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Israel faces further cuts in water consumption to avert crisis Source: BBC Monitoring Middle East - Economic Publication date: 2001-05-21

Text of report in English by David Rudge entitled: "Water: the crisis is here"; published by Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post web site on 21 May After three consecutive winters of drought, the nation's fresh water reserves are insufficient to meet expected demand, the Water Management Committee declared yesterday. The committee, comprised of experts from the Hydrological Service and Mekorot, is urging further cuts of 250m cu.m. to avoid "a catastrophe". Its findings are to be submitted to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by Water Commissioner Shim'on Tal at a meeting on Wednesday [23 May].

Tal will recommend ways of achieving the necessary reductions in the urban, agricultural and industrial sectors, while making it clear that there is no alternative. These are expected to include total bans on watering lawns for the next three years and on the establishment of new municipal parks or gardens, and probably the introduction of water quotas for local authorities. Furthermore, Tal is slated to call for at least a 10 per cent cut in supplies of water to industry and for suitable compensation to be paid to farmers for not using all their quotas this year, which have already by cut by an average of 50 per cent.

The findings of the committee - the body responsible for safeguarding the nation's water reserves and ensuring supplies of fresh water - follow recently concluded surveys of the state of existing resources. The three main sources of fresh water are the coastal and mountain aquifers and Lake Kinneret.

Dr Shmuel Kessler, director-general of the Hydrological Service, which is part of the Water Commissioners' Office, said the amount of water that can be drawn from the Kinneret this year is only 87m cu.m. compared to 420m cu.m. in a normal year. According to Kessler and the other experts, the level of the lake should not be allowed to drop under 214.3 metres below sea level, just 1 metre from where it now stands. He cited two reasons for this: potentially irreversible damage to the lake's ecosystem, and the quality of water and operational factors.

The latter relates to Mekorot's Sapir station, which draws water from the Kinneret and pumps it directly into the National Water Carrier. Simulations conducted by Mekorot have shown that the station's three pumps would not be able to operate at the same time if the level were to drop much beyond the committee's recommended cut- off point. All three pumps have to operate during the summer to ensure a steady flow into the National Water Carrier. Kessler's report made it clear that the coastal and mountain aquifers are similarly depleted and the respective water levels are on or below existing red lines.

In addition to meeting its own requirements, Israel also must supply 55m cu.m. of fresh water a year to Jordan and 35m cu.m. to the Palestinians in accordance with international agreements.

Prior to yesterday's meeting, Mekorot Director-General Amos Epstein said it was essential to make further cutbacks this year because there are no guarantees that the coming winter will be any better than previous ones. Kessler said there was a discrepancy of 250m cu.m. between what could be drawn relatively safely from the Kinneret and the underground reservoirs and estimated demand for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes.

The government has already approved a reduction of 50m cu.m. this year but the Water Management Committee insisted that this would not suffice. The alternative, according to the nation's experts, would be to lower levels in the Kinneret and the aquifers to such an extent that it would likely result in irreversible damage that would make them unusable for future generations.

Publication date: 2001-05-21 © 2001, YellowBrix, Inc.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 22, 2001


May 23, 2001 Looming Water Crisis in Israel Israel is being warned that the country's water supplies are dangerously low and it will have to accept drastic cuts in consumption, reported, citing an official report. The report, drafted by the Israeli water commissioner Shimon Tal, will be presented to the government Wednesday, said the BBC. It is expected to call for a total ban on the watering of lawns for the next three years, and a ten percent reduction in the supply to industry.

As well as the practical problems caused by water shortages, the issue has deep political implications in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians accuse Israel of diverting water away from their towns to keep Jewish settlements in the occupied territories supplied.

The report suggests desalination as a long-term solution, and says as a short-term measure Israel might import water from Turkey. According to an Israeli research, a desalination plant can range in cost from $3-5 billion dollars to build in addition to the needed amount of electrical power and maintenance costs.

“If Israel gives up control of the Judean/Samarian [West Bank] water resources (30 percent) and possible the 40 percent under the Golan Heights to Syria, the foreseeable over-pumping will lower the water- table of Israel's only remaining aquifer on the coast and the Mediterranean will invade the sweet water,” says Emanuel Winston, a Middle East analyst, in his report published on the Internet. According to the Wadi Araba peace treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994, Israel has to supply Jordan with 50 million cubic meters of water. The agreement hasn’t been fully implemented, especially after the 1999 drought hitting the area –

-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2001.

Even the best of armies cannot function without water. I do believe that the current escalation is more than what it seems on the surface. No pun intended.


-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2001.

Israel warns Lebanon, Syria on water rights

The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (March 14, 2001 5:35 p.m. EST) -Alarmed by a new pumping station in Lebanon, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday that Israel has warned Lebanon and Syria it will "not be able to ignore" violation of its water rights.

Raanan Gissin, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Israel sent "a very sharp message" through the United Nations to Syria and Lebanon, warning that diverting the waters of the Hasbani River would violate international conventions.

Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the water issue is "to be or not to be, to live or die." He said Israel "cannot let such a thing pass


-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2001.

Water shortage growing increasingly more serious

(IsraelWire-8/23) According to Water Commissioner Shimon Tal, the ongoing water crisis in Israel continues to worsen with no relief in sight. Tal has repeated calls for the immediate importation of water from Turkey, explaining the situation continues to grow increasingly critical and something must be done to begin preparing for the future.

Experts have pointed out that even if the coming winter is accompanied by an abundant rainfall, the water shortage will not be alleviated. The Kinneret has already dropped below the red line and water levels continue to fall with fear of the fresh water source becoming irreversibly salinated as a result, rendering it unfit for drinking.

Despite the critical water situation, Israel continues to supply Jordan and the PLO Authority with water as per signed agreements


-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2001.

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Water to farmers will be cut by 50% By Amiram Cohen Ha'aretz Agriculture Correspondent

The government wants to cut the water quota for agricultural use by 50 percent in 2001, after an already steep cut of 40 percent this year, according to an agreement reached by the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture and the Water Commission in the National Infrastructure Ministry. The proposal will be put forward for cabinet approval within a few days.

The water cut will be implemented even if the coming winter season (2000-2001) yields average or above-average rainfall. In the event of a dry winter, the cut could reach 75 percent of the normal quota.

Yossi Yishai, the Agriculkture Ministry's director-general, said the ministry will prepare an estimate of the losses and damage that will accrue to agriculture and the food-processing industry by the cut. Yishai predicted that loss of income and direct losses from dried up orchards, hothouses and fields would total NIS 2 billion. Farmers are still to receive NIS 160 million for the damage they sustained as a result of the water cut in 2000.

Some 10,000 agricultural sector workers, both self-employed and salaried, will lose their jobs under a 50 percent water cut, says the ministry. Industries that are directly and indirectly connected to agriculture will also be badly hit, in contrast to the situation in previous water cuts.

The government has allocated NIS 3 billion to develop new water sources. However, even if this investment proves fruitful, it will take five years before results are seen. These alternative sources, including purified sewerage, saline water treatment and capturing floodwaters, will enable farmers to forgo about half of the annual quota of 900 million cubic meters of water.

As part of the plan to move the agricultural sector to the use of non- potable water, grants of up to 30 percent will be given to farmers who uproot avocado groves and orchards with low yields and replace them with more profitable crops.


-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2001.

Tuesday, July 25, 2000 Tel Aviv area water sources severely polluted, survey finds By Zafrir Rinat Ha'aretz Correspondent

A Health Ministry survey of potable water sources has discovered irreversible damage to the groundwater sources of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

The survey found a general water-quality problem that affects almost all the groundwater in the district.

In the wake of the survey, five drill sites have been shut down and three more are in the process of being terminated.

The survey, which began last year and continued until very recently, examined 105 of the 122 sources that supply drinking water to Tel Aviv and most of the surrounding towns, as well as to Ramat Hasharon and Kfar Shmaryahu.

The purpose of the survey was to find possible concentrations of organic micropollutants. These materials, usually found in low concentrations, have their source mainly in pesticides, industrial waste and organic solvents.

The tests showed organic pollutants at various levels in 88 percent of the drill sites. A particularly serious finding was that at one- third of these sites, concentrations were found at the maximum level permitted, though they had not yet exceeded it.

Only 17 percent of the water sources were found to be totally free of microorganisms.

The water examined comes in part from the springs at Rosh Ha'ayin and in part directly from the coastal aquifer. The findings reinforce the impression that Tel Aviv has had a serious water problem for years.

According to the ministry, 34 drill sites have been shut down in the Tel Aviv region in the past 15 years - 15 because of salinity and 16 others because of the presence of toxic materials or fertilizers. Most of the sites shut down in the past year were in Givatayim and Ramat Hasharon, though there were also some in Bat Yam.

The Tel Aviv survey is part of a countrywide survey which the ministry is conducting in preparation for the introduction of stricter standards of water quality.

Some materials found in the Tel Aviv water sources are carcinogenic or can damage the nervous and digestive systems.

Valery Pohoryles, the environmental engineer for the Health Ministry's Tel Aviv district, wrote in the survey: "We have warned many times that the use of the coastal aquifer in this district is problematic because of its location beneath a crowded urban area that contains many sources of pollutants - a situation that does not exist in developed countries."

Pohoryles said that home consumers receive water fit for drinking, as every source that exceeds the pollution level is shut down. However, she doubted whether it would be possible to improve the aquifer by cleansing or by preventing the penetration of additional pollutants. Such measures, she said, will not remove the pollution within a reasonable time


-- Martin Thompson (, May 23, 2001.

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