Water Authority rebuts report that Israel lags in conservation

Spokesman details plans to promote awarenessand increase enforcement of regulations.

sprinkler 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sprinkler 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In response to the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) report that maintained Israel lags behind other countries in water conservation efforts, the Water Authority on Monday gave The Jerusalem Post a detailed rebuttal, describing its projects aimed at saving water. FoEME's report was released for World Water Day, which was observed on Sunday. Following the same structure as the report, the Water Authority raised a number of points regarding education, water restrictions, water-saving construction, and pricing. Some pilot projects which have been implemented in the past few years will be expanded in 2009 and other projects would continue, Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor wrote via e-mail, in his response to the Post's request for comment. Schor said that a new TV and billboard campaign would start after Pessah that will include specific water-saving tips, he said. Enforcement would be increased this year as the authority brings on more manpower in 2009. According to FoEME's report, as of November 2008, there were only 15 inspectors for the entire country. Schor did not say how many more people were being hired. Restrictions on gardening would be tightened, as would programs to install water saving devices in faucets in public buildings, he said. Projects to recycle "grey water" - from dish washing, laundry and bathing - might be useful in other countries, but their effects here would be marginal, according to Schor, because Israel already reuses so much of its sewage water, which includes grey water. Israel recycles 75% of its sewage water, leading the world by far. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer recently set a goal of 90% reclamation by 2013. A new UN report put out for World Water Day and the World Water Forum's weeklong summit in Turkey recently praised Israel's efforts in this area. Water-saving devices on faucets have not been widely accepted here, and a bill promoted by Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) to mandate them did not pass in the Knesset. But Schor said efforts to introduce them proceed apace. Aside from public buildings and army bases, which have installed many of them, 1.5 million households in Israel would receive them this year as part of volunteer efforts by youth movements. Dual-flush toilets have also been introduced in many army bases. The Water Authority has also developed a "Blue Standard" to help the consumer understand which water saving devices really work. Regarding education, the authority noted that there have been joint efforts with the Education Ministry and with the IDF to raise awareness about water conservation. The authority has also worked out a deal with the HOT cable children's channel for joint programming. Schor pointed out that tips for conserving water were available on the Water Authority's Web site (www.water.gov.il) and a special CD about water saving plants had been distributed to gardening professionals. The FoEME report mentioned measures in other countries to force car washing businesses to install water recycling systems. According to Schor, Israel did this in 2001. In 2004, the Water Authority carried out over 150 inspections at car washes in over 60 communities to examine enforcement. Regarding water-saving construction, the Water Authority has studied the issues involved in depth and will apply what it has learned in the future, according to Schor. National Plan 34 has also divided the country into regions rated by sensitivity. In very sensitive areas, like those above aquifers, builders must submit their plans to the Water Authority for approval before proceeding. A new pricing structure for water is currently in the public hearing phase. There are now two categories for use - under 30 cubic meters per year per person and above. In the short term, the discount on water for gardening has been repealed and the price for household use has actually risen, the Authority said. Finally, a project for conserving water in households via the local authorities was carried out in 2006 at a cost of NIS 40 million. Due to the success of the pilot project, it will continue this year, Schor wrote.