Infrastructural Amenities: Water, Sewage and Electricity

Housing standards are highly reliant upon an external infrastructure of electricity grids, sewage disposal systems, sanitation facilities and, in the modern world, telecommunications, in particular connection to a telephone net. Although the survey did not collect data on, for instance, rubbish disposal, the aspects the survey did consider indicate that infrastructural services are very good in relation to developing countries in general (table 3.6).

The survey did not measure the regularity of the electricity supply. Particularly in West Bank rural areas supply is erratic and less than 50% of rural households have around the clock electricity. On average in the West Bank only some 63% of households have electricity on a 24 hour basis (1985 figures).7

Table 3.6 Percentage of households with mains electricity, piped potable water and telephone by locality
Grid electricityPiped waterTelephone
Greater Gaza City9810030
Gaza towns/villages999814
Gaza camps99994
West Bank towns999524
West Bank villages73907
West Bank camps84983
Arab Jerusalem10010065

Again, the survey did not measure the quality of water provided. Several reports suggest that the quality is deteriorating, especially in Gaza, where increasing salinity rates are a cause for concern. A study undertaken for the Dutch government on water in Gaza8 concludes that the Gaza aquifer has been over-exploited for at least the last two decades resulting in declining water levels, increased salinity and permanent damage to existing reserves of fresh water.

In addition to the amenities already mentioned, the type of sewage system available also has potential impact on the health of individuals. The answer categories provided in the questionnaire are very broad ones. Consequently, it should be noted that within any one category actual differences can be very large. For instance, a "sewage network" can range from the enclosed, underground system of Arab Jerusalem to the open, surface networks found in large parts of Gaza (table 3.7).

Table 3.7 Type of household sewage system by locality in percentage of households
Septic tankSewage networkOther
Greater Gaza city21782
Gaza towns/villages573410
Gaza camps523711
West Bank towns6040 
West Bank villages964 
West Bank camps332542
Arab Jerusalem1783 

Based on survey data concerning potable, piped water, electricity, telephones and sewage system, an infrastructural index has been constructed which facilitates a comparison between different localities in relation to the extension of infrastructural services. The scoring on this index is complex since different facilities have been given different weights. The possession of indoor piped potable water, for instance, is regarded as much more critical for living conditions than the possession of a telephone. But broadly speaking, a good score on the index indicates that the household has mains electricity, piped water, a telephone and is connected to a sewage network. A poor score means that the household lacks at least two of these facilities. Again it needs to be stressed that vital municipal services, such as sanitation, rubbish disposal and roads, have not been taken into account.

This index (table 3.8) shows that infrastructural services are least developed in the more rural areas of the West Bank and especially underdeveloped in the West Bank refugee camps.


al@mashriq                       960715