Water Consumption in Israel Up 6 Percent in 2012

Israel's large cities use an average of 4 percent more water, with the sharpest rise in Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Israelis' awareness of the need to save water seems to have eroded in 2012. Data issued by the Mekorot water company showed on Tuesday that water consumption between January and August of this year was 6 percent higher than it was in the same period last year.

The uptrend was noted both in the residential and the agricultural sectors, with households using 5 percent more water so far this year, and farmers using 7 percent more.

Mekorot, the national water company that supplies most of Israel's water, said that during the first eight months of 2012, water consumption totaled 944 million cubic meters, compared to 895 million cubic meters last year.

Israel's large cities used an average of 4 percent more water, with the sharpest rise in Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Be'er Sheva also saw an increase.

The rise in water use could have several explanations. One is that there has been an easing of the public relations campaign to encourage water-saving. Another is that the relatively rainy winter might have left Israelis with the impression that Israel's water problems had eased. Yet another possibility is that because water officials have been continually emphasizing that a large part of Israel's water supply now comes from desalination, the public's resolve to lower consumption and protect our natural water sources has been weakened.

Officials are, in fact, still trumpeting the benefits of desalination. "As of now there are 1.25 billion cubic meters missing from Israel's underwater aquifers," Mekorot CEO Shimon Ben Hamo said Tuesday. "Starting from the end of 2013, some 75 percent of household water will come from desalinated water, and water surpluses are expected for the first time. Only then will Mekorot begin to rehabilitate the natural water sources.

"Today the water supply from desalination is 40 percent, and there is great importance to a culture of proper water consumption," he said.

During the coming year, construction of large desalination facilities in Ashdod and Sorek (south of Rishon Letzion ) will be completed, bringing to five the number of large desalination plants in the country.

The Water Authority's campaign to save water and the first wave of price hikes two years ago led to a drop in water consumption of 8-10 percent.

The Water Authority noted Tuesday that in order to get a full and accurate picture of the water-saving trends in the country, it is necessary to include all water consumption in Israel, and not just that of water supplied by Mekorot. Mekorot supplies around 70 percent of Israel's water, though it supplies over 80 percent of water to households.

Other data, such as population growth, must also be considered, the authority added.

The master plan for the water economy for the next four decades, recently prepared by the Water Authority, calls for reducing annual water usage from 100 cubic meters of water per person in 2010 to 95 cubic meters per person in 2050, despite the expected continuing increase in the standard of living.