Israel's drought combat plan getting underway


Water will flow into Lake Kinneret from the National Water Carrier for the first time and two more desalination plants will be built.

The cabinet today unanimously approved a strategic plan presented by Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy, and Water Resources Dr. Yuval Steinitz for dealing with the effect of the drought on the water sector. The proposal calls for the flow of water to be reversed with water flowing for the first time from the National Water Carrier to Lake Kinneret, which has reached an unprecedented low level. The plan also includes construction of two desalination facilities, reclamation of rivers in northern Israel, and connecting areas that are not linked to the national system.

"A rare streak of five years of exceptional drought that occurs only once in 50 years has confronted the Israeli economy with a need for urgent revision of the water production program and the development program derived from it. This situation is also aggravated by hydroclimatic trends attributable to climate changes," the proposalstates.

Beyond the rare extent of the drought, demand for water in the household sector has grown by 150 million cubic meters (the amount produced annually by a large desalination facility). Home water consumption forecasts project a continued growth resulting from population growth. "In this state of affairs, given the deficit from earlier years, the Israel Water Authority will have to cut the supply of water to agricultural consumers this year," the cabinet resolution states.

The strategic plan addresses the state of the water sector over the coming decade but ignores the longer term of 20-30 years from now. In addition, the resolution does not explain how the water sector reached the current state of crisis in which suppliers to agriculture must be cut, in other words, whether the water sector was properly planned going back several years.

The main features of the plan submitted for cabinet approval:

The desalinated water product target for 2030 will be set at 1,100 million cubic meters per year, double the current amount. This target will be reassessed in 2023 according to the state of Israel's water resources. If the level of resources does not reach the desirable state, the desalination target will be raised to at least 1,200 million cubic meters a year, following an assessment by the Water Authority Council.

Israel currently has five desalination facilities producing 585 million cubic meters of water a year. The plan includes immediate construction of two new desalination facilities in the western Galilee and in Sorek that will increase water production by 300 million cubic meters of water a year. Preparations will be made for adding a further 100 million cubic meters of water a year, while the need for this addition will be assessed in 2020 through the establishment of a ministerial tenders committee for publishing a public private partnership (PPP) tender.

A rivers reclamation plan

The NIS 100 million rivers reclamation plan was devised at the initiative and under the supervision of the minister of national infrastructure, energy, and water resources. The main part of the plan is reclamation of seven rivers in northern Israel. The largest amount, NIS 25 million each, will be spent on the reclamation of Ga'aton River and Na'aman River. NIS 20 million will be spent on the reclamation of Kishon River, NIS 19 million on Hadera River, and NIS 17 million on Zippori River, while water taken from Betzet River and Eynan River will be cut. The plan includes diverse measures adapted to each river based on the termination of pumping from the river, construction of infrastructure that will allow water to flow along the river and accumulate downstream, increasing the supply of water to the river from the national system, and more. The plan will be completed by 2023 and financed jointly by the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources, the Water Authority, and the fund for reclamation of open spaces.

Pouring desalinated water into Lake Kinneret

Connecting Lake Kinneret, whose level is now at an unprecedented low, to the national system will make it possible to pour 100 million cubic meters of desalinated water a year in a northerly direction in order to replenish the lake. This connection will help raise the lake's level and improve the quality of the water.

Connecting isolated areas to the National Water Carrier

The Water Authority will draw up a plan for connecting isolated areas to the National Water Carrier by the end of 2018, thereby making the supply of water to these areas fully reliable. The isolated areas are Ma'ale Kinneret, the western Galilee, eastern valleys, and the Golan Heights. The supply of water to these areas is currently based on local water resources, with no backup from the National Water Carrier.

Steinitz, who formed the plan, said, "This strategic plan will provide a way to cope with the extraordinary five-year drought that has brought the water sector in Israel to a largest shortage of natural water measured in the past 100 years and the water resources in the north to an unprecedented low point.

"The plan was designed by professional staff in order to deal with this shortage. It will provide both short and long-term solutions, including increasing the volume of water desalination, reclamation of rivers in northern Israel, a plan to connect areas isolated from the National Water Carrier, a plan to save Lake Kinneret, removal of statutory barriers in order to expedite construction of water infrastructure, and actions to reduce water consumption. We are not only addressing the supply of water for household consumption, but also saving nature."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on June 10, 2018

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