05/24/2011 02:03

FM Yuval Steinitz signs agreement approving new factory near Ashdod, which will make 65% of Israel’s water from desalinated sources.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed an agreement on Monday approving the construction and operation of a new desalination facility in Soreq, near Ashdod, which upon completion will make Israel’s domestic water consumption 65 percent reliant on desalinated sources.

With an annual output of 150 million cubic meters of water produced through a process of reverse osmosis, the project will result in one of the world’s largest desalination plants and cost the government $400 million, according to the ministry.

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Following an international tender, the ministry chose SDL – 51% of which is owned by IDE Technologies and 49% by Hutchison Water International Holdings Pte. – to design, plan and run the plant. The target date for completion is in 2013.

In addition to government funds, the European Investment Bank, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi have invested in the project, the ministry said.

“This is the fourth desalination plant that the state is establishing in successful and efficient cooperation with the private sector,” Steinitz said. “With the completion of the facility, which is one of the largest desalination plants in the world, desalinated water will account for 65% of household water consumption in the economy. This process will substantially contribute to solving Israel’s water crisis.”

He added that investment in the project by international companies proved “the robustness of the Israeli economy.”

Steinitz signed the agreement during a ceremony and press conference on Sunday in the presence of National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, Finance Ministry accountantgeneral Shuki Oren, acting Water Authority CEO Oded Fixler, and representatives from both Hutchison and IDE.

“The efforts of the National Infrastructures Ministry have come to fruition and the true beneficiary of these efforts is the Israeli citizen. We fight for every drop of water,” Landau said. “Like the ‘finance minister of nature,’ I am proud to say that I am responsible for the fact that even after six years of drought, while our neighbors in the Middle East gave water to their citizens by means of tankers, residents of Israel are opening the tap and getting water.”