irrigation water 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A coterie of environmental organizations led by the Society for the
Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has crafted its own vision of how
the water economy should look by 2030.
In a new report
released for publication on Wednesday morning, the organizations call
for more effective enforcement and a change in the allocation of water
The policy paper, written by Rami Erez and
environmental economist Gadi Rosental, was commissioned by SPNI after
its annual conference last year, which focused on water.
on every aspect of the water economy, the policies advocated by the
paper mark a significant shift from current government policy.
paper precedes the National Investigation Committee – Regarding the
Water Crisis in Israel’s final report, which will be released next
Wednesday, though there is no connection between the two reports.
is allocated to four sectors in Israel: households, agriculture,
industry and nature. Unsurprisingly, given its authors, the new report
argues for a much larger allocation for nature. Instead of the 7
million cubic meters of water per year, 180 million cu.m. should be
allowed to flow through the country’s streams and waterways to save
dying ecosystems that rely on them, wrote Rosental and Erez.
for agriculture should stay roughly the same, but should should replace
even more of the fresh water it uses with treated sewage water. To that
end, sewage must be treated to the highest levels. Similarly, while
releasing treated waste water into streams at times is permissible, it
should be treated to the highest levels first in such cases.
which uses the smallest portion out of the four sectors – 115 million
cu.m. per year – would stay the same in 20 years, according to the
However, in the household sector, the
report argued, water per person could be kept to conservative levels
even without a drought to motivate people. Instead of rising again to
107 cu.m. per person, as was the case before the past five years of
drought, it should be kept to 83 cu.m. per person. Just doing that
could save 330 million cu.m. of water every year – the volume of three
In an apparent turnaround, the report
conceded the necessity for desalination plants while pointing out that
they did not meet sustainability criteria because of the massive
amounts of polluting electricity they used. Many environmental groups
have been arguing that the desalination plants would be unnecessary if
the government utilized all available water resources, including
polluted wells and the like. Desalination should be kept to 650 million
cu.m. a year and no more, the report argued.
That tallies with
the product from actual current government tenders for desalination
plants, although the government did approve 750 million cu.m. a year by
The coalition also urged the Water Authority and the
Environmental Protection Ministry to utilize all of the enforcement
mechanisms at its disposal to prevent the contamination of water
sources. It recommended creating a court for water and environmental
matters, similar to the family court system.
The report also
recommended importing water to help balance the critical status of
natural water resources. However, it said, a pilot project should be
launched first to work out the kinks.
Importing water would
work well for Gaza, and Israel should facilitate that transaction,
according to the paper. Regarding regional allocations, Palestinians
should receive no less than 60 cu.m. per person, and low water prices
should be arranged so all Palestinians could receive that minimum.
Israel should also enable Palestinian water projects and sewage
Regarding water prices for Israelis, the authors
argued for a differentiated price for different socioeconomic sectors
of society. They also contended that gray water recycling – reusing
water to flush toilets and to water gardens – be permitted and
regulated. The Health Ministry has warned that without proper treatment
systems and inspections, too many bacteria would get through and pose a
health hazard. The ministry is currently in the midst of a pilot
project to use gray water in mikvaot.
The makeup of the Water
Council, which oversees the Water Authority, should be tweaked as well,
according to the report. Instead of the director-general of the Water
Authority heading the council, a public persona with no other official
government job should become council chairman.
In addition, the council should include more representatives of the
public so water policy can be transparent. The report cited a lack of
public participation as one of the failures of the Water Authority’s
policy. The National Investigation Committee – Regarding the Water
Crisis in Israel first made that allegation in its interim report.
from SPNI, the group of environmental organizations that sponsored the
policy paper includes the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (which
released a report on sewage treatment in Israel last week), Zalul,
Friends of the Earth Middle East, Green Course and Shomera.