Water supply and sanitation in Israel

Water supply and sanitation in Israel

Water supply and sanitation in Israel is intricately linked to the historical development of Israel in the context of scarce water resources. Because the coastal plain of historical Palestine had few water resources, Theodor Herzl already envisioned the transfer of water from the Jordan River to the coast for irrigation and drinking water supply. In order to realize that vision, the water company Mekorot was created in 1937, more than a decade before the creation of the state of Israel. In the first two decades of Israel's existence, substantial financial resources were dedicated to create the National Water Carrier, a complex water supply system including the transfer of water from the Sea of Galilee envisaged by Herzl.

Today Israel's water demand outstrips its available conventional water resources, even in a year of average rainfall and including resources disputed with its neighbors and the Palestinian Authority. This is why Israel relies for about 20% of its supply on unconventional water resources, including reclaimed water and – more recently – seawater desalination. A particularly long drought in 1998-2002 prompted the government to promote large-scale seawater desalination, a decision that is being implemented, albeit with some delays. An even larger infrastructure project, the proposed Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal, is planned to be built entirely on Jordanian territory and would not provide any desalinated water to Israel.

The Israeli water and sanitation sector is undergoing a comprehensive reform, based on two new laws. The 2001 Water and Sewerage Corporations Law foresees the transfer of water distribution and sanitation functions from municipalities to commercially-run utilities until 2010. And the 2006 amendment to the Water Law created a General Authority of Water and Sewerage replacing the Water Commission and concentrating powers that had previously been scattered among various Ministries.

Water resources and water use

Conventional water resources

In an average year Israel has about 1.7 billion cubic meter of conventional freshwater and brackish water resources at its disposal. About 1.1 billion cubic meter is from groundwater and springs, and 0.6 billion from surface water. About 80% of the water resources are located in the North of the country and only 20% in the South. In addition, about 0.3 billion cubic meter of reclaimed water are available, bringing the total available water resources to about 2 billion cubic meter.

However, the security of these resources is undermined by riparian conflicts and the risk of droughts. Several hundred million cubic meters of groundwater in the West Bank's Mountain Aquifer are disputed between Israel and the Palestinians. A 1995 Interim Agreement as part of the Oslo Peace Process provides certain quantities of water to the Palestinians, but prevents them from drilling any new wells in the Mountain Aquifer. The surface water of the Jordan River remains disputed with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians. Only with Jordan Israel was able to reach an agreement on the sharing of water resources in 1995 as part of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. Concerning droughts, the availability of surface water can be much lower than average in dry years. For these reasons and because of population growth, Israel relies increasingly on non-conventional water resources such as reclaimed water and desalinated seawater.

The Sea of Galilee and the Coastal Aquifer are Israel's main water storage facilities, with a combined storage capacity of about 2 billion cubic meters. The coastal aquifer is used as underground storage: It is being recharged in winter through recharge wells, and water is recovered in the summer during the irrigation season. Due to recurrent drought the available stocks have been almost fully depleted.


Successive years of drought from 1998-2002 had dramatically lowered water levels in all of the main reservoirs. 1998/1999 was the worst drought year in Israel for the past 100 years. The following years were also characterized by less than average rainfall which led to a shortfall of some half a billion cubic meters in Israel's water balance each year, in comparison to an average year. The winters of 2002/03 and 2003/04 were characterized by average and higher than average rainfall which led to a significant rise in the water level of the Sea of Galilee and in the collection of floodwater in catchment reservoirs. However, the country's aquifers have remained depleted. It was estimated in 2003 that increased water demand and decreased water availability has led to a cumulative deficit of nearly 2,000 MCM. [ [http://www.sviva.gov.il/bin/en.jsp?enPage=e_BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=Zone&enDispWho=Water_Sources&enZone=Water_Sources Ministry of Environment, 2005, Water Sources] ]

Reclaimed water

In the year 2000, about 290 MCM/year of treated wastewater (reclaimed water) were being reused, primarily in agriculture Another 160 MCM/year were still being discharged to the sea for lack of storage or lack of reuse infrastructure. [ [http://vague.eurecom.fr/countries/semide/PDF/Sogesid-israel EMWIS: Local Water Supply, Sanitation and Sewage – Country Report Israel, November 2005, quoting the Ministry of Infrastructure] ]

There are 120 wastewater treatment plants in Israel. The three largest plants are:
* the Dan Region Plant (120 MCM/year) using activated sludge and nutrient removal, with reuse in the Western Negev
* the Haifa Plant (37 MCM/year), with reuse in the Jezreel valley, and
* the Jerusalem Sorek Plant (23 MCM/year), located in the basin of the Sorek River.

Many of the smaller wastewater treatment plants are waste stabilization ponds, a low-cost and low-energy treatment that eliminates pathogens while conserving nutrients. An example is the Arab village of Kfar Manda in the Western Galilee, whose wastewater is being treated and reused for irrigation in the neighboring Jewish community of Yodfat. [ Sandra Postel, Last Oasis - Facing Water Scarcity, 1992, p. 126 ]

Treated wastewater constituted about 17% of consumption by the agricultural sector. The Ministry of Environment estimated in 2003 that effluents would constitute 40% of the water supplied to agriculture in 2005, 45% in 2010 and 50% in 2020. [ [http://www.sviva.gov.il/bin/en.jsp?enPage=e_BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=Object&enDispWho=Articals^l2056&enZone=Water_Sources Ministry of Environment Protection, 2003, Effluents] ] In 2007 more than 70% of treated wastewater was being reused, and Mekorot said it is striving to increase that rate to 90% until 2012. [ [http://www.mekorot.co.il/Eng/Mekorot/Pages/MessagefromtheChairman.aspx Mekorot: Message from the Chairman of the Board, Eli Ronen] ]

Seawater desalination

In early 2002, under the impact of drought, the Government approved the construction of large seawater desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast. These installations would supply 305 million m3/yr of desalinated water by the year 2010 and 500 million m3/yr by 2015. [ [http://www.emwis-il.org/EN/Water_context/context_12.htm#Desalination EMWIS::Israel Water Context:Alternative Water Sources - Desalination] ] All projects were to be executed by the private sector, though international tenders. By mid-2002 four tenders, with a total capacity of 305 million m3/year per year of potable water, were published. All plants use reverse osmosis, utilizing self-generated power.

The tenders were for the following projects:

* A 100 million m3/year Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) plant in Ashkelon, which entered production in September 2005.
* A 30 million m3/year BOT plant in Palmachim site, which entered production in September 2007
* A 30 million m3/year BOT plant in the Haifa Bay, for which the contract was awarded in August 2002
* A 45 million m3/year BOT plant in Ashdod, for which the capacity is sometimes also give as a 100 million m3/year.
* A 100 million m3/year plant in Hadera, to be operated by Mekorot.

In 2008 Mekorot said it was "close to completing" a large seawater desalination facility in Ashdod that will supply 100 million cubic meters of water annually. [ [http://www.mekorot.co.il/Eng/Mekorot/Pages/MessagefromtheChairman.aspx Mekorot: Message from the Chairman of the Board, Eli Ronen] ] However, construction of the plant has been halted by an injunction in court from the private company IDE which had built the Ashkelon plant. It alleged that the contract had been awarded without a tender. In June 2008, the Tel Aviv District Court decided that IDE was right and the construction of the plant will now be substantially delayed. [ [http://h2oreuse.blogspot.com/2008/05/ashdod-desalination-plant.html THE LEARNING DIARY OF AN ISRAELI WATER ENGINEER, May 05, 2008] ] and [ [http://waterdesalreport.com/articles/23393 Water Desalination Report:IDE prevails in Ashdod lawsuit] ]

In 2004, a representative of the Israeli Water Commission suggested at an international conference to use 50 MCM/year from the desalination plant in Hadera for the exclusive supply of up to one million Palestinians in the Northern West Bank. [ [http://www.ipcri.org/watconf/dreizin1.pdf THE IMPACT OF DESALINATION ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, DR. Y. DREIZIN, ANATALIA – 2004] ]

Environmental groups call for a moratorium on new desalination plants, beyond the ones already in the advanced bidding stages. "We believe that even in 2020, we can make do with desalination 315 million cubic meters", the report says. It calls for water conservation, the treatment of wastewater and the recycling of "gray" water (from baths, bathroom sinks and washing machines), as well as using construction techniques that allow rainwater to percolate into underground water reservoirs. TThe authors of the report claim that this would reduce the need for massive desalination of seawater and the environmental damage it causes, including the emission of greenhouse gases. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/912586.html Haaretz: Environmentalists call for moratorium on new desalination plants, October 14, 2007] ]

In addition to these large plants, there are around 30 small mostly brackish water desalination plants that desalinate about 30 million m3/yr. Most of these installations are in the Arava and the Negev. The largest of them (~11 million m3/yr) is located in Elat and desalinates brackish water and Red Sea water for use of the city's inhabitants. The first desalination installations were established in Israel in 1965 in the south of the country, to cover the demands for drinking water in the arid areas. [ [http://www.emwis-il.org/EN/Water_context/context_12.htm#Desalination EMWIS::Israel Water Context:Alternative Water Sources - Desalination] ]

Water use

Water use in 2005 was 1.96 billion cubic meter, of which about 57% is for agriculture, 36% for domestic and public uses and 7% for industrial use. [ [http://www1.cbs.gov.il/shnaton58/st21_06.pdf Statistical Abstract of Israel 2007:Water Production and Consumption] , quoting the Water Authority as the primary source of information. ] Average domestic water consumption in Israel is 250 liters per person per day on average, higher than in most of Europe, but lower than in most of the United States. [ [http://vague.eurecom.fr/countries/semide/PDF/Sogesid-israel EMWIS: Local Water Supply, Sanitation and Sewage – Country Report Israel, November 2005, quoting the Ministry of Infrastructure] ]

Service quality

According to the Ministry of Environment, 97.9% of the tests complied with drinking water quality standards. An analysis of results since 1989, when disinfection of groundwater was first introduced, has shown a constant improvement in the quality of drinking water, with the percentage of violations decreasing from 8.4% in 1989 to 2.1% in 1999. In 2000, the Minister of Health signed an amended version of public health regulations which raise chemical standards for water quality to very stringent standards. Maximum levels for 38 new chemical substances—including pesticides, organic solvents and petroleum products—were set for the first time while existing standards for nitrates, lead, cadmium and zinc were tightened. [ [http://www.sviva.gov.il/bin/en.jsp?enPage=e_BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=Object&enDispWho=Articals^l2062&enZone=Quality_Water Ministry of Environmental Protection, 2003, Drinking Water Quality] ]

The salinity of supplied water in Israel varies from very low salinity water (10 mg/l of chlorides) from the Upper Jordan River, 200 mg/l from the Sea of Galilee, and more than 1500 mg/l from groundwater sources in the south. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/scarcity.html Jewish Virtual Library :Israel's Chronic Water Problem:Water Quality, quoting the Israeli Foreign Ministry] ]

Responsibility for water supply and sanitation

Responsibilities for the water and sanitation sector in Israel are defined in two key laws: The Water Law of 1959, amended most recently in 2006, and the Water and Sewerage Corporations Law of 2001.

Policy and regulation

The Minister of National Infrastructures is the Cabinet member responsible to the Parliament (the Knesset for the management, the proposal of a national water policy for Cabinet approval and its subsequent implementation, as well as for Israel's external water relations.

Since some aspects of the management, protection and allocation of water resources fall into the spheres of other Ministries, the exercise of certain powers require their consent. The principal Ministries in that category are the Ministries of Agriculture (agricultural allocations and pricing), Environmental Protection (water quality standards), Health (drinking water quality), Finance (tariffs and investments) and the Interior (urban water supply). Following the 2006 amendment to the Water Law many of their responsibilities with respect to the water sector were transferred to the newly created Council of the Governmental Authority of Water and Sewerage (the "Authority"). The Director of the Authority (formerly the "Water Commissioner") is a cabinet appointed civil servant reporting to the Minister of National Infrastructure and to the Knesset. The Director is nominated by the Cabinet for a period of five years. The Council of the Authority is an interagency body, headed by the Director of the Authority, and composed of senior representatives of the Ministries of Finance, National Infrastructures, Environmental Protection and Interior. The Council guides and oversees the operations of the Authority. The Water Board is a public board composed of representatives of the Government and the public (producers, suppliers and consumers), whose consent/advise must be obtained for certain measures.

The Administration for the Development of Sewage Infrastructures operates, a unit in the Ministry of National Infrastructures, implements government policy in the field of development of sanitation. [ [http://www.mni.gov.il/mni/en-US/Water/Sewage/ Ministry of National Infrastructures:Sewage Infrastructures] ]

The National Water Authority or Mekorot is a state-owned bulk water supplier, whose main functions are to establish and manage the National Water System (also known as the National Water Carrier).

Regional Water Authorities are entities that operate regional water and sanitation systems. Mekorot serves in some cases also as a Regional Water Authority. A Regional Water Authority does not have to be owned or controlled by the Government and may be owned either privately or by municipalities. [ [http://www.emwis-il.org/EN/Water_legislation/legislation_06.htm#Water_Resources_Management_-_Institutions_ EMWIS Israel: The Governmental Authority for Water and Sewerage] ]

List of past water commissioners:

* Meir Ben Meir (1996-2000)
* Shimon Tal (2001-2005?)
* Uri Shani (since 2005?)

Service provision

Bulk water supply The state-owned National Water Company Mekorot is responsible for bulk water supply through the National Water Carrier, transferring water from the Sea of Galilee and other sources mainly to the coastal plain. Mekorot supplies 1.5 billion cubic meters of water in an average year, 70% of Israel's entire water supply and 80% of its drinking water. It supplies water to about 4,800 intermediary water providers, including municipalities, regional associations, agricultural settlements and industrial consumers. It also operates 31 desalination plants treating nearly a million cubic meters of seawater and brackish water every day. The company's eight wastewater treatment plants, including the Dan Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, treat 40% of all Israel's wastewater. Its nine reclamation plants enable 70% of the treated effluent to be reused for agriculture. [ [http://www.mekorot.co.il/Eng/Mekorot/Pages/CompanyProfile.aspx Mekorot Company Profile] ] In 2007 the structure of Mekorot has been changed. The parent company, "Mekorot Water", continues to produce, transport and supply water. One of its subsidiaries, "Mekorot Ventures and Development", concentrates, among other things, on the desalination of seawater, wastewater treatment, projects for the municipal sector and projects abroad. Another subsidiary focuses on building and maintaining water infrastructures, primarily for the parent company.

Water distribution and sanitation has historically been the responsibility of municipalities, consisting of 76 cities (with a population ranging from 2,500 to 750,000 inhabitants),144 local councils in small towns and 53 regional councils in rural areas. The Water and Sewerage Corporations Law of 2001 provides for the gradual transfer of water and sewerage services from the municipalities to newly created corporate entities. The 2001 Law aims at, inter alia, full cost recovery and the promotion of private sector investments for infrastructure. The transfer of service provision from municipalities to to public service entities (called "Water and Sewerage Corporations") is initially voluntary, but at a later stage it will become compulsory. It is envisaged that by 2010 all municipal water and sewerage services will be transferred to Water and Sewerage Corporations. The Corporations may serve the area of one or more municipality, although in the latter case all municipalities in the service coverage area have to agree. The Corporations have quality of service obligations and are required to obtain a permit from the Ministry of the Interior. The Corporations may be owned either by the municipality (ies) in whose service area they operate or by private investors. The Government may intervene in the operation of the Corporation, including transferring the provision of the services to another entity in case of failure in service provision, including in case of bankruptcy. [ [http://www.emwis-il.org/EN/Water_legislation/legislation_01.htm#The_Water_and_Sewerage_Corporations_Law,_5761_-_2001 EMWIS:Israel Water Legislation. The Water and Sewerage Corporations Law, 5761 - 2001] ]

An example of a multi-municipal utility that precedes the 2001 law is the Dan Regional Sewerage Board (Shafdan), which includes seven municipalities in and around Tel Aviv. It owns the Dan wastewater treatment plant, the largest wastewater treatment plant in the country which treats about 130 million cubic meters of wastewater annually for reuse in agriculture (see under reclaimed water). Mekorot operates the plant on behalf of Shafdan.

Financial aspects and efficiency

In Israel water tariffs are levied for all uses and at all stages of production, from groundwater abstraction, to bulk water sales to final users. Investments are financed both through self-financing from water sales revenues, through commercial debt and through various subsidies paid to municipalities and to Mekorot.

Fees and tariffs

Abstraction Fees In 1999, during a severe drought, it was decided that all those extracting water from water sources would be charged with an extraction levy. The obligation for payment of the extraction levy falls on the extractor who can pass the costs on to the consumers. [ [http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2002/8/Israel-s%20Water%20Economy%20-%20Thinking%20of%20future%20genera Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel's Water Economy - Thinking of future generations, 10 Aug 2002] ]

Mekorot bulk water tariffs The prices Mekorot is entitled to charge are the rates set by the Ministers of National Infrastructures and Finance, approved by the Knesset's Finance Committee, and updated from time to time according to the changes in the Consumer Price Index, electricity rates and the average wage index. [ [http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2002/8/Israel-s%20Water%20Economy%20-%20Thinking%20of%20future%20genera Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel's Water Economy - Thinking of future generations, 10 Aug 2002] ] The rates are categorized by the different uses: domestic, consumption and services, industry and agriculture. The rates for industrial and agriculture uses are lower than those for domestic consumption and services. Water for agriculture is supplied on a less reliable basis and is of poorer quality. [ [http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2002/8/Israel-s%20Water%20Economy%20-%20Thinking%20of%20future%20genera Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel's Water Economy - Thinking of future generations, 10 Aug 2002] ] Subsidies are provided for agriculture and for remote and elevated localities. The bulk water tariff for a specific use is the same throughout the country, irrespective of the difference in costs of supplying water to a specific locality. [ [http://vague.eurecom.fr/countries/semide/PDF/Sogesid-israel EMWIS: Local Water Supply, Sanitation and Sewage – Country Report Israel, November 2005, p. 16, quoting the Ministry of Infrastructure] ]

Domestic water tariffs charged by local authorities are set by the Ministers of Interior and Finance. They are progressive (increasing-blockl) tariffs. The first price is for the initial 8 cubic meters per month for each housing unit. The second price is for the next 7 cubic meters. For each additional cubic meter, the price increases gradually. Large families are accorded water price benefits - each additional family member over 4 persons is entitled to 3 additional cubic meters a month charged according to the first rate. In condominiums apartments usually have their own meters. [ [http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2002/8/Israel-s%20Water%20Economy%20-%20Thinking%20of%20future%20genera Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel's Water Economy - Thinking of future generations, 10 Aug 2002] ] In 2005 the average household expenditures on water stood at 0.9% of total household consumption expenditures. [ [http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/shnaton/templ_shnaton_e.html?num_tab=st05_26&CYear=2007 Statistical Abstract of Israel 2007:Composition of Consumption Expenditures of Households, by Sub-Groups] ]


The total investment in the sector consists of investments by Mekorot in bulk water supply (including water supply for domestic uses, industry and agriculture), as well as investments by municipalities in drinking water distribution, sewerage and wastewater treatment. If half of the Mekorot investments of US$ 240 million in 2006 can be attributed to domestic water supply (US$ 120 million), and US$ 125 million were invested by municipalities in sanitation (see below), total investments in drinking water supply and sanitation stood at at least US$ 245 million per year, excluding investments in desalination plants under BOO schemes and excluding investments in drinking water distribution by municipalities.


Municipalities receive grants and soft loans in order to finance investments, particularly in wastewater treatment. These subsidies are channeled through various funds, such as the Water Networks Rehabilitation Fund, the National Sewage Program and the Wastewater Renovation and Reuse Program. [ [http://vague.eurecom.fr/countries/semide/PDF/Sogesid-israel EMWIS: Local Water Supply, Sanitation and Sewage – Country Report Israel, November 2005, p. 14 and p. 16, quoting the Ministry of Infrastructure] ] The State invests about NIS 450 million per year (about US$ 125 million) in sanitation through these funds, mostly in the form of long term subsidized loans (20 years, 5% interest), and some in the form of grants. [ [http://www.mni.gov.il/mni/en-US/Water/Sewage/ Ministry of National Infrastructures:Sewage Infrastructures] ]

Mekorot receives a subsidy from the Ministry of Finance to cover the difference between its supply costs and the tariffs it is allowed to charge to its customers. Between 1993 and 1999 government support to Mekorot declined from 40% to 23% of its turnover, to a large extent because of an increase in the efficiency of Mekorot. This has been induced by a change introduced in 1994, whereby Mekorot's tariffs were not set any more under a cost-plus formula, but a 2.5% annual factor for efficiency increases was built into the tariff formula. [ [http://vague.eurecom.fr/countries/semide/PDF/Sogesid-israel EMWIS: Local Water Supply, Sanitation and Sewage – Country Report Israel, November 2005, p. 16, quoting the Ministry of Infrastructure] ]

Most large-scale seawater desalination plants are being privately financed as BOT projects. The Hadera plant, for example, is led, for the first time, by a consortium of foreign banks, and amounts to NIS 1.5 billion according to the following breakdown: 50% The European Investment Bank (EIB); 25% the French Calyon Corporate and Investment Bank, which specializes in long term projects; 25% Banco Espirito Santo (BES), a Portuguese investment bank. [ [http://www.mni.gov.il/mni/en-US/Energy/Messages/SpokesmanDesalinationFacilityHadera.htm Ministry of National Infrastructures: Desalination Facility in Hadera] ]

Mekorot Finances

Throughout its history, the National Water Company Mekorot has been financially stable according to information published on its website. In 2006, Mekorot's turnover was over $700 million, shareholders’ equity was $500 million and total assets were in excess of $2.8 billion. In 2006, Mekorot invested over $240 million in developing water facilities, including a new central filtration plant, compared with $180 million in investments in 2005. For a number of years Mekorot's fundraising instruments (primarily, bond offerings) have been awarded the highest AAA rating by the Ma’alot credit rating agency based on the following factors: Because tariffs established by the government are low and do not cover Mekorot's operating costs, the company receives compensation for the difference between what it costs to produce a unit of water and what it is allowed to charge. The level of subsidies is fixed in multi-annual agreements, the first one having covered the period 1993-98, the second one 1998-2006 and the third one for a much shorter period, 2007-08. [ [http://www.mekorot.co.il/Eng/Mekorot/Finance/Pages/default.aspx Mekorot Finance] ]


The history of water and sanitation in modern-day Israel can be distinguished into various phases. During a development phase until the late 1960s the emphasis was on expanding conventional water supply, with little attention to demand management. This was followed by more emphasis on water reuse and demand management in the 1970s and 80s. The 1990s witnessed the settlement of water disputes with Jordan and a temporary agreement with the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo Peace Process. Finally, in 2000 a prolonged drought and concerns about the impacts of climate change led the government to adopt a massive seawater desalination program, which has since then been implemented, albeit with some significant delays.

Development phase (until 1969)

* 1937 Establishment of Mekorot as Israel's national water company
* 1948 Laying of the Shiloach Pipeline along the Burma Road to Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. This was followed by three more pipelines to Jerusalem in 1953, 1979 and 1994
* 1955 Completion of the first pipeline to the Negev
* 1959 Water Law
* 1961 Establishment of the Rain Enhancement department of Mekorot, increasing rainfall by 13%-18%
* 1964 Completion of the National Water Carrier
* 1964/5 Building of the Brackish Water Pipeline, designed to divert brackish ground water from infiltrating the Sea of Galilee and transport it for agricultural use in the Negev region

Promotion of the use of reclaimed water (1969-1980s)

*1969 Establishment of the Shafdan Water Treatment Plant in central Israel to treat approximately 130 million cubic meters of wastewater per year
*1970 Cholera outbreak because of illegal irrigation of salad with untreated wastewater. This gave rise to major investments in wastewater treatment under the National Sewerage Plan.
*Since the 1970s reuse and demand-side management
*1984 Inauguration of the Kishon Wastewater Treatment Plant in Northern Israel that provides 20 million cubic meters of treated wastewater a year for agricultural use in the fertile Jezreel Valley, maximizing distribution potential during high-demand periods

Agreements on water sharing (1995)

The 1995 Interim Agreement as part of the Oslo Peace Process provided certain quantities of water to the Palestinians, but prevents them from drilling any new wells in the Mountain Aquifer. The surface water of the Jordan River remains disputed with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians. Only with Jordan Israel was able to reach an agreement on the sharing of water resources in 1995 as part of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.

Seawater desalination since 1997

In 1997, the first reverse osmosis desalination plant in Israel opened in Eilat. In 2002, under the impact of drought, the Government approved the construction of large seawater desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast. These installations would supply 305 million m3/yr of desalinated water by the year 2010 and 500 million m3/yr by 2015. [ [http://www.emwis-il.org/EN/Water_context/context_12.htm#Desalination EMWIS::Israel Water Context:Alternative Water Sources - Desalination] ] By mid-2008 two of the new plants with a capacity of 130 million m3/yr were in operation.

In parallel to the desalination program the cabinet also decided to promote water savings activities that could reduce household water use by at least 10 percent.

Sector Reform since 2006

In May 2006 Israel's parliament, the Knesset, enacted a fundamental change to the governmental management structure of the water sector by amending the Water Law of 1959. Prior to the law, in more and more instances the Water Commissioner needed to obtain the consent of other governmental authorities for the exercise of his functions. A governmental committee concluded in 2005 that the diffusion of the functions pertaining to the water sector among governmental agencies prevented the Water Commissioner from exercising his responsibility in a proper manner.

The 2006 amendment provided for the transfer of various powers and responsibilities from Ministries and Agencies to a newly created Governmental Authority for Water and Sewerage (the "Governmental Authority"). The Governmental Authority is composed of the staff of the former Water Commission augmented by units transferred from those ministries and agencies. The transfer of responsibilities and powers from the respective ministries to the Governmental Authority is a gradual one and is scheduled to be completed in 2010 with the transfer of the responsibilities concerning the Corporations and sewerage services pursuant to the Water and Sewerage Corporations Law of 2001. [ [http://www.emwis-il.org/EN/Water_legislation/legislation_05.htm#The_Governmental_Authority_for_Water_and_Sewerage EMWIS Israel: The Governmental Authority for Water and Sewerage] ]

Impact of Climate Change and further infrastructure expansion (2007 onwards)

In July 2007 Water Commissioner Uri Shani warned about a decline in rainfall, exacerbating Israel's water crisis. "The drop in water supply derives from atmospheric contamination, which affects cloud composition and causes a drop in rainfall levels. Every year we record less water entering Lake Kinneret in the winter. Another factor in the drop in water supply is contamination of the coastal aquifer, which reduces the amount of water that can be pumped out." [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/877283.html Haaretz:Water Authority chief warns of possible shortage in 2008] , July 2, 2007 ]

In 2007 Mekorot inaugurated its advanced Central Filtration Plant at the company's Eshkol facility. Built at a cost of more than $100 million, the sophisticated plant has annual filtering capacity in excess of 500 million cubic meters per year. It is the largest plant of its type in Israel and one of the largest in the world

In 2008 Mekorot is in the process of laying the "fifth pipeline to Jerusalem" to be completed around 2012. The line will double the quantity of water to the city and surrounding communities and provide 150 million cubic meters annually, including desalinated water. [ [http://www.mekorot.co.il/Eng/Mekorot/Pages/MessagefromtheChairman.aspx Mekorot: Message from the Chairman of the Board, Eli Ronen] ]

In March 2008 National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Water Authority head Uri Shani decided to examine new ways to increase the capabilities of the Dan Region's treatment facilities. The water authority is considering two alternatives. The first is to find new areas for building conventional wastewater treatment plants as well as places where reclaimed water can be stored. Another alternative is to build more expensive, but less land-intensive membrean bioreactors. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/972216.html Government mulling plan to upgrade Dan Region's sewage system] , Haaretz, April 08, 2008 ] In 2006 the Dan Regional Wastewater Board had come under criticism for plans to incinerate sludge from Israel's largest wastewater treatment plant to replace the current practice of dumping the sludge into the sea. Critics argue that the sludge should be used as fertilizer in agriculture. [ [http://www.zalul.org/en/artical100.asp Zalul protests against the Shafdan's plan to construct a thermal plant that will cost 957 million shekels, February, 2006] ]

Parliamentary inquiry into reaction to water crisis (2008)

In July 2008 the Knesset State Control Committee decided to establish a state commission of inquiry into the serious water crisis facing Israel. The committee would look at the failure to implement the recommendations of a series of professional committees and cabinet resolutions aimed at addressing the water situation over the years. At the same time the Minister for National Infrastructures, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, called the present crisis "the worst ever in Israeli history". In 2008 Israeli desalinization capacity was less than a third of the amount set by the cabinet at the end of the last water crisis in 2002, mostly due to a slowdown in preparing tenders after a few years of relatively high rainfall. The planned water-saving activities were stopped completely and were resumed only in 2006, but at an unsatisfactory slow pace. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1006376.html Haaretz, July 30, 2008] ]

External links

* [http://www.mni.gov.il/mni/en-us Ministry of National Infrastructures]
* [http://www.mekorot.co.il/Eng/Pages/default.aspx Mekorot Israel National Water Company]
* [http://www.tahal.com/Templates/Homepage/Homepage.aspx?FolderID=11&lang=en Tahal Group]


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