City steams up over water usage register

Tel Aviv officials are saying there is no way they can register more than 200,000 families, to calculate their water rates.

Several weeks after local authorities were ordered to register the number of people living in each household in their jurisdiction for the purpose of calculating their water rates, senior officials in Tel Aviv are saying there is no way they can accomplish this within the required two months, reports The officials say that with more than 200,000 families still to be registered in the city, they do not see how they can possibly meet the deadline. According to the report, when the Water Authority introduced the so-called "Water Fine" on excessive water consumption recently, it instructed local authorities to inform residents that they needed to make official declarations of how many people were living in their households. The local authority would then calculate the amount of water needed by a household, with excessive consumption to be charged at NIS 20 per cubic meter. But senior officials in Tel Aviv say they do not see how they can meet the requirements. "There is already a huge mess inside the municipal system for the collection of water and property taxes, and now they want us to take care of registering more than 200,000 families within two months," one unidentified senior official said. "There is yelling and crying and there are queues as long as the Diaspora, and I don't understand how they want us to do this in two months." The official said the problem was even worse in impoverished areas such as Jaffa and south Tel Aviv, where there were joint water clocks shared by several families. The report said that municipal lawyers had asked the Water Authority for extra time to organize the registration, but had been refused. A city legal representative said the initiators of the new fine had not considered several important matters, including the huge cost to big cities of having to register so many people. "We do not want to be criminals, but we cannot begin implementing the law even if our people work on it day and night," the lawyer said. A Water Authority spokesman responded that the fine had been planned for a long time and that local authorities had had plenty of time to prepare for it. The spokesman said the local authorities had "made their comments and received replies, and they knew exactly where things were going." He added that the law fixed a specific percentage of the money collected to go to local authorities to offset the cost of the project, "so this subject is covered too."