Another Dry Year Could Bring Back Drought Tax, Water Authority Says

If the forecasts for another dry year materialize, the Water Authority will reinstate the tax on excessive consumption, chairman Prof. Uri Shani said yesterday.

Speaking at a conference yesterday, Shani said Israel was unprepared for a prolonged drought and was close to not being able to supply water to its residents.

Raising water prices and taxing excess consumption were measures that proved themselves, and reduced water consumption by 150 million cubic meters, he said.

If the forecasts predicting another dry year turn out to be correct, the authority would have to bring back the drought tax, "one way or another," he said.

The drought tax significantly increased the price of water consumed beyond a bimonthly household quota. It was enacted in the summer of 2009 following a very dry year, but was suspended in December 2009 by the Knesset Finance Committee amid harsh public protest.

When it decided to suspend the measure, the committee stated that if the country has another dry year and water consumption does not drop significantly, the tax could be reinstated.

Water prices have increased over the past 18 months, in the wake of a decision to fund new water production facilities, particularly desalination plants, through higher water prices, and not from the state budget.

The chairman of the water companies' forum, Shaul Romano, criticized the move, saying it hurt the public. People can be encouraged to save water through education, he said.

The latest measurements by the Water Authority's hydrological service found that the water level at lake Kinneret dropped 25 centimeters over the past month. The western mountain aquifer, the country's largest groundwater source, dropped beneath the red line in its southern and central section. The water level in the coastal aquifer, the second-largest groundwater source, also sharply dropped. Springs in the Naaman area in the Western Galilee also dropped to two meters beneath the red line.