International aid workers have opened a new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, bringing some relief to a territory where 97 percent of the water is undrinkable.

It is the Hamas-ruled territory's second and largest desalination plant.

The plant will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, a small fraction of Gaza's needs. In all, the population uses 150,000 cubic meters a day, most of it from a depleted coastal aquifer.

The European Union says it invested 10 million euros in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.

U.N. official Robert Piper says Thursday's opening is "one step forward on a very big journey."

Hamas did not participate in the project.