Water Authority Raids Controversial Holyland Project - to Install Water-saving Devices

The luxurious Holyland apartment project, which recently hit the headlines for its starring role in the latest corruption scandal, is not kind to visitors - especially those who come in August. Each building has an entryway made entirely of glass, where a visitor must wait, and roast, until the person he is calling on presses the button to admit him. Perhaps it's a sophisticated way of discouraging unwanted guests?

Yesterday, one of those roasting in the entryway was Dekel Darami, a student distributing water-saving devices for the Water Authority. Wearing his Water Authority cap and name tag, he waited there until one resident was finally convinced that the state really had sent someone to install small metal rings on his taps.

Water Authority workers installing water-saving devices
Olivier Fitoussi

"We do the installation, so that people won't just leave it in a drawer," explained authority spokesman Uri Shor.

Sunday was the first day of the grandiose distribution scheme, apparently the first of its kind in the world. The math is simple. Thousands of temporary workers will visit every home in Israel and install three water-saving devices. Altogether, two million devices will be installed, and each will reduce the tap's water flow by a third. The authority claims the water pressure will not be affected, since the devices essentially replace the missing water with air.

Via this project, the authority hopes to save 25 million cubic meters of water a year. That is almost as much as the 30 million cubic meters a year the new desalination plant in Palmahim is slated to produce.

"There's no question that conservation is the cheapest way to create water," said Shor.

Darami and his colleagues are paid NIS 7 for every house where they install the devices. "So if I do five families an hour, that's NIS 35," he said.

The biggest problem, he said, is not getting people to open their doors, but getting them to give identifying details such as phone numbers and ID numbers. Without those details, the students don't get paid.

In the Holyland building Darami canvassed, 19 of the 20 apartment owners agreed to accept the devices. The installation went quickly, but was not problem-free. In the Mansura apartment, the faucet suddenly started leaking. Darami's colleague, Ram-El Binyamin, quickly summoned a special trouble-shooting team that is on call for just such emergencies.

On the ninth floor, Darami encountered an insurmountable problem: The person who answered the door was merely a house-sitter. The owner was away, and therefore could not supply the personal data needed for the installation.

But for the most part, the residents welcomed him. The televised spots championing the campaign by dancer and choreographer Renana Raz have evidently had an impact.

"Of course, we'll be very happy to take them," said another neighbor, ushering Darami into her bathroom. "We saw it on television and I thought, 'but I'm never home.' So it's good that you're here."