Infrastructure Ministry pushes for more water, less oil

Ben Eliezer inaugurates The Palmachim desalination plant.

September 6, 2007 20:32
2 minute read.


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The Palmachim desalination plant, the second such facility in Israel, was inaugurated this week by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, significantly boosting the country's depleted water sources. "Increasing Israel's water sources is a top priority and part of our strategic plan for the future," said Ben-Eliezer at the plant's dedication. "Also, the entire world is aware of the fact that as the climate continues to change and there is less rain that can be used for drinking, the need for fresh water will continue to increase." The plant was constructed according to the Build-Own-Operate (BOO) platform by Via Maris Desalination and has been awarded a tender from the government to produce 30 million cubic meters a year of desalinated water, adding to the 100 million cubic meters currently being produced by the Ashkelon desalination plant, the largest such facility in the world. Via Maris is a joint venture of Azrieli Group subsidiary Granite Hacarmel Investments Ltd., held through Global Environmental Solutions Ltd.; Tahal Group; Middle East Tube Ltd.; Ocif Investments and Development Ltd.; and Oceana Advanced Industries Ltd. The group invested some $100 million to construct the plant, which will use reverse osmosis technology to supply water for roughly 300,000 people in the coastal plain. The water costs NIS 2.90 per cubic meter, compared with NIS 2.70 per cubic meter at the Ashkelon plant. The opening comes two months after the government agreed to increase the limit of Israel's desalinated water resources to 505 million cubic meters annually, given that the country may be looking at a significant water shortage within the next 10 years. Under the terms of the proposal, Israel's self-imposed limits on the amount of water it desalinates on a yearly basis will be boosted from 230 million cubic meters to 505 million cubic meters through additional desalination facilities, which will generate 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water and an increase of capacity at the current desalination plants in Ashkelon and Palmachim of 75 million cubic meters. According to a spokeswoman at the Infrastructures Ministry, a new plant in Hadera will be finished shortly and three additional plants will be completed within the next five years, enabling the production of the government's desired 505 million cubic meters a year. Today, Israel consumes two billion cubic meters of fresh water a year, and the current deficit is 400 million cubic meters a year. In addition to building new desalination plants, the government simultaneously will increase water conservation efforts. Ben-Eliezer however, is not only focusing his efforts on increasing Israel's water supply. He also is intent on decreasing the country's dependence on oil as its primary energy source. Earlier this week, the minister was in Eilat where he visited the proposed site for the construction of a renewable energy technologies park. According to the Havel-Eilat regional council, the body that will operate the park, the facilities will included a solar thermal power plant, a wind farm, a solarized turbine pilot plant and a facility that will produce algae bio-fuel. Additionally, last week the American Israeli Paper Mills Ltd. started the conversion of its energy-generation systems from fuel to natural gas at the Hadera paper plant, which will significantly reduce the group's energy and production costs and improve environmental compliance. "The Hadera paper plant is the first industrial plant in Israel to switch to natural gas and we are hopeful that in the future the Palmachim desalination plant will convert to natural gas like the Ashkelon plant and the new desalination facilities that will be constructed," said Ben-Eliezer at the ceremony inaugurating the switch. •

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