Rain drops 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
On one of the few rainy days of the winter, the cabinet approved expanding the
capacities of the desalination plants and measures for cleaning up polluted
wells. A proposed decision by National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau and
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu laying out the first of several steps to deal
with the water crisis garnered cabinet approval on Sunday, even as Landau
promised to bring additional measures for approval within a month.
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decision authorizes the desalination plants to produce water 24 hours a day,
rather than the current situation in which the plants take advantage of lower
electricity prices to produce water. The plants will have until March 15 to do
so. That step should add another 22-27 million cubic meters of water a
The decision also calls for the permanent expansion of the
desalination plants’ capacities.
The permanent expansion will need to be
executed over a number of years. Increasing production at the Hadera, Ashkelon
and Palmahim plants will introduce another 70 million cubic meters a year by
2012. The Sorek plants, which have not been built yet, will also be expanded by
another 30 million cubic meters by the end of 2013.
The current approved
decision adds to long-term plans to build three more desalination plants – one
in Ashdod and two at Sorek – to add an additional 430 million cubic meters of
water annually by 2013. The government hopes that with a buffer of nearly 700
million cubic meters of water a year produced from desalination, natural water
crises will not affect the populace nearly as harshly as the current six-year
The total amount of desalinated water in 2013 would roughly
equal household consumption.
The decision also moves along the process of
deciding whether Mekorot, the national water company, will build the
desalination plant in Ashdod.
Despite an order from Netanyahu six months
ago to solve the issue, the Treasury is still in dispute with Mekorot over the
price of water Mekorot had planned to charge the government. Landau stated at
the cabinet meeting on Sunday morning that the water crisis did not allow for
bickering and dillydallying regarding a 100 million cubic meter a year
desalination plant. He favors allowing Mekorot to build the plant so that a
state institution has the technical knowledge to build and operate desalination
plants. The rest of the plants are or will be built and operated by private
“The measures approved today represent an important step in
a series of steps that need to be taken to take Israel out of the water crisis,”
he said at the meeting.
“Even so, dealing with the issue of water has
continually been delayed. It’s a shame that we are playing catch-up, but at
least, we are now moving to deal with the problem since the water crisis does
not allow us to wait any longer,” he added.
The decision Sunday also
called for cleaning up contaminated water.
The additional measures to be
discussed within the month include Mekorot’s development budget as well as
Landau’s idea of budgetary support so that the public will not have to pay more
for water as the price rises again.