Tap water [illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
In early 2015, water corporations will no longer be allowed to disconnect domestic customers who have not paid their bills, MK Avishay Braverman announced on Monday.
“After a year of discussions and meetings on the subject with the Water Authority – which MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) and I led, along with Ran Melamed, deputy director of the Yedid organization – we are coming today with real tidings,” Braverman (Labor) said at a special Knesset Economic Affairs Committee session.
“We are putting an end to water disconnections in the domestic sector. Beginning in 2015 there will be no water disconnections in the State of Israel,” he said.
From early 2015 forward, the country’s local water corporations will not be allowed to make a decision to cut off a household’s water supply due to failure to pay water bills, explained Tammy Shore, deputy director of the Water Authority. Instead, an advisory committee will be established under the umbrella of the Water Authority, in which welfare and income experts will evaluate inquiries from corporations who want to disconnect customers, she said.
The committee members would only consider complaints that involve debts of more than NIS 1,000, according to Shore. Corporations, meanwhile, would need to prove that they have tried to collect the debt in all means possible, she said.
The precise rules on the matter still need to be finalized, approved by the Water Authority’s council and discussed in a public hearing, Shore, acknowledged.
Nonetheless, Water Authority commissioner Alexander Kushnir estimated that the rules would be submitted to the Economic Affairs Committee by February 2015.
“We are here to put an end to water disconnection,” Braverman said. “It is clear to all of us that water is a basic right, and this right should not be denied to anyone due to a financial inability.”
Although the water corporations would welcome the new rules, Water Corporations CEOs Forum chairman Shaya Karp warned that the public would need to pay for those who cannot fulfill their debts.
Aviv Barnett, an attorney for Jerusalem’s Hagihon water corporation, recommended that the state allocate a certain amount of water that the corporations can provide free of charge.
In addition, the government must enable corporations to erase debts and compensate them as such, Barnett said.