Cabinet returns water supply control to local authorities

With added budget from water profits, cities will be able to invest more in things like education, culture and welfare, ULAI chairman says.

Water coming from shower 311 (photo credit: stevendepolo)
Water coming from shower 311
(photo credit: stevendepolo)
The government decided Sunday to return control over water corporations to the local authorities after years of pressure from the Union of Local Authorities (ULAI) and Forum-15 groups, both of which represent individual municipalities’ rights.
Ever since the government had mandated in 2001 that local authorities give control over water to private corporations, ULAI has been vigorously protesting the decision and demanding that municipalities retain control once again.
Sunday’s cabinet decision not only agrees to return control to the authorities, but it will also allow for the improvement in municipal services to residents, a statement from the group argued.
The decision was made on the recommendations of the Nissan Committee, a committee appointed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz eight months ago and run by Udi Nissan, director of budgets at the ministry.
While the ULAI represents 265 Israeli local authorities, Forum-15 is a group of Israel’s most populous and developed cities, which signed a February 2008 agreement to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
“Restructuring the water corporations will lead to the return of profits for the public,” said ULAI’s chairman, Shlomo Bohbot. “I hope that the prime minister accepts our stance and will also reduce the price of water for the citizens.”
Meanwhile, the ULAI is also working in conjunction with the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee toward the proposal of a bill in which the union would regain control over water prices, according to Bohbot.
“The government’s decision constitutes the conclusion of a long period of about 10 years in which the ULAI struggled for the public against the establishment of corporations because it foresaw the severe damage that would afflict the public,” Bohbot said. “Last December, we launched our struggle with the goal of changing the structure of the water corporations that were severely hurting the public, and to stop the wild behavior of water prices. Now with the government decision, public services will improve greatly and the influence of mayors will increase.”
With added budget from water profits, cities will be able to invest more in things like education, culture and welfare, he added.
“This is a significant achievement, that proves that when there is communication between municipalities the government can reach an agreement, which will benefit every home in Israel,” said Dov Tzur, mayor of Rishon Lezion and a representative of the Forum-15 to the Nissan Committee. “Due to the change, hundreds of millions of shekels will be returned from corporations to city treasuries and will be used for education budgets, welfare, infrastructure and more, concurrently improving water and sewage infrastructure. We have moved from a situation of a water economy with an excess of regulation to a situation of a efficient and healthy water economy, which ensures better services for the citizen and ensures that enjoyment from its outcomes will reach the citizen.”