Despite Drought, Green Thumbs Bash Watering Ban

The Israel Landscape and Gardening Association says the proposed watering ban on lawns in public parks will not result in a substantial savings of water. The organization, which represents professional gardeners, also contends that the sprinkling ban and the browning of public parks will affect the public's quality of life, especially among the poor, for whom parks provide one of their only outlets for leisure activity.

The Water Authority has proposed the ban to combat one of the worst drought's in Israel's history.

Gardening Association Director General Hezi Mula said yesterday that it is unimaginable that all of the lawns in public spaces would be allowed to turn brown this year.

"We are all aware of the severity of the drought, but the situation should be addressed through a comprehensive water conservation plan which wouldn't deprive us of green spaces," he said. "We have proposed such a plan to the Water Authority and there are municipalities such as Herzliya, Petah Tikva, Jerusalem, and Bat Yam that have implemented it and have saved large quantities of water."

Association members serve as advisers to local authorities and government ministries, including the Agriculture Ministry.

Mula said that municipal public parks only use eight percent of urban public and private water consumption.

"The real savings would come from conservation measures in home consumption, from toilets and dripping faucets," he argued. "It is harder to change the habits of 7 million people than to send out inspectors to parks and to fine mayors, but conservation is what is needed."

The Water Authority estimates that 70 million cubic meters of water per year are used to water lawns and flowers in the public and private sectors.

Gardening expert Yitzhak Hel-Or said significant savings can be realized through better watering techniques and without a total ban.

"Municipalities and private individuals are not using correct quantities of water," he said. "Instead they are timing the duration of sprinkling, using much more than what is needed. If they just used the required quantities, we would save close to half of what is used."

He also suggested replacing grass with plants which need little water, but cautioned against removing lawns which are used for leisure activities.

"Especially in densely populated areas, it's the only place children and families can spend their free time. I think municipalities would prefer to be fined rather than letting their lawns dry up," he said.

"No final decision has been taken on a complete ban on watering lawns," a spokesperson from the Water Authority said. "We would be pleased to meet all water needs, but there is simply not enough water. The measures regarding lawns complement other measures and don't come instead of other steps, and the decisions were taken in consultation with gardening professionals."

The Water Authority is also considering a complete ban on watering gardens, both public and private, including lawns and other landscaping, but would only implement such a ban in a worst-case scenario.