'Israel lagging behind in water conservation'

Report finds Israeli households significantly behind other drought-stricken countries in water saving.

Kinneret  crisis 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Kinneret crisis 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel is significantly behind other drought-stricken countries when it comes to household water conservation, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) contended in a new report released for World Water Day Sunday. Surveying water conservation policy in drought-ridden countries around the world, FoEME highlighted four areas in which a country could manage demand: education and public awareness, water restrictions, water-wise building design, and pricing. Israel received no higher than a 2 on a 1-5 scale in any category. While the government did set a goal of conserving 10% of water in households, FoEME suggested that a specific target be set. In Saragossa, Spain, for example, a target of conserving 1 million cubic meters per year was set, and the city has managed to exceed that goal, according to the report. Similarly, in Victoria, Australia, the government set out a goal of 155 liters per person. In other places, the government mailed water conservation kits, which consisted of water-efficient faucet heads and shower heads, as well as other items such as egg timers to reduce showers to four minutes. Israel does impose some water restrictions on gardening and washing cars, but could still encourage other behaviors to save even more water, FoEME charged. Restrictions have not been strictly enforced, in part because only 15 government employees have been monitoring the entire country, the regional NGO found. Fines are also minimal for violations, ranging from NIS 250 for individuals to NIS 1,000 for corporations. In comparison, fines range from the equivalent of NIS 3,000 to NIS 6,000 in Victoria. Some countries have actively encouraged and even subsidized gray-water recycling systems and have instituted basic criteria for each system to maintain health standards. Such systems, which reuse water from washing machines, dishwashers and showers for toilets and gardening, have enabled significant savings, FoEME found. In Israel, such systems are illegal. Regarding water-wise building design, the report said that while there were some requirements for public buildings in Israel, there were none for private ones. One potential modification, according to the report, would be to move to waterless toilets. In Israel, waterless toilets are only used in nature reserves or at concerts. Finally, in the pricing category, Israel has yet to pass on the "true cost" to the consumer. Higher water prices would convince the population to use less water. Israel has failed to take into account the environmental cost of water and the resource cost, the report said. "Environmental costs reflect damage to ecosystems caused by extraction, while resource costs cause price increases as water is depleted and opportunities for use are forgone by other users," according to FoEME's report. Israel's highest-tier price for water is also significantly lower than other countries. In Limassol, Cyprus, the highest cost for those who waste water is NIS 23.80 per cubic meter, while in Israel it is just NIS 7.858. The Water Authority did not respond to a request for comment by press time.