30 Nov 2009

Gazan farmers killing Gazan children

(via DL), we hear this bad news:
Water in the Gaza Strip is so salty that it is unfit for human consumption...

...the amount taken from underground aquifers last year to supply 1.5 million people with drinking water and for agriculture was 160 million cubic metres, but that natural replenishment was 80-90 million cubic metres.
Given that agricultural water users consume two-thirds of Gaza's available water supply (paying only 2–4 cents/m^3), that means that over 100 million m^3 are going to ag -- a number that exceeds the water deficit from overdrafting.

Thus, farmers are using so much water that the remaining water is getting contaminated with salt, leaving the children with nothing to drink, and they die. QED.

The solution to this problem is simple (to me):
  1. Quantify the total sustainable yield from the aquifer.
  2. Allocate that yield by willingness to pay. 
  3. Since drinking water is more valuable than agricultural water, that will mean adequate water for children and less water for farmers.
  4. Replace the missing food with imports (virtual water) from elsewhere.
  5. Do NOT build desalination plants to increase supply.
Bottom Line: Most water shortages are form mismanagement, and the most common source of mismanagement is prices that are too low.


  1. I do have one question:

    Willingness to pay implies ability to pay. Where will these children get the money? Why can't wealthy farmers buy up the urban water use?

    I know in other posts on your blog you've mentioned an allocation of a certain amount to cover basic human rights, but I don't see it in this post, so I'm curious, more than anything else.

  2. @Josh -- kids will get the $ from their parents :)

    The human right angle can be used here, but it's not *really* necessary... Poor people, world wide, pay $1-2/m^3 for clean water...

    Farmers can't buy *a;ll* the water b/c they can't use it all -- and they CERTAINLY can't pay $1+ m^3!

  3. Israel's policies regarding Gaza has a huge impact on its economy and an even bigger impact on the environment.

    After the blockade has been lifted, then we can start talking about reducing agricultural consumption, transitioning to other sources of water, etc.

    BTW, where did you get your numbers from? The World Bank report?

  4. Interesting. I'll consider this.

  5. @Anon -- Liquid Assets (http://tinyurl.com/y9m6bml), a book I reviewed (and am still waiting for an online appearance)


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