MKs Want Winter Halt to Drought Tax

The Knesset Finance Committee is pressuring the Water Authority to stop charging drought tax for the winter, Haaretz has learned.

The authority is interested in keeping the tax, as it fears reinstalling it come summer would be too difficult, and meanwhile, all the water saved last year will be spent.

A senior source in the authority told Haaretz that the committee's suggestion to suspend the water tax from December till March was fraught with difficulties. "What is the message we're trying to send here? That wasting water is fine?," said the source. "Beyond that, we would find it very difficult to renew the tax once we stopped charging it."

The Water Authority believes that if current water-saving measures are maintained, water use can be cut down even further - from 89 cubic meters per person in 2009 to 87 cubic meters in 2010. Canceling the tax, it says, will cause consumption to leap to about 99 cubic meters per person.

The authority's chief, Prof. Uri Shani, testified yesterday before a government panel on how the water market is administered. Asked whether he could justify spending NIS 23 million on buying water-savers for every home, Shani said: "Water-savers go on operating even when the water tax is no longer there, and they alone can cut consumption by 10 percent."

Shani also spoke about the "black line" for the principal water reservoirs - Lake Kinneret and the underground aquifers.

He said the black line was intended to mark the level beyond which pumping water would be prohibited, but another dry winter would force pumping even beyond that point.

Meanwhile, Mekorot Water Company published new data on the state of the Kinneret, which said the lake should remain some 37 cm. above the black line (-214cm). The company said that one of the reasons for this was its policy of tapping instead into Galilee underground aquifers, but that such drilling depletes the country's water reserves, which should be spared if the drought years continue.