Gaza Emergency Water Project

April 29, 2013


In spite of the serious damage inflicted on the water and wastewater infrastructure during the Intifada, the World Bank Group was able to respond quickly and effectively to restore access to water and wastewater services. As a result, water quality and services were improved for the entire population of Gaza (approximately 1.6 million at project closure) and an autonomous water utility was established for more effective management and monitoring of the system.


The project was developed in the difficult context of a deep political, social, economic, and institutional crisis, which had engulfed the Palestinian territories during the second Intifada (2000-2005). This conflict not only affected the reform program, but also caused extensive damage to the water and wastewater system and other physical infrastructure. An estimated US$900 million in overall infrastructure sector damage was inflicted on the Palestinian territories between September 2000 and July 2003. The water and wastewater sector accounted for about US$140 million, or about 25 percent of the total financial cost of the damage. This situation was a result of broken water supply lines, the destruction of water pumps and water wells, damage to wastewater networks and wastewater pumps and treatment facilities, and other installations. As the crisis deepened, the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and municipalities were unable to collect fees from an increasingly impoverished citizenry. 


The primary objectives of the project were to improve the provision of adequate water and wastewater services in Gaza, and to establish the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) as an autonomous, well-run modern utility. In addition, the project had a secondary objective of strengthening the PWA’s capacity to regulate the sector. The project had three sets of indicators:

  • Services consistently meeting standards: Drinking water delivery meeting established quality and quantity standards; Wastewater collection and disposal services meeting established standards.
  • The CMWU fully functional and operational: Sets clear objectives and monitors the performance of its services through action plans on investment needs and priorities.
  • Capacity of the PWA strengthened: The PWA monitors water extraction, groundwater and wastewater qualities on a regular and comprehensive basis and publishes periodic reports about compliance with adopted standards.

Water services were expanded with the drilling of new wells, which allowed for the improvement of water quality by retiring high salinity wells. A process was initiated of continuous rehabilitation, maintenance and replacements that had all active water wells and associated equipment functioning effectively.


Water quality data at the close of the project (January 2012) revealed disinfection rates (percent of water free from all potential infectious agents) of 99.8 percent.  The operational time for water wells reached the targeted 90 percent, and wastewater effluent quality met required standards.  The improved wells now provide water to all 25 municipalities in Gaza, and benefit the entire population of 1.6 million people living in Gaza Strip. During the period of 2006-2011, the project achieved the following key outputs:

  • Drilling of more than 50 water production wells with small pumping capacity (new wells or replacement of existing polluted wells)
  • Supply of chemicals and dosing pumps and chlorination of 99.7 percent of water supply
  • Replacement of more than 30,000 meters of old service connections and old asbestos main pipes, and installation of 15,000 domestic meters and 20 public meters
  • Monitoring program established for wastewater plants  
  • Emergency response plan established following the rupture of the temporary effluent basin at Beit Lahia wastewater treatment plant.

The CMWU is fully established and sets clear objectives and monitors the performance of its services through action plans on investment needs and priorities. The institutional components of the project ensured the retention of expertise in CMWU and improved management of the utility.

While the PWA improved its regulatory role, communications, and licensing arrangements during project implementation and early stages of the project, by project closure the PWA’s role had been undermined following the separation of Gaza, thereby reducing its effectiveness.

Bank Group Contribution

Total cost of the project was US$31 million, which was financed by the World Bank, in close coordination with other key donors such as the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the German development bank (KfW), the European Union (EU), the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), through the Trust Fund for Gaza and West Bank.


Development partners and donors that provided assistance to the water-wastewater program in parallel to the Bank assistance included: CARE, Oxfam International, Save the Children, Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), Agence Française de Développement, KfW, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Italian Development Cooperation, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Qatar Red Crescent Society, Acción contra el Hambre (ACH), Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC), American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), Islamic Relief, Earth Systems Science Partnership Palestinian Hydrology Group PHG, Turkish Red Crescent Society, and Al-Tawen.

Moving Forward

The Palestinian political split impeded the progress of the management contract and the consolidation of all the municipal water departments into the CMWU, with a number of Gaza municipalities outside the utility for political reasons.  Despite these challenges, the CMWU has made tangible progress improving the access of households to the water supply, disinfection of the water supply, reducing losses in the networks, and maintaining the water and wastewater facilities to cope with increasing demand from the population.  Over the past seven years since its establishment, the CMWU has implemented a large portfolio of projects worth more than US$150 million, financed by the Bank and many other donors. However, the CMWU has been much less effective in evolving into a financially sustainable service provider.


The primary target population was the entire population of Gaza within the service areas under the project (estimated at appraisal at around 1.2 million and at 1.6 million at project closure). Low-income households especially benefitted from access to reliable piped water supplies at much lower prices than charged by vendors. These households would also experience health and environmental benefits from improved access to water and wastewater services.