Border Control / Nonexistent Water

Before we stop showering to save water, researchers suggest we cease using drinking water to pave roads.

I get up in the morning and rinse my mouth out with a half a glass of water. We must save Lake Kinneret. While shaving, I turn off the faucet so no one can say I am drying up the Kinneret. On the way to the parking lot, I make sure the neighbor's grass is as yellow as it should be. If not, I will report him as a Kinneret robber. When dusk falls, I slip out to the balcony and, when no one is looking, water the plants. Just as long as Bar Refaeli does not find out.

That is how it is when the world is getting warmer and the prayer for rain is not having much effect on either God or Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. As in the war against the Arabs, the war over the Kinneret is a war of no choice. What can you do, the Jewish state has many enemies, but there is only one Kinneret.

The national brainwashing over the Kinneret's wretched waters spits in the face of all humanity while pretending that the spit is (lack of) rain.

The water crisis does perhaps begin in the northern lake, but it does not end there. As far back as seven years ago, following countless harsh reports from the state comptroller about the water shortage, a parliamentary commission of inquiry stated that "the ongoing water shortage occurred despite the fact that Israel has the knowledge and ability to find solutions to the problem - either by saving on water consumption, or by increasing the water supply by collecting rainwater and floodwater, treating sewage, desalinating brackish water, desalinating seawater and importing water.

"If the state of Israel's water policy were determined by the number of cabinet resolutions that have been passed on this issue, then the situation would be excellent," the committee's members continued, citing the dozens of decisions on water that the government has made since 1989.

In April 2002, for example, Ariel Sharon's government decided to double the scale of desalination and begin negotiations on importing water from Turkey.

But Finance Ministry officials thought it would be a pity to waste money on new desalination plants. God is great, and perhaps next winter he will open the tap and fill the Kinneret.

Even nowadays, it turns out, there are instant solutions - solutions that could generate hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water annually and save the Kinneret more efficiently and inexpensively than all the television and radio advertising campaigns and all the gardening directives in the press.

Saving millions of cubic meters with just a few steps

In a letter sent to cabinet ministers last month, 28 researchers from the Technion's Grand Water Research Institute suggested a series of steps that, within a few months, could add at least 100-150 million cubic meters of water annually to our water supply, an amount equivalent to the water desalinated at each of the large desalination plants in Ashkelon and Hadera.

According to the report, "with a small organizational effort, it would be possible to get Israeli industries to increase their [use] of recycled water (which is used for irrigation, not drinking) to at least some 30 million cubic meters annually."

The researchers note that their study, which is still underway at the Technion's faculty of civil and environmental engineering, found that the amount of potable water used in roadwork and other construction jobs totals tens of millions of cubic meters annually, and it would be easy to switch to using purified sewage water.

Another solution: locating facilities that could collect purified sewage and recycle it for agricultural use. Currently, around 30 percent of all treated sewage flows into the sea.

In addition, studies conducted over the last few years, both at the Technion and abroad, have proposed simple, safe and readily available technologies for treating and recycling water used for gardening and for flushing toilets.

It would take only a month or two to install treatment devices and start recycling this wastewater, and it would provide some 20 million cubic meters of water annually.

And instead of importing portable desalination facilities, as has recently been suggested - a plan that would yield water four times more costly than the water desalinated today - it would be possible to produce at least an additional 60 million cubic meters of desalinated water in existing facilities within less than a year, at a reasonable cost.

Finally, experts agree that over the next several years, any solution depends on setting up additional desalination plants. They are therefore urging the cabinet to help the winners of the desalination tenders for Ashdod and Nahal Soreq obtain funding to build these facilities.

What are the chances that any of the ministers will seriously consider the Technion's document instead of relying on the Kinneret campaign?

Here is what Prof. Avishay Braverman, at the time president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told the commission of inquiry: "Israel has reached a point where it is unable to function when it comes to implementing public works projects.

"We have so many ministers and so many people in charge that not one of them can manage to undo the Gordian knot," said the man who is now a member of Israel's largest government ever.

So drink water. But only a little.