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      Netanyahu Speeds Plans for Desalination

      PM asks for quick answers on proposed desalination project, commits to cutting bureaucracy to slash water prices.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 4/11/2010, 6:39 PM / Last Update: 4/11/2010, 7:54 PM

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered the Water Authority, the Finance Ministry, the Infrastructures Ministry, and the Mekorot government-run water company to submit proposals for a cost-effective desalination plant in Ashdod. Proposals must be submitted to the cabinet within 30 days.

      “It is inconceivable that the desalination plant, which is due to be advanced by Mekorot, has been stuck for years due to bureaucracy,” Netanyahu said. “It is unacceptable that the price the public will pay for water will be inflated.”

      The best way to get reasonable prices for desalinated water is to allow “fair and healthy” competition, the prime minister said.

      The government has been promising new desalination plants for several years. Two plants are to be built by 2012, officials say, one in Ashdod and one in Sorek.

      Israel currently has four desalination facilities, in Hadera, Eilat, Palmachim, and Ashkelon.

      The water level in Israel's largest reservoir, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), was dangerously low early this year following several years of drought. Heavy rains in February brought the lake over the “red line,” the point at which it is potentially dangerous to draw water; however, experts say desalination remains necessary to avoid a future water crisis.