Construction of two additional desalination plants in Israel, one in the western Galilee and the other at Sorek, is critical for the Israeli water sector, which has suffered five consecutive years of exceptional drought that have caused a severe shortage of natural water, especially in northern Israel. Professional sources said that if there is a sixth consecutive drought year, the supply of drinking water is liable to pose a challenge in certain places. If the failure to meet the timetable for construction of a sixth desalination plant is also taken into account, the results will come as no surprise - an emergency situation in the water economy, with the Water Authority having to cut the supply of water for agriculture.
Two and a half months ago, the government approved the strategic emergency plan for dealing with the water economy in a drought, which for the first time includes supplying water from the National Water Carrier to Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the level of which has reached an unprecedented low. The plan also includes construction of two desalination facilities, reclamation of streams in northern Israel, and connecting isolated areas to the National Water Carrier.
According to the emergency water plan, the target for production of desalinated water by 2030 is 1,100 million cubic meters a year, almost double the quantity now being produced. Desalination plants current produce 585 million cubic meters of water a year, amounting to 70% of all the water supplied to households and communities. The most recent desalination facility began operating in 2015, two and a half years ago. According to a June 2008 cabinet resolution, however, there should already be six plants operating and supplying 750 million cubic meters of water a year.
It is already clear that the state will not meet the desalination target, because it will take at least five years before another desalination plant goes into operation. Desalination facilities in Israel are built by the BOT method, in which private companies build the plant, operate it for 25 years, and then it them to the state. In order to build a desalination plant, it is therefore necessary to find a suitable site for building a plant, obtain permits for its construction, publish a tender, select a winner with proven financial capabilities, and then it takes time for build the plant and prepare it for operations. As of now, the consequences of the failure to build a sixth facility are "only" a cut in water allocations for agriculture. According to the Water Authority, however, continued drought is liable to disrupt the supply of water.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 23, 2018
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