11/23/2010 01:54

Calls for boosting the output of existing solutions; Ongoing lack of rainfall leads to deficit of 400-600 million cu.m. per year; Knesset inaugurates water lobby.

Both Water Authority head Prof. Uri Shani and Mekorot CEO Ido Rosolio confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the emergency plan they expect to present to the cabinet this Sunday will include a mixture of tried and true methods rather than any completely new solutions.

They declined to discuss the plan in detail before it is presented.

“There are no magic solutions,” Rosolio said after the inauguration of the Knesset Lobby to Ensure Water for Israel headed by Kadima MK Yoel Hasson.

“We’re talking about more drilling, more desalination,” he told the Post. Regarding finding land for reservoirs in the center of the country to store the desalinated water – an issue which the Post has discussed in depth with him in the past – he said there was a little progress, but not much.

“The plan will be a mixture of solutions,” Shani told the Post, but did not indicate there would be any surprise solutions.

The plan is meant to cover the gap until all the desalination plants are up and running and the water supply begins to stabilize.

This could be Shani’s last appearance before the cabinet as he finishes up four years in the position in January. A search committee has been set up to find a replacement, although there remains a possibility that a temporary head from within the authority will serve for a few months until the committee finishes interviewing candidates and presenting their recommendations to the national infrastructures minister, sources told the Post.

Hasson formed the new lobby to ensure that water management policy was being developed for the long term. A respectable number of MKs from across the political spectrum put in an appearance and pledged to raise the water issue in the committees on which they sit such as Foreign Affairs and Defense and Economic Affairs Committees.

At the launch of the lobby, Shani described an increasing downward trend in precipitation over the years.

“When I was studying water resources at university in 1974, the commonly quoted number was 1.5 billion cubic meters of water from natural sources per year available to Israel. When I entered the Water Authority, I had that number checked and discovered it had not been accurate for a number of years. Lately, that number has shrunk to 1.17b. cubic meters per year.

“This year, we are looking at just 800 or 900 million cubic meters. That means there’s over 400m. cubic meters missing between the estimates and the reality,” Shani said.

Turning to predictions for rainfall, if, as the authority expects, rainfall only reaches 50-60 percent of the average, that will lead to the need to uproot grove and orchards and to let gardens and parks dry out, Shani warned.

However, he also described a downward trend in water usage per person.

“From 2000 to 2006, the average amount of water used per person was 105 cubic meters a year. With the rise in the standard of living in 2007, that number jumped to 108. In the first half of 2008, it reached 110. However, the public has done a really remarkable job at reducing its water use. Today, the number is 88 cubic meters per person per year and we hope to bring that even lower next year,” he said.

Shani attributed the rallying of the public to two factors: First, the public realized there isn’t any water. Two, he said, whether we like it or not, raising the price of water has caused people to think twice about using a lot of it.

Mekorot’s Rosolio pointed out the energy cost of the desalination plants.

“Right now, Mekorot uses 6% of the electricity generated by the Israel Electric Corporation.

With the addition of the desalination plants, that will rise to 9-10%,” he said.

Water infrastructure is the most expensive basic service, he said. It is twice as resource intensive as electricity and three times as expensive as gas or communications.

The Knesset lobby also invited the participants of Friends of the Earth Middle East’s Good Water Neighbors program to come and talk to MKs about the program. The initiative pairs communities on either side of the Green Line to work on water issues together.

Tamar Greidinger of Tsur Hadassah, just outside Jerusalem, explained to the Post the nature of the relationship with the nearby Wadi Fukin community.

“We support the residents of the village in their struggles with the institutions of the establishment. They don’t have the knowledge to act, when, for instance, the Beitar municipality lets sewage flow into their village. So we go talk to the municipality.

“Their spring is drying out because of the massive building in the area,” she claimed, “we want to take our model of friendly ties and multiply it across the country and reach a point of joint management of water resources,” Greidinger said. She is the Jerusalem educational programs manager for the Adams Institute for Democracy and Peace and the longest running participant in the program with seven years of volunteering under her belt.