On 15 March 2010, Adalah submitted a petition the Supreme Court of Israel on behalf of 13 Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel residing in the village of Rameh (pop. 7,500) in the north of Israel, and health and environmental organizations, Citizens for Environmental Quality in the Galilee and the Galilee Society. The petitioners demanded that the Supreme Court order the Mekorot Water Company to resume the regular and continuous supply of water to residents who pay their water bills and to the schools and health and social welfare institutions in the village. The petition was submitted by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher.
According to the petitioners, for over two years, Mekorot has been illegally abusing its authority in cutting off the water to the village. Mekorot cuts the water in a sweeping manner, without distinction between residential homes and public institutions, or between people who pay or do not pay their water bills. This act constitutes collective punishment against the village's residents. All of the individual petitioners in this case, who are residents of Rameh, pay their water bills regularly.
The Mekorot Company cuts off the water supply for days at a time from all the homes in the village without exception. Sometimes, the company supplies water for a few hours, but usually in the middle of the night during usual sleeping hours. Because the village is mountainous, water does not reach residents who live in high areas, even when pumping is renewed for a few hours because the water needs more than four hours to reach their homes.
Cutting off the water supply interferes with all residents' use of water for everyday purposes such as drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning the house and other daily needs, thus making people's lives unbearable. Further Mekorot cuts the water from schools and health care clinics.
In cutting off the water, Mekorot relies on clause 114A of the Water Act, which stipulates that Mekorot is not authorized to cut off the water from local authorities that have paid 80% of the payments owed to Mekorot. However, Mekorot interprets this clause of the law as if it is authorized to cut off the water.
On 18 December 2009, the Mekorot Company informed the Rameh Local Council that it intended to completely cut off the water from the village, even without a few hours of respite, because of the debts the Council owed to the company. Subsequently, many of the residents protested the decision, following which an agreement was reached between the local council and Mekorot to pay the debt. (Residents pay their water bills to the local council and the local council in turn pays Mekorot). This led to the water supply to the village being resumed for two weeks. Mekorot then returned to cutting off the water from the village, sometimes for days on end.
The petition emphasized that the incidence of cutting off water is not limited to Rameh. Mekorot cuts off the water, on the basis of its interpretation of clause 114A of the Water Act, from other Arab towns such as Horfesh, Mughar, and Sakhnin, among others. Therefore, Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are residents of Arab towns and villages, are those principally affected from Mekorot's application of this clause.
The petitioners argued that the decision to cut off the water from Rameh and the other Arab towns is unreasonable and violates their basic constitutional rights. Mekorot can use other less harmful methods to collect the debts. For example, Mekorot proposed that it can collect the water payments directly from the residents, and not through the local authority, but this has not been implemented.
Case Citation: HCJ 2094/10, Nisreen Bishara Assad, et al v. Mekorot Water Company (case pending).