water reservoir 311.
(photo credit: Mekorot)
Not many of us scrutinize our water bills, but the incentive to do so may increase when July’s bill is delivered. It’s sure to be a shocker.
We already pay 40 percent more for our water than we did a year ago, and July will see another 5% hike.
That will raise the average price per cubic meter to four times
the level in 2008.
The public was elated when last summer’s drought levy was abolished amid
populist fanfare. Few noticed that not only are charges going up even
for the least wasteful consumers, but also that base-price allotments
per household member are down sharply, meaning that beyond the first two
cubic meters per two persons, rates rise significantly.
The logic is to pass on to consumers losses incurred by regional water
authorities, as well as to have households foot the bill for erecting
desalination plants, which should have been constructed and fully
operational years ago.
The Knesset is up in arms and the Union of Local Authorities has joined
the battle against the Israel Water Authority, charging that it loses
considerably less than is claimed. But the cities are hardly innocent.
Their negligence accounts for a whopping 164 million cubic meters lost
annually because of substandard municipal equipment or leaks from
corroded local pipelines.
A GOVERNMENT PR campaign, geared to sweeten the pill, promises that in
three years we will no longer be at the mercy of annual precipitation
vagaries and will be self-sufficient via desalination. Yet no amount of
desalination will do away with the need to impose discipline on the way
we consume water. Desalination is an energy-guzzling process.
Responsible conservation will never become superfluous in our arid
Official promises must be taken with a huge grain of salt. We are
already woefully behind schedule on the latest plan to compensate for
previous delays. The new Ashdod desalination plant was to have been ready
this coming December. The way things currently appear, it won’t be up
and running in December 2011 either. Construction has yet to get under
way due to disputes between the Treasury and Mekorot.
Plans to build the country’s largest desalination facility at Nahal
Soreq, meanwhile, are drawing fire from environmentalists. In all,
desalination is progressing considerably more slowly than admitted.
The country’s water shortage is the result of nearly a decade of low
rainfall, during which several governments failed utterly to add
Those blueprinted and those under construction now might just alleviate
the situation from 2014 on – in the unlikely event that published
timetables are met.
The National Water Authority warned Ariel Sharon’s government back in
2001 that by decade’s end, Israel would lack 400 million cubic meters of
It was decided to establish desalination plants to supply exactly that
amount. But the next winter – 2002 – was very wet and the sense of
urgency was washed away. As a result, only 130 million cubic meters were
subsequently desalinated, and Israel found itself woefully unprepared
for the subsequent prolonged droughts.
While this country successfully markets desalination plants worldwide
and helps other nations cope with increasing needs, at home all this
enviable know-how has barely been put to use because of petty agora-wise
and shekel-foolish Treasury parsimoniousness.
It is the bill for that short-sightedness that the average householder
is now being asked to pay.
Essentially, we are expected to compensate today for officialdom’s grave
bungling during the past decade.
Yet all that time, we were paying taxes which, among other things, were
earmarked to bankroll large-scale national development projects.
Projects like desalination plants.
There is simply no justification to charge us again for the same
projects, this time via the price of the most elementary and vital
commodity of all.
At the very least, instead of punishing the entire population through
unfair and socially regressive levies, it would be better to charge
incrementally more for exorbitant water use, thereby educating the
public that squandering is costly.