about 20 gallons of water. Many homes in Gaza are not connected to safe and clean drinking water; those that are only use about 23 gallons of water per day. In response, Anera has installed water pipelines to 35,700 homes in Rafah, Gaza to expand water access and improve quality of life. Learn more.
2022: How Do You Farm in Gaza When You Have Polluted Groundwater?
This year for World Water Day 2022, the UN is focusing on the importance of groundwater – “an invisible resource with an impact visible everywhere.”
For Palestinian’s living in Gaza, their groundwater is a precious resource that is unfortunately contaminated every day with sewage, heavy metals, toxic chemicals and salt water that seeps in from the Mediterranean Sea. These conditions make it difficult if not impossible for Palestinian farming families in Gaza to grow healthy crops and continue their farming heritage.
One of the ways our team in Gaza is working with Palestinian farmers to address this problem is through the installation and promotion of hydroponic greenhouses.
In traditional agriculture, plants obtain the minerals, nutrients, and water that they need to grow through the soil substrate. Hydroponics systems don’t need soil. Instead, plant roots grow directly in water or in a substrate other than soil like gravel, coconut shells, or the mineral vermiculite. Hydroponic agriculture can grow 10 times or more the number of plants in the same area as traditional farming, and it also provides control over temperature and humidity.
Since no soil is needed, hydroponic gardens can be built on rooftops and other non-arable areas. They can be used in very small areas like an apartment balcony or basement, as well as in greenhouses and home gardens. They can also be scaled up to the size of industrial farms.
^ In 2019 Anera installed a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse system for a women’s center in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. The new greenhouse at the Cooperative Society for Savings and Lending allows women at the Society to grow fresh produce for use in their cooperative projects.
An advantage of hydroponics is of particular importance in Gaza in that water can be purified at a lower cost than soil. This is useful because much of the soil in Gaza is polluted with heavy minerals or is so high in salinity that few crops can grow. Another crucial benefit of hydroponics is the reduced water needs of the technique, which is especially beneficial in Gaza due to the scarcity of clean water. Hydroponic systems require only 10-20 percent of the water needed in traditional systems.
The majority of economically disadvantaged families experiencing food insecurity in Gaza do not have land to build a greenhouse, but many do have access to a rooftop where non-traditional vertical farming can be practiced. In traditional agriculture, plants obtain minerals and water through the soil substrate.
Anera provides families in Gaza with hydroponic rooftop gardens using a new system of modified hydroponics: “wicking beds,” which is easy and safe to use. The wicking beds system is designed to provide plants with the optimum amount of water needed, without the need to irrigate on a daily basis as in traditional pot farming. This is also one of the most common hydroponic systems as it uses a minimal amount of soil mix as a growing medium and does not require sensitive adjustment of pH, temperature, and concentration of minerals in water.
The wicking bed hybrid hydroponic system has proven to be more effective and sustainable, especially for households. Anera has installed 50 wicking bed hydroponic gardens in Gaza since the beginning of 2021. The system has proven to be efficient and Gaza farming families continue to harvest their own produce and sustain themselves to date.
2021: World Water Day in the Time of COVID-19
It’s been one year since people started isolating at home to fight off the pandemic. Hospitals filled up with new patients and communities that were vulnerable to begin with suffered more than ever.
In the refugee camps and other disadvantaged communities of Palestine, COVID exacerbated challenges that existed before the virus cast its pall. Palestinians’ livelihoods suffered and they could travel even less than usual – often confined to their immediate governorates. Healthcare facilities, already strapped for resources, struggled to meet new demands. Families grappled with food insecurity. One of the biggest challenges in Palestine, though, was and long has been a lack of access to safe, affordable, reliable water supplies.
COVID brought with it calls to wash our hands and follow good sanitation practices. But what do you do when you live in a place where you don’t have easy access to water?
Making Water Accessible in Palestine
The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that water is life.
Throughout this past coronavirus year, and for decades before, Anera’s projects in Palestine have provided access to this precious resource. Through our recent interventions, healthcare facilities now have clean water for their patients and to safely run their expensive, life-saving equipment. Families can wash their hands and keep their homes clean. Whole communities have access to water so schools, community centers, clinics, municipalities and small businesses can serve their patrons, albeit in a limited, but vital way these days. Farming families can irrigate their crops, so they, their neighbors, and local produce markets have access to healthy food.
We thank the Anera donors who make these vital water projects possible.
Griffin Abdo, a 15-year-old from Washington DC, raised funds to support hydroponic gardening at homes across Gaza. The gardens can be built on rooftops or an apartment balcony – wherever families have space – because they do not rely on soil. And they use 80% less water than traditional cultivation methods.
“Access to fresh and healthy food is a basic human right and it brings us great joy knowing that we have the privilege to aid those in need, and having the ability to do so sustainably.”
Vitol Foundation supported our wastewater reuse project in Ramallah, making 260,000 gallons of treated wastewater available every day for municipal use in irrigating parks, fighting fires, and cleaning streets. Using grey water for these purposes frees up scarce and expensive potable water for domestic use.
“Recycling wastewater is a promising, sustainable solution to the Near East’s water scarcity problems. The water reuse work Anera and the municipality of Ramallah implemented makes the city greener and more resilient, while conserving valuable resources for its inhabitants. Vitol Foundation is proud to have contributed to this effort, and were very pleased the municipality also contributed financially and technically – this showed their ownership and commitment.”
– Regis Garandeau, Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at Vitol Foundation
The Stengel family is funding an exciting new project that attaches solar panels to irrigation systems on Palestinian family farms. This off-the-grid system is inexpensive and can operate easily in remote areas and rural regions where farmers desperately need these kinds of technologies. Solar water pumping also provides water for domestic use and for livestock.
On our visit to Palestine with Anera in the summer of 2019, we saw first hand the many issues that families and farmers had with access to fresh water. We believe that easy, affordable access to clean water is a basic human right. We could not be happier to partner with Anera to help the resilient people in Gaza in this important work.
Islamic Relief USA funds our major water and sanitation infrastructure work in Gaza. By June 22, 2022, through well rehabilitation, water networking to homes, wastewater network rehabilitation, rainwater drainage improvements, and community education, our IRUSA-funded projects will have improved the lives of 50% of Gaza’s residents.
“Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) is proud to partner with Anera in ensuring that Gaza residents have access to clean, safe, and reliable water systems. The global pandemic has greatly intensified the need to build long-term, sustainable solutions to improve water, sanitation and hygiene programs in areas such as Gaza, which have already experienced significant turmoil and instability. Less than four percent of freshwater is drinkable and the surrounding sea is severely polluted. We are deeply committed to alleviating the humanitarian challenges facing the Palestinian people, who are at a heightened risk to exposure of COVID if proper health and hygine measures are not taken.”
– Sharif Aly, IRUSA Chief Executive Officer
It seems the end of the pandemic is in sight, hopefully bringing better days for everyone. But water access will continue to be a challenge for Palestine. In the coming year, with the support of our dedicated and generous community of donors, Anera will be rehabilitating water wells, installing regular and solarized irrigation systems on family farms, building hydroponic gardens, setting up reverse osmosis systems at healthcare facilities, and more. As long as Palestine needs us, the Anera community will be there to help make water accessible to vulnerable families and communities.
Anera has implemented water and sanitation projects in virtually every community across Palestine. Check out some of our success stories.
World Water Day Isn’t Just Once a Year at Anera
Securing access to clean, drinkable water for all is one of the most critical priorities in communities affected by war and displacement. This achievement can’t come in the form of a handout or temporary solution — to make meaningful change, it must involve sustainable, long-term infrastructure building.
World Water Day is just once every 12 months, but it comes with a message that’s vital year-round — water as a fundamental human right, a building block of communities and a key component of public health.
At Anera, these are values that inform our work in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. As a donor, you’re supporting efforts to bring water to all — an important project that’s changing lives in a region heavily affected by conflict and insecurity. Let’s expand on the need for clean water in these communities and highlight some of the important projects your gifts are funding.
For World Water Day 2020
This is some of our recent work that addresses water scarcity in Palestine.
Rehabilitating a water well
In 2019 Jabalia’s water situation improved when Anera carried out a major rehabilitation project to improve the performance and capacity of Jabalia’s well. Now the well produces a higher volume of clean water and it efficiently serves more than 20,000 residents.
Installing desalination units on buildings
The ongoing water crisis in Gaza is alarming. Tap water is too salty and contaminated for human consumption. The salinity of the water also creates problems for medical facilities. Anera installed desalination units at two major health care centers in Gaza. Now, patients can drink the water from the tap and medical practitioners can use it freely in their work.
Hydroponic cultivation can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables at a very low cost and with very little water – only 10 to 20 percent needed in traditional systems. Gaza, with its terrible water scarcity, is in dire need of hydroponic agriculture. Anera has piloted an educational hydroponic unit with a women’s cooperative in Gaza and we are replicating it for individual families.
Water is precious and scarce in the arid West Bank, but Palestinian municipalities discard wastewater every day, often paying a fee to Israel to do so. Anera has found a way to save and reuse wastewater on a major scale. In Ramallah, a city of 40,000, the municipality can now make use of 79,000 gallons of wastewater a day for fire-fighting and irrigating parks.
Sean Carroll, Anera’s president, visited the wastewater reservoir and issued this video report:
What Is World Water Day?
World Water Day is an international day of observance commemorating the importance of clean, sustainable freshwater. First celebrated in 1993, it’s held each year on March 22. As climate change and growing inequality imperil access to resources of all kinds, remembering the importance of universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is essential from a policymaking and development standpoint.
The United Nations proposed World Water Day in its 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Each year brings a new theme. This year, the theme is ‘Nature and Climate Change,’ drawing attention to the impact of climate change on water issues. Previous themes have included:
- Leaving No One Behind (2019)
- Nature for Water (2018)
- Why Waste Water? (2017)
- Better Water, Better Jobs (2016)
- Water and Sustainable Development (2015)
In recent years, each theme has reflected an aspect of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 — to “ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
What Is the Importance of World Water Day for Development?
Water insecurity can affect communities in even the most economically advantaged countries. However, the issue is especially severe in areas like Gaza:
- Only 10% of Gaza residents have access to safe water drinking water.
- A third of the income for Gaza residents goes to purchasing drinking water.
- Over 95% of the drinking water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption.
- Over 25% of the disease in Gaza is related to unsafe drinking water.
- Over 90% of households in the country have a tap that clean water used to flow from.
These conditions contribute to a wide range of public health issues, from endemic infectious diseases to higher child and maternal mortality rates. Often, it’s the most vulnerable members of a population who suffer the most.
Anera and Water
Addressing water issues is one of the first steps in building healthier communities. In the Middle East, where climate change, drought, waste and population growth contribute to chronic water shortages, careful management and modern infrastructure are essential. Working with local engineers and community leaders, Anera has funded and managed projects that have improved access to clean water and modernized irrigation and wastewater systems.
World Water Day is an excellent opportunity to support organizations providing on-the-ground assistance in vulnerable parts of the world. Read on to learn how your contributions are helping us improve health and sanitation in Gaza and beyond.
Our Work in Gaza and the West Bank
Over the course of the last three years, Anera has distributed hygiene kits to 8,921 families across Gaza and conducted 300 water and sanitation hygiene sessions. Over the full past decade, even more has been done. In that time, Anera connected nearly 400,000 Gazans to reliable, safe water and/or sewage networks.
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