Water Authority to turn tap off on lawns

Drought levy recommended as new campaign unveiled to encourage conservation.

dripping faucet water crisis 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
dripping faucet water crisis 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Water Authority will prohibit watering lawns in 2009, the first time it has taken such a step. The long-awaited measure was announced Monday morning at a press conference in Tel Aviv, where the authority also unveiled its new campaign to encourage the public to save water. After cutting water allocation for agriculture to the bone already, the authority has turned to the household sector to dredge up additional savings in hopes of staving off the effects of the continuing water crisis. Despite the abundant rainfall in February, the aquifers and Lake Kinneret are still in catastrophic shape. Officials said that without a good year of rainfall, like 2003-'04 was, this crisis would likely continue to trouble the country until 2012, when the next set of desalination plants are set to come on-line. Authority head Prof. Uri Shani said that current predictions put the water level in the Kinneret just barely above the black line by December of this year. The black line indicates the point below which irreparable damage will be caused to the lake by poisonous algae, high salt content and other phenomena. Shani warned that once the Kinneret dropped below the black line, the damage could occur from one moment to the next. The absolute worst-case scenario, according to Shani, would be the death of Lake Kinneret as a living ecosystem. All of the authority's activities are calculated to prevent such a catastrophe at all costs. If Israel lost one of its three main natural water sources, desalination efforts would be far less effective in meeting demand and moving the country beyond the crisis, officials noted. This year, watering grass will be prohibited altogether, and public parks will have severe watering restrictions imposed on other plants as well. The prohibitions also extend to private lawns. Since private gardening is considered part of household water use, this represents the first time the authority has imposed direct limits on household use. To encourage the public to save water, the authority will embark on two missions. First, it will be distributing water-saving devices to attach to faucets, and an hourglass timer to encourage people to take shorter showers. Two faucet devices and one timer will be distributed for free, with the option of purchasing more. The devices reduce the amount of water used, supposedly without any noticeable change in water pressure or volume. Second, the Water Council, which advises the Water Authority, has recommended a "drought levy" that would impose a series of hefty taxes on those who use a lot of water. The basic rate per household for regular use would stay the same, but extra amounts would incur a levy of as much as NIS 4,000 per year extra. Since the levy has the status of a tax, the Knesset must draft legislation to approve it. Shani said they hoped to either include the measure in the Economic Arrangements Bill passed along with the budget or have legislation in place even before that. The budget is set to be presented no later than June 16. Finally, the authority unveiled its new PR campaign to encourage conservation. The new campaign follows on the success of its "Israel is drying out" campaign, which conserved 12% - more than 100 million cubic meters - and stopped the increase in demand, according to data presented at the press conference. The new initiative, "Save the Kinneret," will feature a similar style, with celebrities like supermodel Bar Refaeli, comedian Eyal Kitsis, singer Ninette Tayeb and others discussing the crisis as their skin cracks and peels. This campaign will also offer tips and explain how many centimeters of the Kinneret specific actions would save. The tips include showering for a shorter amount of time and using the little lever on the toilet instead of just the big one.