Water Commissioner: Two More Dry Years Will Endanger Aquifers

The two main sources of groundwater in Israel are the mountain and coastal aquifers, both of which have been severly depleted.

The head of Israel's Water Authority, Prof. Uri Shani, will tell the state commission of inquiry into the water crisis today that Israel will have to continue its wide-scale efforts to save water and hope for two very rainy years, otherwise the country will have difficulty supplying the water needs of its citizens and protect its water sources.

Shani will present the commission, headed by retired judge Dan Bein, data showing that in addition to the severe drop in Lake Kinneret water levels due to a lack of rain, the mountain aquifer has also dropped below its red line.

The two main sources of groundwater in Israel are the mountain and coastal aquifers, both of which have been severly depleted.

But Shani will also propose a number of solutions for the present water emergency, including importing water from Turkey and establishing temporary, movable desalinization plants along the Mediterranean coast.

However, these solutions are costly and have limited volume - and are only temporary measures.

Such temporary desalinization plants are expensive, and their feasibility will be examined only in March 2010, after the winter, when it will be clear how much rain fell.

The most promising area of action is water saving, which has so far been relatively successful by using two main methods: informing the public and the drought tax.

Shani will tell the commission that the target was household water usage of 91 cubic meters per person annually, after water savings. It transpires that usage will actually drop to about 89 cubic meters per person, and estimated home water savings will be over 10 percent this year.

Another Water Authority target is to half the amount of water used for public parks and gardens, as part of an agreement with local authorities.

So far, 97 localities have already met the reporting requirements on water usage, although another 70 have yet to do so. Those who have not met the regulations have been allocated enough water to irrigate trees, bushes and plants - but not grass.

The main tool for replenishing the missing quantities of water is desalinization facilities. Over the next two years the total amount of desalinated water available will rise to 300 million cubic meters per year, but that is still inadequate to meet Israel's waters needs if the coming years are not particularly rainy.

Only in four years, when new desalinization plants in Ashdod and Rishon Lezion are completed, will this situation improve.