The drought levy imposes a NIS 20 fine on usage above 32 cubic meters for two months per four-person household..
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At a season in which Jews everywhere pray fervently for rain in Israel,
meteorologists bear bad tidings.
By their learned prognostications, we
are in for a very parched year – not that the previous winter, a relatively good
one after six dry years in a row, was extraordinarily wet.
the gloomy forecasts, winter will get off to an exceptionally late start and, at
least in its initial stages, will produce even less precipitation than each of
the six bad annual droughts this decade. Considering that our water reserves are
already precariously in the red, this is very sad news with which to open a new
No sooner were the dire forecasts broadcast than the Israel Water
Authority touted its inevitable remedy – making the populace pay.
in an arid region, where droughts are part of the natural cycle. Yet
governments have proved themselves shortsightedly agora-wise and
What can be put off, ran the thinking, needn’t be attended
to and paid for now. In the short haul, this can spare valuable outlays
diverted elsewhere. But this blinkered focus on present contingencies
The Magen Commission in 2002, the recent Bein Commission, as well
as State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss early this year, all cited
malfunction by a series of governments that consistently ignored the
the wall for too many years. For decades, decisions were ad hoc, without
master plans. Those plans that were drafted weren’t fully carried out,
where there was partial implementation, it was rarely followed up and
The flagrant carelessness of 2002 is a case in point. The
drought of 2000-01’s winter spawned numerous doomsday scenarios and
resolve to combat our water shortage. It was decided to build
However, the next winter, 2002, was quite wet and the urgency was
washed away. As a result, only 130 million cubic meters of water were
subsequently desalinated, instead of 400 million. Israel was unprepared
prolonged drought that ensued.
WILL CHARGING more for water now make us
consume less? Only up to a point. Israelis are used to overpaying.
nation which subsists on overdrafts can learn to ignore mounting
Lindenstrauss strongly censured the notion of inflicting on
the citizenry penalties for the government’s gross past miscalculations
sticking us with the bill for future infrastructure rather than
budgeting for essential projects.
Typically, the Water Authority is
predicting calamity unless further price hikes are applied. Yet we
exorbitant taxes – at least partly earmarked to bankroll large-scale
development schemes, desalination plants among them. There’s no
doubletax us and charge again for the same projects, this time via the
the most elementary and vital commodity of all.
Water prices were already
heftily raised this past year.
The availability and affordability of a
commodity so indispensable mustn’t become an unsanctioned revenue-
tool for any government agency, and certainly not a means to cover up
officialdom’s egregious failures.
Facile price hikes don’t encourage the
public sector to clean up its act. Local authorities in particular are
innocent. Their negligence accounts for a whopping 165 million cubic
annually because of substandard municipal equipment or leakages from
Moreover, many cities have lately taken to hiring private
firms to collect water payments, a fact which has led to overcharging of
sometimes monstrous proportions.
Residents of one low-income apartment
block on Tel Aviv’s Rehov Hahagana were charged thousands of shekels per
apartment for “communal use,” which, on further examination, never
Similar infractions are reported elsewhere. This breeds wholesale lack
and creates clear disincentives for prudent water use.
We are witnessing
an incomprehensible ongoing failure to conserve existing resources.
incrementally more for higher consumption is one way to educate the
squandering is costly. But across-the-board increases, inherently
(hitting the super-rich with their private swimming pools and the
families in identical measure), achieve the precise opposite.
inevitable collective detriment, they impart the wrong message, telling
consumers that waste isn’t penalized and that responsibility isn’t
We cannot afford such folly in our dehydrated region.