SPNI launches water conservation campaign

Charges government was negligent in implementing savings plan of '05.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) launched its own multi-pronged water-saving campaign Wednesday and charged the government with negligence for failing to fully implement the Water Authority's conservation plan from 2005. Lake Kinneret could have been 2.4 meters higher today if the measures approved in the plan had actually been given a budget for implementation, the largest environmental organization in Israel claimed. According to the Water Authority's assessment in the 2005 plan, a full-on water-saving campaign could save between 10-20 percent of household water consumption. Fifteen percent would be 140 million cubic meters per year. If that number were multiplied by the last three years, it would equal 420 million cu.m., or roughly 2.4 m. of the Kinneret. That number also represents half a year's worth of water for all the homes in Israel. The Water Authority refused to comment on the SPNI's charges, saying, "The Water Authority praises and supports all plans which promote the efficient use of water and prevents its waste, which operate in parallel to the activities the Water Authority is already running in this area." According to the SPNI investigation, the Treasury never provided a budget for the authority's plan, which included education, a public awareness campaign, water-saving devices on faucets, the repair of leaks, enforcement of water regulations, reusing water from car washing machines and mikvaot, a tender for reducing water in the private sector, and other similar measures. Of those measures, only the tender for reducing water in the private sector went out, and a public awareness campaign was launched last summer, the SPNI found. The Water Authority actually objected to a bill presented by the SPNI to require water-saving devices on all faucets, the organization said. Israel is in the midst of its fourth straight year of meager rainfall. Moreover, at this point of the winter, it is highly unlikely that enough rain will fall to alleviate the problem. An extremely good year of rain is needed to reverse the trend. This is not the first time government negligence has been blamed for worsening the water crisis. A parliamentary committee of inquiry into the water economy, which operated from 2001-2002, found that Israel's natural water resources had been overpumped as a matter of policy for 40 years. Subsequent investigations have found that the pace of construction of desalination plants has not come anywhere near the goals set by the government. Israel should have had more desalinated water available in 2004 than the country will have next year even after the Hadera desalination plant comes on-line. Former water commissioners have conceded that the commission did not meet its desalination goals for a variety of reasons. Many wells and other sources of ground water have been rendered undrinkable because of pollution. The human factors, combined with the improbability of so many consecutive lean years, have brought the country to this unprecedented level of crisis. The SPNI announced it would be putting its considerable influence behind a water conservation program. On the education front, it will prepare curricula for teachers and educators. In addition, the society's experts, along with other experts, will be preparing an emergency proposal to the new government, focusing on sustainability, savings and other elements. It also warned that its professionals would keep a close eye on the water economy to help bring about effective and quick decisions.