Due to the ever-growing demand for water resources, escalating costs and a decline in natural sources, Israel’s Water Authority will be facing increased challenges in meeting its responsibilities, a task that will require more transparency and public involvement, a new study has reported.

The study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel was conducted by Prof. Yoav Kislev of Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Kislev was also a member of Israel’s 2010 Bein Commission on water administration.

Over the past 50 years, the amount of water available per capita in Israel has drastically decreased as a result of a population growth that exceeds the rate of water resource production, according to the report.

Meanwhile, although the amount of water supplied to the country’s water economy grew by 35 percent between 1960 and 2010, there has been a steady decline in agricultural consumption of freshwater, with purified water increasingly replacing the natural source.

As water has been increasing in scarcity, prices for purchasing the resource have simultaneously escalated, jumping from NIS 0.5 per cubic meter in the 1950s, to NIS 1.7 per cubic meter in the 1960s, to around NIS 3 per cubic meter in recent years, the report explained.

In 1960, 1.3 billion cubic meters of water were supplied in Israel and in 2010, the number grew to 1.8 billion cubic meters.

However, due to the ever-increasing population, total per capita consumption during that time period has dropped from over 600 million cubic meters to under 300 million cubic meters. In households, per capita consumption has remained largely the same throughout the period, at around 100 million cubic meters.

“The government has failed in its administration of water resources, having overdrawn water and damaged natural sources, both of which have resulted in shortages that have worsened the crises during periods of drought,” according to Kislev’s report summary.

Water policy management needs to focus on preserving resources, preventing exploitation and over-pumping from reservoirs, as well as performing proper water conservation planning for drought and emergency periods, Kislev wrote. The report, however, charges that the government has not fulfilled its duties in these sectors and has heavily engaged in over-pumping.

As rainfall and natural water resources continue to decrease and the population enlarges, the freshwater supply is shifting to the urban sector, while the agricultural sector is relying more heavily on purified and desalinated water, the report explained.

Although freshwater use in agriculture, which consumes 50% of Israel’s water supply, has been steadily declining, the quantity of water available to agriculture is still insufficient to meet the country’s food production demands. This, in turn, causes Israel to indirectly “import” water in the form of food products, Kislev wrote.

“The government’s work is done by overextended employees subject to heavy pressures, which impairs their ability to function properly – sometimes leading to a bias in their decision making,” he added. “To counteract government failures, it is imperative to increase both transparency and public involvement in the water economy.”

When contacted by The Jerusalem Post, the Water Authority spokesman said he will comment only after officials there have read the full report.

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