At its weekly meeting today, the cabinet reviewed the option of increasing water production at desalination plants at Ashkelon, Hadera, and Palmachim. Last year, the government increased the planned quantity of desalinated water to 500 million cubic meters a year, and ordered the building of two plants, one to be operated by the Shafdan: Dan Region Sewage Reclamation Project in Rishon LeZion, and another plant to be operated by Mekorot National Water Company in Ashdod.
During this morning's meeting, Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer presented an action plan to address the water crisis in Israel, in the light of the lack of rainfall so far this winter. His plan calls for, among other things, the imposing of restrictions on the watering of public and private parks; a further cut in fresh water quotas for agriculture, and an intensive PR campaign to encourage people to save water.
According to Ben-Eliezer, these moves will not suffice on their own. "The action needed now is to step up the planned building and expansion of desalination facilities," he said. "We're in a difficult situation."
Figures released by the National Infrastructures Ministry reveal that the 2007-2008 winter season has been extremely dry so far, with an average rainfall of just 65% of the multiyear average. The situation is exceptionally dire in the Kinneret basin and the mountain region, where the average rainfall is less than 60% of the long-term average. For the sake of illustration, the Kinneret has risen by just six centimeters and is now less than half a meter above the red line, even though pumping to the National Water Carrier was halted at the beginning of January.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on January 27, 2008
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