Conflicting reports emerge on water crisis

Prof. Shani to Channel 2: Water crisis has ended; Water Authority: We are missing 1 billion cubic meters of water due to 6-year drought.

May 19, 2011 06:03
3 minute read.
Desalination plant (illustrative)

Desalination Plant 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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While the former head of the Water Authority told Channel 2 news on Wednesday evening that Israel has emerged from its water crisis, statistics from the authority itself tell a different story.

Prof. Uri Shani, who left the authority a few months ago after four years on the job, announced that due to the country’s progress in desalinization, and an increase in this year’s rainfall, there is no longer a crisis.

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“I can say with caution that the water crisis has ended,” Shani, now a professor at the Hebrew University’s Department of Water and Soil Sciences, told Channel 2. “The main reason is not the rain of course, it is the desalinization facilities that Israel is building at perhaps the greatest speed in the world. Also, the recent water conservation practices of Israel, together with the important – although small – boost that the rain has provided us, has helped us reach an era in which we don’t have a water crisis.

“Until the end of winter, we were in a situation where we were afraid of a much more severe drought, and prepared a series of emergency Draconian steps, such as the prohibition of watering gardens,” he continued. “Today it is possible to say that this will not be forbidden. The existential danger from an unprecedented lack of water no longer exists.”

The Water Authority said, however, that due to the six consecutive years of drought, we are currently missing close to one billion cubic meters of water, and still have not achieved an average amount of precipitation this year, according to spokesman Uri Schor. By the end of April, Israel had still only accumulated 89 percent of the average rainfall, a report from the authority said.

“This past winter was an average winter altogether,” Schor told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night. “In the North it was a bit better than average, but in the Center and South, it was less than average, and the consumption is larger than the average rainfall that we get every year.

“The situation in the water reserves of Israel – the Kinneret, the mountain and coastal aquifers – is still very, very critical,” he added. “We will be under the red line this summer in all three main reserves.”

On Channel 2, Shani meanwhile said that the country will not see a drop in water prices, explaining that “water is expensive” and that “there is no choice; we live in the desert.

“In the end, all of us have learned that water is valuable and that it shouldn’t be wasted because if we do waste it, the scarcity will return,” Shani said.

The Water Authority couldn’t comment on whether the country could see a drop in water prices, but Schor explained, however, that “the price is determined by law – the law says that the price must reflect the cost of the water. The more you desalinate and treat, etc., the higher the price is. Water is expensive.

“We are definitely on the right track by now: we already have three huge desalinization plants that produce an amount of water that is equivalent to 40% of the total water that is going to households and cities, and by the end of 2013 we will desalinate a quantity of water that will reach approximately 70%,” Schor said.

“Therefore, we are on the right track. But we are still lacking huge amounts of water, and we will be between the red and the black line in the water reserves.”

While Schor wouldn’t pinpoint whether Israel is in fact currently in a state of “crisis,” he said, “if next winter will be a drought winter, we will be in a crisis. We all hope that next winter will be better than this one, but regardless of that we must continue using water wisely.”

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