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The Water Authority will present the cabinet with an emergency plan to raise water prices and completely ban the watering of lawns during the summer. It is doing this even though water prices are already being raised by 40 percent in 2011.

The proposal will be sent to the government in the coming weeks, despite the protests expected from consumers, farmers and local authorities.

Water rates in Israel are divided into three levels of consumption, and the emergency plan is set to hike prices throughout this scale. Although the Water Authority's council has yet to determine the exact percentages, the worst price hike will be experienced by consumers in the third, high-consuming level.

In the plan, the Authority seeks to reduce water consumption and bring as many consumers as possible down to the scale's first level. Sources at the Authority said they did not expect ordinary consumers to pay much more than they are already paying, but owners of houses with gardens and large businesses are expected to see their water expenditures grow.

Highest water rates to leap higher

The plan also foresees a total ban on watering lawns in the summer, whether in private homes or public parks. The amount of water allocated to agriculture will also be cut sharply, despite expected opposition by farmers' organizations and local authorities.

The head of the Water Authority, Prof. Uri Shani, said theses emergency steps were needed because of the dry winter. Rain and snow have so far reached only 25 percent of the multiyear average.