The head of the Water Authority, Dr. Uri Shani, promised Friday that 600 million cubic meters (MCM) of fresh water will be added to Israel's annual supply in 2012. Speaking on Voice of Israel government radio, Shani said that it will take another three years for Israel's fourth desalinization plant, which is to be built at Soreq, to be up and running.
The Water Authority decided Thursday to cut 100 MCM from the annual fresh water quota for agriculture. This is about 20 percent of the annual quota diverted to this sector. As expected, this decision drew sharp criticism from farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Shani noted that the decision to cut the water supply to farmers is not a final one, and will only be implemented if 2009 turns out to be another drought year, for the fifth year in a row. If on the other hand the rainfall this year turns out to be an average one, the cut will be much smaller, and it could be cancelled altogether. "We are captives of a process that is… influenced by the Holy One, Blessed Be He, who decides whether we will have a drought," Shani said.
Construction Takes Time
Responding to agriculturalists' claim that treated waste water is currently being diverted to the sea instead of to agriculture, Shani again cited the need for a suitable plant to solve the problem, and said it would be ready in three years' time.
Construction of desalination plants takes time, Shani said. The early plants took nine years to build. "The next plants took seven years, and the ones after the ones being constructed now will take four to five years," he explained.
The Water Situation
The total average annual potential of renewable water in Israel amounts to some 1,800 MCM, of which about 95% is already exploited and used for domestic consumption and irrigation. About 80% of the water potential is in the north of the country and only 20% in the south.
As part of the 1994 peace treaty signed by Israel and Jordan, Israel agreed to give away to Jordan 50 MCM of water annually from the northern part of the country.
Israel's main freshwater resources are Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the Coastal Aquifer along the coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Mountain Aquifer under the Carmel mountain range and extending to Judea and Samaria.
Aaron Katsman, managing editor of the Israel Opportunity Investor newsletter, noted recently that while "Israel is second to none when it comes to innovative technology for the water industry," it has been approaching a water crisis domestically. "Funny that the country that developed the technology, has for the most part exported it to other countries to solve their water problems, but has been slow on the uptake to tackle the domestic issue," he wrote.