A pipe used to pump water from Lake Kinneret
A pipe used to pump water from Lake Kinneret, near Kibbutz Ha’on. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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The cabinet decided on Sunday to increase desalination and find a solution to the delays in building a desalination plant at Ashdod.

Instead of reinstating the controversial drought tax, the cabinet also decided to allow consumers to use more water, above which the price will rise.

After a presentation by National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and Water Authority chief Uri Shani, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would instruct the tenders committee to immediately increase the annual output of desalination facilities to around 100 million cubic meters.

Shani told the cabinet that saline water had already penetrated the water table due to the drought and more wells had to be closed because of the decline in water quality.

Netanyahu said he wanted a solution within three weeks to the arguments between the Mekorot water company and the state over the desalination plant at Ashdod.

Landau said the delay stemmed from attempts by the Finance Ministry to weaken companies like Mekorot.

The Infrastructure Ministry would cover the cost of essential infrastructure such as desalination and waste purification plants.

Landau told the cabinet that the public should not be burdened by drastic hikes in water tariffs.

Shani said after the meeting that instead of restoring the drought tax, "we plan a change in the structure of the water tariff by which people can consume a greater basic amount of water at the same price. Beyond this, the price will rise, though we haven't decided at what threshold and how much."

In three weeks the Infrastructure Ministry is to present to the cabinet an emergency plan to address the water crisis. The plan will include drilling wells at points where the water table has not previously been utilized and increasing the output of waste purification plants to 30 million cubic meters.

The ministry said there have been delays in granting permits by planning committees, opposition by environmental groups to new drilling and difficulties in obtaining land for building waste treatment plants. The ministry also wants NIS 6 billion to be found for Mekorot's development program.