Israelis Asked to Cut Down Shower Time in Bid to Combat Five-year Drought

More efficient use of water at home and in municipal gardens, along with increased desalination efforts are among means mooted to address huge rise in consumption

Kids run through sprinklers in a Jerusalem park, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Israel Water Authority is asking the public to shorten shower time by two minutes as part of a new campaign to save water.

The campaign was unveiled on Tuesday to address the shortage caused by five years of drought in Israel. The authority hopes that the effort will save some 50 million cubic meters of water a year – about half the annual output of a large water desalination plant.

Other water-saving measures outlined in the authority's plan call for more efficient use of water for gardening and landscaping purposes by local governments.

Household water consumption has risen significantly in recent years, according to a strategic plan for dealing with the shortage that has been prepared by the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry, and is due to be presented for cabinet approval soon.

Specifically, the ministry and the Water Authority say such consumption has risen by over 40 million cubic meters during the past two years – a 10-percent increase in total household water usage. This surge has been attributed to the fact that previous campaigns to encourage Israelis to save water have lapsed and lost their effect.

The receding shoreline of Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, in Israel, due to ongoing drought in recent years, Nov. 20, 2017.
The Kinneret Authority

Moreover, after five years of below-average rainfall, the level of water in Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, is a 38 centimeters below the bottom red line (213 meters below sea level). The amount of water flowing in the Dan springs in the north, the largest natural springs in the Middle East, are at an all-time low.

The water-saving schemes, prompted by the dire situation of the last few years, are also meant to address future droughts, through 2030. They suggest means to increase the production of drinking water using seawater-desalination facilities, along with a strategy to revive the once-successful public relations water-saving campaigns.

One such effort included not only advertisements and commercials but also provision of water-saving devices for the home, such as flow regulators for taps and showers, and devices that reduce the amount of water used when flushing toilets. That campaign led to a 10-percent reduction in household water use.

The Infrastructure Ministry says the recent rise in water consumption cannot be explained solely by Israel's rapid population increase. It also stems from the public being less careful about using water, based in part on the misconception that today’s large-scale desalination efforts render such efforts unnecessary. In addition, the relevant authorities believe that the effect of steep increases in the price of water in 2010, which led to a large drop in household consumption, has worn off. Combined with the relatively modest reduction in that price last year, there is no real incentive for people to be more efficient when it comes to consuming water.