Transportable desalination system 370.
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
After two sufficiently wet winters, Israel will be operating its desalination
facilities at only 70 percent capacity during 2014, government officials
Although the country’s desalination facilities in 2014
will have a collective capacity of 510 million cubic meters annually, this year
they will only be generating a total of 360m.cu.m.
several weeks of intensive negotiations with the companies that operate the
plants, the Water Authority, Finance Ministry and the firms involved were able
to agree on the 150m.cu.m. reduction, generating a saving of NIS 191m. for the
year, according to the Water Authority.
This decrease in desalinated
water use, combined with increasingly efficient standards imposed on local water
corporations, enabled the 5% drop in water tariffs that occurred as of January
1, the authority said.
The Israeli government is able to partake in such
negotiations with the desalination companies because the contracts operate on a
“take or pay” principle.
In such a contract, the buyer pays only a fixed
price rather than paying the much higher cost of generating additional
“In Israel we don’t have water to spare – we have the
capacity and the capability of producing water,” Water Authority spokesman Uri
Schor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “All the contracts are ‘take or
pay.’” Because all the contracts are “take or pay,” the government is not
obliged to take the entire amount of water that the facilities are capable of
producing, Schor said.
“The contracts were built from the beginning this
way,” he said. “We built a huge capability of producing a certain amount of
desalinated water if we are in a critical position.”
While seven drought
years plagued Israel, the past two winters have provided sufficient rains to
reduce the production of expensive desalinated water, Schor
Nonetheless, if another such drought period – or worse – occurs
again, the country is able to “pass it with no problem,” he said.
you have a good year then we will produce less water,” Schor added. “We reduced
the amount of water from desalination when the cost for buying the water became
higher than producing the water from natural sources.”
In addition to the
significant improvement of natural water supplies, Israel has also had a more
stable supply of water from sources like treated brackish water and wastewater,
according to the Water Authority.
Looking at the breakdown of
desalination facility operations for 2014, the Ashkelon site – owned 50% by the
Delek Group’s (IDE) Technologies Ltd.
and 50% by Veolia – will produce
80m.cu.m. of water, rather than 118m.cu.m., the Water Authority said.
Palmahim station, which is today run entirely by Granite Hacarmel Investments
Ltd., will produce 65m.cu.m. of water, rather than 90m.cu.m., and the Hadera
desalination facility – owned half by IDE Technologies and half by Shikun
V’Binui – will generate 85m.cu.m., instead of 127m.cu.m.
desalination facility at Soreq, which only came online this spring – under the
51% ownership of IDE Technologies, and 49% of Hutchison Water – will produce
120m.cu.m., rather than 150m.cu.m.
Although a future desalination at
Ashdod, operated by Israel’s national water company Mekorot, will have an annual
capacity of 100m.cu.m., the plant will only begin operations in around
September, the Water Authority said.
With a quarter-year capacity of
25m.cu.m., the Ashdod facility will only produce about 10m.cu.m. this year, the
As part of a trilateral memorandum of understanding
that Israel signed with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in early December,
the former will be able to purchase 50-60% of the outputs from a future Aqaba
desalination facility – which is slated to generate about 80m.cu.m.
In return for purchasing this water from the Aqaba facility,
Israel would roughly double its sales of water from Lake Kinneret (the Sea of
Galilee) to Jordan.
When asked by the Post what the country’s incentive
is to partake in this agreement, considering the fact that Israel is reducing
its own desalination output, Schor said the Water Authority could not comment on