s the Israeli assault on Gaza enters its sixth month, the enclave’s population of about 2 million is struggling to survive with little access to life’s most basic necessity: water.

According to Euro-Med Monitor, those in the Gaza Strip have access to just 1.5 liters of water per person per day for all needs, including drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. The established international emergency water threshold is 15 liters per person per day—ten times what Gazans have now. At least 20 people have already died of dehydration and malnutrition, a number that will continue to rise as diarrheal disease spreads due to lack of clean water, leaving many unable to retain what few calories they ingest.

While the water crisis in Gaza is now catastrophic, the Palestinian struggle to access water long predates the current onslaught and is an issue in the West Bank, too. Before Israel’s October 2023 invasion, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza had access to just 80 liters of water per person per day, while the World Health Organization estimates that individuals need as much as 100 liters per day to meet basic needs.

Despite significant investment in water and wastewater infrastructure in Palestine from institutions like the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Palestinian per capita water consumption continues to fall.

The root cause of Palestine’s water crisis is not a lack of investment but the political reality that Israel, as an occupying power, manages water in a way that denies Palestinians fair access. Experts and rights groups call this “water apartheid.” They say that recent Israeli tactics in Gaza, such as cutting off water to the enclave, are just the latest examples of its weaponization of the vital resource.

“Water apartheid describes a form of segregation that results in unequal access to water, where policies and practices ensure that water resources are disproportionately allocated to privileged groups while marginalized communities face scarcity and denial of access,” explains Saker El Nour, a sociologist and co-founder of Water Justice for Gaza, a collective of researchers and activists that publishes a newsletter on water in Palestine.

While the specifics of these unfair water policies and practices look different from Gaza to the West Bank, the overall water crisis is by design. “Water is weaponized as a tool of occupation and control,” says El Nour.

Read the full article about water for Palestinians by Marianne Dhenin at YES! Magazine.