Desalination plant in Ashkelon
Desalination plant in Ashkelon Israel news photo: Flash 90

The cabinet gave its approval Sunday to the construction of a desalination plant south of Tel Aviv. The plant, which is to be built by Sorek Desalination Ltd., is expected to produce 150 million cubic meters of water each year.

Capacity will eventually be upped to 300 million cubic meters a year, making the plant one of the world's largest, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The plant will cost approximately 2 billion shekels to build.

"Over the last several years, the water market in Israel has plunged into a deep crisis,” Netanyahu warned. “There is a gap of hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water that we need each year, and these plants that we are planning will serve to fill that gap.”

Construction of the plant is one step in a long-term plan to use seawater to supply a substantial amount of Israel's drinking water. The government plans to desalinate 750 million cubic meters per year by 2020.

Israel consumes 700 million cubic meters of drinking water each year, in addition to the water used for industry and agriculture. The 150 million cubic meters a year supplied by Sorek will cover a quarter of Israel's annual water shortfall, Netanyahu said.

Three desalination plants currently in use produce a total of over 290 million cubic meters of water each year. Another plant is planned for the city of Ashdod.

The cabinet's approval came just days after Turkey announced that it was canceling a planned water sale to Israel. The sale was to help provide water for Israel for 20 years.