A letter sent by the Israeli non-profit group for ethical government, Ometz, to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, calls for a review of a 2004 deal to import 50 million cubic meters of drinking water of from Turkey’s Mangabey River. According to Ometz, Israel paid an undisclosed deposit on the 20-year agreement, which comes with an option for five more years, but the project never began.
Israel’s dwindling water supply, which prompted the Water Authority’s recently launched “Drought Tax” on high water use, has brought to light the water importing-deal signed with Turkey.
“Due to the tremendous water shortage and the increased fines imposed on Israeli citizens, Ometz is calling for a review of the water agreements signed between Israel and Turkey. Israel has already paid unknown amounts for the deal, but there is no water,” wrote Ometz Director Aryeh Avneri.
According to the letter by Ometz, the terms of the agreement established a sale price of up to $1 per cubic meter of water: 13-18 cents per cubic meter and 60-80 cents per cubic meter for import and distribution. Given Israel’s water needs, an estimated 50 million dollars a year was to be paid to Turkey. While a deposit was apparently paid, the letter alleges that the deal was never launched.
The water deal was signed by the foreign ministers of Israel and Turkey and called for the importation of 50 million cubic meters of drinking water, says the letter. “Carrying out this agreement is the duty of Israel’s Water Commission and Turkey’s Water Authority (DSI), and the governments of Israel and Turkey bear collective responsibility for ensuring that all agreements are followed.”
Ometz’s letter challenges that the deal failed to establish a timetable for delivery and failed to appoint a director for the project.
“We turn to you and request a full investigation into this signed agreement to import water, why this program has still not yet started, and what amount of money, if any, remains to pay to begin importing,” Ometz wrote Lindenstrauss.
The water tax imposes an NIS 20 fine per cubic meter of water on families containing four or fewer members who use more than 30 cubic meters of water in two months. Exceeding the quota cost NIS 8 per cubic meter prior to the tax. Families with more than four members get an additional three cubic meters per family member.
The tax went in to effect retroactively on July 1 and was criticized by local government councils who said that citizens will be unable to limit water usage. Others criticized the tax on the grounds that the added revenues do not return to the water industry, but rather are drawn into the Finance Ministry’s bank account.