Panel to Submit Critical Report on Water Crises to Chief Justice Today

The state inquiry committee looking into water resources administration, chaired by retired judge Dan Bein, will submit its findings today to Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.

The report is expected to review a wide range of aspects of water management, but to focus on the decision-making process that twice led to acute water shortages here over the past decade. The report is also expected to look at how authority is distributed among the various government bodies responsible for water management.

The last decade had seen ongoing delays in the building of water desalination plants, whose construction was accelerated only in the past two years. Some of the officials in charge claimed the Water Authority reached for unattainable goals for desalination. The committee of inquiry uncovered considerable disagreement about responsibility for water resources, with ministries continually challenging the Water Authority's independence.

As of yesterday, it remained unclear whether the panel will make any recommendations pertaining to particular officials, as most of those mentioned in the report no longer hold their posts. The current head of the Water Authority, Prof. Uri Shani, may be criticized for his management of the last crisis, but the most fundamental problems in handling Israel's water resources began before he entered the post.

The committee interviewed incumbent and former ministers who were charged with water-related affairs and heard from hydrology experts.

The report is also expected to look at the issues of water quality and water saving, two matters usually marginalized by worry about the quantity of available water. Several people questioned by the committee expressed concern about the quality of water here, saying it was deteriorating before the water reaches the supply system.