Israel Finds Secret to Water Conservation: Drought Tax

Of various steps taken by the Israeli government to face the lengthy dry spell of 2000-2009, introduction of special drought tax was most effective, study finds.

The drought tax which Israel imposed four years ago was the most effective tool for boosting water conservation, a recent report revealed. The study focused on effective ways of water management between 2000 and 2009, an unusually lengthy period of continuous drought.

Alongside the drought tax, the government took other steps to increase water conservation during the period in question, including a gradual price hike as well as public service announcements and education. Israel conducted a long-term campaign during the drought to raise public awareness by highlighting the Kinneret and its plummeting surface level.

It turned out that the drought tax, a levy on excess usage implemented in 2009 which dramatically increased the price of water, led to the greatest drop in consumption, about 12 percent.

The Pareto Group, a consultant and economic research company, conducted the study and published the results in the professional journal Water Policy.

According to the research, the public information campaign contributed to a 1.7 percent drop in water consumption. The researchers estimate that part of the decrease stems from the use of the Kinneret’s falling level in a public information campaign to encourage water conservation. They stress that the public information campaign probably had a positive impact on the way the public accepted the levy for excessive consumption, and thus contributed indirectly to encouraging saving water.

Many researchers worldwide found that a gradual rise in water prices is an effective tool for lowering water consumption, but according to the economic model used in the present study, this method was ineffective as water consumption continued to increase even as the price of water went up.

The research also illustrates the difference in water consumption between different socioeconomic levels. Water consumption in wealthier communities was 35 percent higher than middle-class areas, and 80 percent higher than in communities with low socioeconomic levels.

Moreover, the excess water levy mainly affected the higher socioeconomic areas, where consumers cut back usage by far greater rates. In contrast, usage in low socioeconomic communities barely changed.

Meanwhile, it emerged this week that Israel is at the forefront of saving water in agriculture. The prestigious Stockholm International Water Institute awarded its annual Industry Water Award to Netafim for its development of drip- and micro-irrigation solutions. The Swedish institute’s award committee stressed in its citation that Netafim’s methods “are directly contributing to a more water- and food-secure world.”