The possible extension of the watering ban on public and private gardens into the summer is expected to put more than 30,000 people in the gardening business out of work and put the sector on the verge of collapse. "Gardening is an occupation that pays the salaries of tens of thousands of families in Israel, and in the short-run a continued watering ban of gardens will lead to 30,000 direct layoffs in the sector," Haim Alush, director of the Mashov Group, the publisher of Ganim Yerukim magazine (Green Gardens), said Wednesday. "Furthermore, the situation is having a domino effect on many businesses serving the gardening sector, such as gardening contractors, designers and manufacturers who are left without work. "We are talking about the possibility of 50,000 workers joining the unemployment market. There are effective watering solutions that can easily be found for the gardening sector in Israel despite the water crisis. But bureaucratic obstacles are hindering the realization." According to data compiled by the Mashov group, 2,000 workers in the gardening industry lost their jobs in recent months. Before the start of this winter, the Water Authority ordered a ban on watering public and private parks, gardens and lawns, effective until the end of April, amid a deepening water crisis in the country. Since the water shortage has been exacerbated by a dry winter season, the Water Authority now intends to extend the ban to the summer months. At the beginning of the year, the National Infrastructures Ministry said there would be a gap of about 100 million cubic meters of water this year between demand and supply despite cutbacks and conservation efforts. The Water Authority estimates that 70 m.cu.m. of water per year used to water lawns and flowers in the public and private sectors could be saved by a watering ban. In reaction to the intention of the Water Authority to extend the ban to the summer months, the Mashov Group is organizing an emergency conference next week to present a number of immediate solutions for watering gardens, which could avert a ban and increase water capacity by 350 m.cu.m. a year. One of the solutions is increasing activity at desalination plants. For example, the Palmahim desalination plant could produce an additional 30 m.cu.m. of water a year within weeks, while the desalination plant in Ashkelon could add another 15 m.cu.m. of water, Alush said. Together, the capacity would provide for two-thirds of the water needed for gardens. However, these efforts have been stalled due to bureaucratic disagreements between Treasury officials and the management of the desalination plants in the South regarding the price per cubic meter. In addition, 50 m.cu.m. of wastewater, which today streams into the sea, could be used for watering public gardens after undergoing the necessary treatment. Another possibility that has been suggested is to harvest rainwater through the establishment of water reservoirs; that has the potential of adding 100 m.cu.m. of water a year to irrigate gardens. Desalination processes of contaminated water could produce another 100 m.cu.m. of water for gardens. In addition to the acute shortage of water, the global economic crisis, which is causing a decline in new construction projects, has led to a 60 percent drop in orders for new plantings of lawns and gardens in the private and public sector in the first half of 2009, according to the Israeli Landscape and Gardening Association.