Maryam Abu Yusef at the family grocery store. Photo: Khaled al-'Azayzeh, B'Tselem, 13 August 2017
We’ve been suffering water and power outages for years. There was a long period when we used to receive electricity for eight hours at a time, followed by eight hours without. The water problem was also more or less under control back then. But then things got worse, and we began to get just four hours of electricity, followed by 12 hours without. At the moment we only have running water once every four days, for three or four hours a time. When the supply comes on, we use an electric pump to fill containers on our roof.
We have five containers on the roof, each of which holds one cubic meter of water, and we fill them whenever the municipality turns the water supply on. The water is saline and undrinkable, so we also have a smaller container that we fill with drinking water that we buy from a vendor. But when the water in the big containers runs out before the supply comes on again, we have no choice but to fill them with water from the vendor. He uses his own diesel pump to fill the containers. In that situation, we use this water for all our needs, and if the municipal supply comes on before the water’s finished, then it gets mixed in with the water from the municipality and we lose out.
Every time the electricity comes on, one of my sons turns the water pump on to see if there supply is back on and fills the containers on the roof. But sometimes he sees that there’s no water supply and he has to turn the pump off. So to make sure that we know when the water is on, we leave the pump faucet open all the time.
Unfortunately, the water supply and the electricity supply aren’t coordinated. Sometimes the power comes on at 11:00 P.M. and we stay awake to see if the water will come on. Sometimes the water only comes on at 2:00 A.M. If there’s still electricity, we use the pump to fill the containers. If the water comes on when there’s no electricity, it doesn’t help us at all because the pressure is very weak and the water can’t reach the containers on the roof. I also have to use the washing machine in the middle of the night, the moment the water and electricity come back on.
The quality of the water we get from the municipality is very poor. It has a high level of salinity and cannot be drunk. It also leaves buildup in the faucets, so we have to replace them every so often. Showering with this water causes skin and hair problems and we have to buy special oils and ointments for that. We also have to buy drinking water from the vendor, who comes to the neighborhood at set times and fills the containers on the roof.
He takes about 100 shekels (~28 USD) per cubic meter. When there’s no other water, we have to use the drinking water for the toilet, dish-washing, laundry and showers. In summer, when it’s really hot and we take a lot of showers, we buy a cubic meter of water every three days. Throughout the rest of the year, we buy water once a week. It’s a huge expense that we can barely afford, especially since the Palestinian Authority cut salaries. Two of my sons, Anwar and Ramzi, are PA employees and recently had their salaries cut. My other two sons are unemployed. We have a small grocery store that helps us make a living.
My sons are building apartments for their families now, on top of our home. They poured concrete and we had to keep it wet so that it wouldn’t crack. I had to buy water privately from the vendor for that, too.