Drought threatens Israel's water supply

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Drought threatens Israel's water supply

Special to World Tribune.com MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE Sunday, June 18, 2000

TEL AVIV [MENL] -- Israel faces a shortage of drinking water over the next year amid the worst drought in 40 years.

Officials envisioned that the shortage will become so acute that major cities would be struck by frequent outages and that such services as water gardens will be banned. They said the drought has led to a drop in the Sea of Galilee, Israel's only fresh-water lake.

The level is expected to drop to a level of 214 meters below sea level, past the so-called red line set by authorities. This could lead to rapidly increase the saline level of the lake.

At the same time, the drought is also expected to damage Israel's ground water reserves. Officials said this will prompt a shortage of drinking water in Israel by 2001.

The assessments were made at a meeting of the Water Commission this week. "I have never attended such a gloomy and pessimistic meeting," a participant told the Israeli Haaretz daily on Wednesday.

Officials said the water crisis is so pressing that such solutions as desalination will not ease the current shortage. They said desalination will not make up for the shortage of at least 120 million cubic meters of water this year.

Instead, they agreed that only a severe cut in allocations to farmers will ensure enough water for drinking. But they said farmers have already planted their fields and will not be affected by further cuts this year.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 18, 2000


Emergency plan to buy water from Turkey for next summer By David Rudge

HAIFA (June 19) - A top-level inter-ministerial delegation is to visit Turkey today to assess arrangements for fresh water imports next summer as an emergency measure.

The country's water reserves are at such dangerously low levels that next summer's supply will be entirely dependent on the amount of rainfall in the coming winter, experts warned yesterday.

No steps have been taken by the government to begin the process of establishing the first major sea-water desalination plant, making the prospect of having to import fresh water almost an inevitability.

Mekorot director Amos Epstein, who is among the delegates, made it clear yesterday that the country is facing a water catastrophe that even cutting quotas for farmers to virtually nothing would not overcome.

Experts of the national water company estimate that the level of water in Lake Kinneret will drop to at least one meter below the official red-line minimum by the end of the summer - the lowest mark in recorded history.

Similarly, the water level in the mountain aquifer, the Yarkon Taninim underground reservoir, is expected to fall below its red-line mark by at least 70 centimeters. The forecast for the giant coastal aquifer, where several wells have been closed because of salinization caused by over-pumping, is equally bleak.

"Importing water is an emergency solution which could have been prevented if Mekorot had been allowed to issue tenders for the desalination of sea-water," Epstein said yesterday.

He said Mekorot could publish tenders for the establishment of a sea- water desalination plant within a month, especially in light of the experience it had gained from an experimental station which has been operating successfully in Eilat for the past few years.

"I don't think we need to push the panic button, because we are in situation which is simply catastrophic," Epstein told Israel Radio yesterday. "If we don't immediately begin to deal with the possibility of importing water or any other alternative solution, we face the kind of crisis situation in 2001 that nobody will be able to define."

Epstein said that National Infrastructure Minister Eli Sussia and Finance Minister Avraham Shohat are well aware of the severity of the situation. "There is simply not enough water," he said.

The delegation due to visit Turkey today includes Epstein, acting Water Commissioner Ya'acov Efrati, representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Health Ministry, and the Treasury, as well as leading experts. The delegation is to examine the feasibility of importing water, even though earlier assessments have put the cost at around the same price as desalinating sea water.

Initially it has been proposed that Israel would import 50 million cubic meters of water a year from Turkey, beginning next summer, in 250,000-ton tankers.

The water would be offloaded at a jetty in Ashkelon and from there piped into the National Water Carrier. It is estimated that at least $20 million would have to be spent preparing the jetty and laying a new 13-kilometer pipeline from to a reservoir in the Lachish area.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 19, 2000.

Tuesday, June 20 2000 21:07 18 Sivan 5760

Expert warns: We may run short of drinking water by fall By David Rudge

HAIFA (June 20) - here is a possibility of shortages of drinking water by the end of autumn, former water commissioner Dan Zaslavsky told The Jerusalem Post yesterday.

Zaslavsky said the general public is not aware of the seriousness of the severely depleted state of Lake Kinneret and the country's underground reservoirs, which he maintained is nothing short of catastrophic.

"In the short term, there is a possibility, which is not at all far- fetched, that there will be shortages of drinking water toward the end of this year," said Zaslavsky, professor of soil and water engineering at the Technion in Haifa.

This concern is apparently what prompted the sudden visit to Turkey by a top-level delegation to assess the feasibility and cost of importing fresh water next year.

The delegation, led by Acting Water Commissioner Ya'acov Efrati, Mekorot director-general Amos Epstein, and representatives of the ministries of Health, National Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, and the Treasury, is examining the viability of importing water.

The cost is expected to run into tens of millions of dollars, including the purchase price, refitting tankers so they will be able to transport fresh water, and making off-loading arrangements here. This is likely to cost in excess of $20 million and would include laying a 13-km. pipeline from Ashkelon to a reservoir near Lachish from where the water could be connected to the national water network.

Initially, the proposal is to import 50 million cubic meters a year, taking into account that making the necessary preparations would take around 10 months, providing the costs are approved by the Treasury.

Most experts, including Zaslavsky, are convinced that desalination of sea-water would cost about the same and would be less risky and more beneficial in the long-run. It is expected that the cost of establishing a sea-water desalination plant alongside one of the existing Israel Electricity Corp. power stations would be $80m.- $100m.

The plant would be capable, at the outset, of producing 50 million cu.m. of water a year. Production would cost around 70 cents a cu.m and capacity could be increased relatively easily.

Desalination has the additional advantages of private enterprise being involved and, perhaps more important, the water produced is of such a high quality that even after recycling it would enrich, rather than pollute, the underground water table.

Zaslavsky has for years advocated the establishment of a major desalination plant. It was essential several years ago; now it is imperative, he said.

In the meantime, he has proposed various alternatives for providing water, including an immediate ban on irrigation of municipal, public, and private parks and gardens - a measure he believes could save up to 200 million cu.m of fresh water.

He is convinced that the public would understand the need for such a moratorium once the severity of the present situation has been fully explained.

Furthermore, municipalities and private enterprises should be encouraged to produce additional water sources by recycling sewage for irrigation purposes by or desalinating briny wells to produce drinking water that would be sold to the government.

"If this were to be done without having to put out tenders for the work, it would greatly facilitate matters and enable additional sources of water for domestic and agricultural use to be produced in relatively short periods of time," he said.

He also called for new laws to prevent the dumping of household waste, one of the prime sources of pollution of the water table. Instead, this refuse should be used to produce methane gas in controlled conditions that could then be used to drive turbines in power stations, thereby cutting electricity costs and reducing the greenhouse effect caused by the uncontrolled build-up of methane.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 20, 2000.

Israel alarm over polluted water

Israel alarm over polluted water

June 22 2000


ISRAEL was near panic amid warnings from its health and environment ministries that much of its water is unfit for consumption and could become a carcinogenic brew. Fears of permanent drought and "water wars" between Middle Eastern countries pushed it this week into advanced talks to import water by sea from Turkey.

Dalia Itzik, the Environment Minister, said that 40 per cent of Israel's water was undrinkable. Her statement came after disclosures that Navy commandos who had trained in the Kishon's mouth near Haifa had contracted cancers, allegedly caused by pollution from the Haifa Chemicals plant that discharges 5,000 to 7,000 cubic metres of waste into the river every day.

Little effort has been made to preserve water resources. The coastal aquifer faces sea flooding, and pollution means that falling into rivers such as the Kishon and the Yarkon, in Tel Aviv, can be fatal.

Alex Levental, Director of Public Health, said yesterday that filters costing $100 million over three years should be fitted in the piping system

http://www.the- times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/06/22/timfgnmid02002.html

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 22, 2000.

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