The Water Resources Action Project (WRAP) recently completed construction of its inaugural West Bank project. WRAP, in partnership with Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), constructed a cistern system at the Battir Girls High School located near Bethlehem in the Village of Battir, Palestine. The school has 120 female students in three grades. This is WRAP’s third project in the Middle East, following successful rain harvesting installations at two schools in East Jerusalem, which have thus far collected and utilized over 180,000 liters of rainwater for toilet flushing and community gardening. “Establishing and successfully maintaining this initial project in the West Bank is essential to fulfilling WRAP’s commitment to addressing water security issues within this region in an informed manner,” stressed WRAP’s President, Brendan McGinnis. “Our hope is that this effort will not only become a model that may be replicated in other areas of the West Bank, but also serve as an integral part of the network of schools with similar programs that WRAP is establishing throughout Israel, Palestine, and eventually, Jordan.”
The cistern system, an underground cement storage tank, holds rainwater collected and diverted from the roof of the school. The rainwater is then pumped to the school’s restrooms, where it is utilized for toilet flushing. Due to the number of children on this centralized site, toilet flushing is responsible for nearly 85% of the school’s total water usage. The water is critical to ensuring reliable usage of clean restrooms throughout the entire school year.
Previous WRAP projects have demonstrated that rain harvesting systems can supply upwards of 50-70% of a school’s total water needs during its nine months of operation. With additional water availability made possible by the cistern, the school will in time also be able to implement a desired summer camp and community garden. The school will also soon realize a reduced reliance on municipal water and the attendant costs – all critical elements to water security and stability within this increasingly arid region of the world. The Village of Battir and surrounding area receive on average 653mm (25 inches) of annual rainfall, primarily between the months of October through April. Thus, rainwater harvesting during this timeframe is crucial.
The overall effort also includes a supplemental environmental curriculum overseen by FoEME’s Community Coordinator to heighten water awareness and conservation, while empowering local water resources stewardship. Water conservation, the interconnectedness of the surrounding ecosystem, and hands-on student engagement of monitoring and reporting of rainfall, harvesting, and usage data serve as the foundation for the program. WRAP and FoEME will also work closely with the school to ensure the system is regularly and properly maintained. WRAP’s McGinnis added, “Working closely with our grassroots partners, Friends of the Earth Middle East and Battir’s community leadership, on every aspect of this effort will help to ensure that all involved are committed to its long-term success.”
With the installation of the cistern at Battir School and the parallel environmental curriculum, WRAP strives to not only alleviate the struggles associated with water shortages in this region, but also encourage the students and greater community to collaborate on stewarding this precious natural resource.