Israel: Water crisis worse than expected : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Water crisis worse than expected By David Rudge

(April 11) - The water crisis is more serious than experts had envisioned, with a shortage of 475 million cubic meters to meet the nation's domestic, agricultural and industrial needs.

This is the difference between available resources after the winter rains and expected demand for the rest of the year - taking into account a 50 percent cut in fresh water quotas for farmers and other reductions.

A detailed report on the severity of the situation is being drawn-up by members of the Water Commissioners' Office (WCO), its Hydrological Service, Mekorot and other experts.

The findings are to be submitted to next Wednesday's meeting of the economic and social cabinet.

The ministers are being urged to authorize a series of measures to further cut consumption and hasten the creation of new water sources, including the establishment of plants to desalinate sea and brackish water, increasing production and conveyance of treated sewage for irrigation, and the import of fresh water from Turkey.

Recommendations for reducing consumption include imposing quotas on local authorities, with punitively high tariffs for those which exceed allocations, and a proposed three-year ban on irrigating public and private gardens and green areas, especially lawns and roadside flower beds.

Opponents say such measures would effectively turn parks and green areas into barren wastelands.

Water experts and some environmentalists, however, say there are several species of flora which require little or no irrigation, and that artificial grass could be used to enable parks and gardens to retain a green look.

They noted that flowers and lawns in particular require intensive irrigation.

"When there was a drought in England, a hose pipe ban was introduced and there was no irrigation of public and private gardens, including Regents Park and others in London which are national parks. Everybody adhered to the ban because of the water shortage," said a senior WCO official.

Surveys by hydrological experts show that several springs in Western Galilee normally tapped for agriculture are dry, while rain catchment reservoirs on the Golan are only a third full. The water levels in Lake Kinneret and the country's two main underground reservoirs, the Coastal and Mountain aquifers, are at record low points.

There are signs that sea-water is beginning to seep into wells in southern sections of the Coastal Aquifer in the Ashdod region, because of years of over pumping.

According to water experts, the government has to understand the severity of the situation and take action, including banning the use of hoses for washing cars and offering suitable compensation to farmers not to use all of their fresh water quotas.

In any event, the experts say it will be necessary to lower existing minimum marks in the Kinneret and the aquifers to supply water to meet even reduced requirements.

Not instituting cutbacks would require lowering the red-lines to such a point that there would be a serious danger of causing irreparable damage to the nation's sources for years to come.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 14, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ