Solving Gaza's Water Crisis


Home-based, solar-powered seawater desalination is being ignored
Home-based, solar-powered seawater desalination is being ignored
Home-based, solar-powered seawater desalination is being ignored
On this Page:
How Home Desalination Works
Benefits of Home Desalination
The Immediate Crisis
History of Water Conflict
(Tap the images for a lightbox slideshow)

How Home Desalination Works

MIT's home-based desalinator, developed in conjunction with China, is a solar-powered unit that makes ~5 liters of freshwater an hour from seawater that is so efficient, it is cheaper than tapwater.

  1. The home-based seawater desalinator with pyrex tank
    The home-based seawater desalinator with pyrex tank
    The picture shows it with a clear plastic tank and casing, so you can see its insides.
  2. This is the best current solution, becauseit draws water through it in a unique way to stop clogging, inspired by climate-change studies on how ocean currents mix rain and melting ice with saltwater across temperature gradients (calledthermohaline circulation).
  3. MIT's lead engineer on the project reports there to be no known technological problems with manufacturing a half million units in six months, to replace the 500 Gazan wells that UNICEF reported as destroyed.

Seawater Pumps and Distribution

The desalinators could be supplied by 15 pumping stations modeled on that in the Monterey Aquarium, which has pumped4 mcm/y since the 1980s, so it is very reliable.

  1. The intake is two 16" pipes, for redundancy, pulling from 45' below sealevel. Like the MIT desalinator, it is designed not to clog, with as few bends in the pipes as possible. Pipes are cleaned with foam 'pumping pigs' that the pumps push through the pipes. see the video for Monterey's pipe design and the pigs in action :)
  2. Pumping stations can be added incrementally and cost virtually nothing compared to a full desalination plant. They are simply pumps to fill pipes and tankers. They can be distributed as needed along the Gaza coast, reducing the delivery distance.
  3. A rentable seawater pump
    A rentable seawater pump
    There are also interim measures: pumps used for seawall breaks, for example, have much larger throughput. TwoCastle Pumps for instance would be enough for all of Gaza's needs. Because high-capacity pumps are not often needed permanently, they are also available for rent. Or for smaller pumping stations, a typical cargo ship has bilge and fire pumps on board that are in total capable of 4 mcm/y.
  4. Gaza's existing fleet offleet of 989 tankers for water delivery. 989 water tankers could deliver seawater from pumping stations to homes until water pipes are laid under streets. Here is one of the tankers, and the cisterns common on Gaza roofs.

    A water tanker in Gaza
    A water tanker in Gaza
    Typical Gaza cistern
    Typical Gaza cistern


Benefits of Home Desalination

Home-based, solar-powered seawater desalinators:

  1. Rooftop desalinator
    Rooftop desalinator
    Deploy Immediately at Low Cost. Gaza needs water right away. Home-based, solar-powered seawater desalinators provide drinkable water quicker, cheaper, and without the fuel that rebuildingGaza's Gaza's 300 bombed wells and water purification plants would require.
  2. Scale to Demand. Plants are large and slow to build, and those drawing from wells are limited by the groundwater availability. Home desalinators are easy to add incrementally, without limits, because seawater won't run out.
  3. Enable Future Gaza Independence. They remove Gaza's dependency on Israel for water and reduce its dependency on Israel for power, ENABLING a future two-state solution, in accordance withPresident Biden's vision, also described in this video.
  4. Disempower Hamas terrorism. Gazans would value what they own as contributing to a future two-state solution, and not want their homes bombed again.
  5. Encourage Peace Negotiations. They give an immediate reason for Hamas and Israel to come tonegotiate in a much-needed new way that is of benefit to both sides. As indicated by General Petraeus in this video, post-war plans are necessary for negotiations to succeed.
  6. Enable Local Industry: Israel and Gaza could both manufacture the devices.
  7. Israel
    Israel
    End Disputes over Water Rights between Israel and Gaza. They eliminate conflicts between Gaza and Israel on aquifer rights have been ongoing since the 1980s, as BOTH Israel AND Gaza have water shortages. As detailed below in the sectionHistory of Water Conflict, virtually all of Gaza's water supply comes from groundwater aquifers filled by Israel's reservoirs and rivers.
    Israel uses up water before it reaches Gaza, wants more water itself, and by the time the water reaches Gaza, it iscontaminated with sewage and fertilizer. Within Gaza itself, further draining of aquifers alsopulls in saltwater from the sea.
  8. Are a New Mass Market.785 milliion need potable water worldwide. Thus, whereas US venture capitalists might regard direct Gaza support as a justification for investment alone too risky, anyone actually caring about the Gaza water crisis would be able to reposition this proposal to prioritize world needs and attract global investment.UNESCO,UNICEF, andUSAID all need to provide more drinkable water.

The Immediate Crisis

  1. Gazans are drinking sewage water. On Nov 20, PBS reported Gazans were receiving 3 liters/day. By Dec 20,The supply had dropped to 2 liters/day. However, UNICEF states a person's minimum water requirement is3 liters/day just for survival. For washing and cooking as well, even before flushing toilets, a minimum of 15 liters/day is required.
  2. As of Feb 15,up to 250 trucks/day were delivering water, food, and medical supplies. Gaza needs twice that many trucks just for enough water to survive, let alone food and medical supplies.
  3. The West is no longer paying for Gaza water. The UNRWA was managing Gaza's water. After a handful of its thousand workers in Gaza found to be Hamas,UNRWA funding was halted. Bottled water from Egypt and pipelines do not reach anyone outside the city nearest to Egypt by the Gaza wall, Rafah.
    The Water Crisis
    The Water Crisis
  4. Disputes on water from Israel. On Oct 23, Israelclaimed its pipelines were delivering 15 million cubic meters a year (mcm/y), which is triple their capacity. This fits with Israel's prior claim that it was providing 5 mcm/y, and Gaze saying it only got 2 mcm/y, (See this article's last section).
  5. Most wells are destroyed. On Dec 20, UNICEF reportedonly 7 wells were still operational, pumping 1 mcm/y.
    Map of Gaza Destruction, Jan 24
    Map of Gaza Destruction, Jan 24
  6. Half the nation is flattened. On Jan 24,the World Bank reported 1,076,619 Gazans are homeless. From satellite data, total buildings destroyed: 45% (99,601 of 218,656), or including those damaged beyond habitability: >60% (132,590). Half the power infrastructure and 4 out of 6 sewage plants are destroyed. The report includes processed satellite data to show where the damage is.

History of Water Conflict

  1. Aquifer destruction
    Aquifer destruction
    Gaza consumes less water than almost any other territory in the world, for a total of 87 mcm/y for ~2.3M inhabitants.Israel consumes groundwater before it reaches Gaza, sucking seawater and sewage into the aquifers as they get closer to the sea. About half of Gaza's water supply is contaminated and purification resources are inadequate. For a readable report on how Gazans were frequently drinking untreated water even before the war, seeNPR's Report.
    Gaza
    Gaza
  2. Gaza has virtually no freshwater of its own, making it entirely dependent on Israel's prior promises to provide water in exchange for settlement rights. As described at lengthon Wikipedia, water conflicts have led to repeated disputes and aggression when Israel needs more water or cuts off water pipelines after terrorist attacks.
  3. In accordance with the1993 Oslo Accords, the Israeli company Mekorot claimed it finally increased its pipeline supply to Gaza to 5 mcm/y in 2020. However,Gaza claims it is only getting 2 mcm/y. Israel stated it was due to Gaza's bad plumbing, and later, that Hamas was stealing the pipes to make mortars.
    Gaza
    Gaza
  4. UNICEF did build a seawater desalination plant, which had funding problems after massive cost overruns and long construction delays over many years before finally reaching its target delivery of 7 mcm/y. It ended up costing 11 million dollars. The plant was damaged by bombs, currently has no power, andhas been shut down since October.
    Bing
    Bing
  5. Tap the screenshot to see Microsoft Bing's AI assessment.

Due to the war destruction, it is currently likely that there will be an influx of competition to rebuild existing wells, which will perpetuate existing conflicts.