Comptroller blasts short-sighted management of national water supply

"The Water Authority has implemented a short-sighted series of operations in the water sector," State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said.

Pools of waste water are seen at a sewage treatment plant in town of Safed in northern Israel (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Pools of waste water are seen at a sewage treatment plant in town of Safed in northern Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
The Water Authority’s short-sighted management of the country’s water sector has brought natural water sources to a “crisis point,” State Comptroller Joseph Shapira announced on Monday in his annual report.
Eight years after the government adopted recommendations for the better management of Israel’s water sector, published by the Bein Committee, the last state committee of inquiry on crises experienced by the Israeli water system, the national water supply continues to find itself in a perilous situation.
“The Water Authority has implemented a short-sighted series of operations in the water sector, characterized by the emptying of water reserves whenever they fill up, without preserving them for the longer term,” Shapira said.
“The water sector is again in crisis, manifested in part by being unable to supply the entire needs of the water sector without depleting the natural water sources of the State of Israel,” he said.
The State Comptroller’s Office found six key shortcomings across the national water sector during its six-month inspection from June 2017 to January 2018.
Firstly, contrary to the government’s October 2010 decision, the Energy Minister and Water Authority have failed to submit a master plan for the water sector. This has led the management of Israel’s water to be driven by immediate needs to cope with the ongoing crisis rather than implementing long-term, considered courses of action.
Secondly, the Water Authority has so far failed to take action to support reductions in water usage, despite a trend of increased water consumption in 2015.
Thirdly, from 2013 to 2017, the Water Authority permitted the use of water from the country’s natural aquifers, at times contrary to recommendations made by the Hydrological Service, leading to the depletion of those reserves and the risk of irreversible damage.  Except for the Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the authority did not implement redlines for the country’s water reserves.
Fourth, the comptroller said the Water Authority had failed to initiate well-drilling operations or renovate existing operations to ensure the supply of required quantities of water. Failure to do so may result in the unnecessary use of resources to ensure temporary water supplies.
Next, the Water Authority has not yet approved a work plan for the long-term establishment of desalination plants in accordance with projected water consumption demands. Its failure to find alternative solutions for water supply to the North, given the delay in the construction of the Western Galilee desalination plant, is putting local reservoirs at risk.
Finally, as of July 2016, only 55% of sewage in treatment facilities underwent tertiary treatment, 37% underwent secondary treatment and approximately 8% was not treated whatsoever, contrary to national health regulations.
Among the recommendations to correct the six shortcomings identified in the report, the comptroller called on the Water Authority to preserve Israel’s natural water resources in a sustainable manner and prevent irreversible damage, ensuring that water levels do not decrease below identified redlines.
The comptroller also called on Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and the Water Authority to submit an updated long-term master plan to the government which will serve as the water sector’s policy for years to come.
“The Water Authority is in charge of the country’s most important natural treasure,” said Shapira.
“The current inspection’s findings have revealed that, for years, the Water Authority has not managed the water sector in a manner consistent with the scale of the responsibility entrusted to it,” he said.