Mekorot tackles J'lem water shortage with new pipeline plan

Mekorot, the government water supply company that provides 80 percent of Israel's water, is hoping to solve Jerusalem's water shortage by building a fifth pipeline to the city. The pipeline, which will start in Hulda and pass through Kessalon before reaching facilities in Jerusalem, will join four other pipelines that run to the city, the most recent of which was built in 1994. The pipeline, according to Mekorot chairman Eli Ronen, will respond to the needs of a rising Jerusalem population and the expansion of the city into new neighborhoods. "The need for water grew beyond our expectations," Ronen said. "Jerusalem's need for water is growing, but if our projections are correct, this pipeline will provide enough water for the next 30 years. Building a new pipeline is a huge endeavor, so we hope that we won't have to build another one soon [after this]." Ronen said the pipeline would be more effective than previous ones because of its increased diameter, which will be approximately 100 inches. Mekorot decided to build the pipeline following discussions with the Water Authority Council last week. Mekorot expects the project to cost NIS 2.5 billion over the next seven years. Because the water company spends about NIS 1 billion a year, Ronen is not worried about the project's cost. The next step in the building will be to plan the pipeline's course and speak with private landowners in Jerusalem about building it on their property. Ronen said he expected no complications to result from those talks. This project comes at the same time as Mekorot's initiative to connect Hadera's water supply with the country's major water processing plant. Mekorot's main water source for these expansions is the Kinneret, whose usable water supply may dry up by year's end. Ronen noted that 2008 has been a year of abnormally low rainfall, 60% below average. "At the end of the year we won't be able to draw water [from the Kinneret], but we hope that rain will fall and that we'll be able to draw [again]," said Ronen. "We've encountered these tough situations before."