01/13/2012 06:16

By recycling gray water Israel’s private sector could save 150 million cubic meters of water annually.
Talkbacks (9)

The government should legalize the implementation of gray water systems in homes, the Grey Water Division of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce announced on Thursday.

As the country enters its eighth year of drought and continues to experience desertification, the government should “immediately advance a law for the recycling of gray water,” something that thousands of people are already doing illegally, according to Paul Steiner, chairman of the division.

By recycling gray water – residual water from showers, washing machines, etc. – Israel’s private sector could save 150 million cubic meters of water annually, an amount equivalent to 40 percent of that sector’s consumption.

This amount is also about the same as the capacity of the two desalination plants that the country is currently building, Steiner said.

“Piracy is rampant and today – about 12,000 private facilities for recycling water in Israel are in operation, through which citizens are using shower and laundry water for garden watering and toilet flushing in their homes,” he added.

Legalizing the industry would create about 1,500 jobs in the market for installing and managing the systems. It would also encourage exports, which could reach $100 million within five years, according to Eran Tal, director of the Grey Water Division at the Tel Aviv and Central Israel Chamber of Commerce.

“In a country in which the Water Authority publishes a sweeping ban on watering private and public gardens between the months of December and April, something that leads to the drying of gardens during the winter months, it is fitting to make every effort to promote the most practical and greenest solution of recycling gray water,” Tal said.

Arguing that the process is safe and reputable, Tal noted that it is being used regularly in many Western countries such as Germany, Australia and Cyprus, where partial recycling systems are installed in every home and subsidized by the state.

Tal called upon the Health Ministry and other relevant government officials to consider implementing such a law.

“If Israel is heading toward desertification, the installation of gray water recycling systems in every home will be an ideal solution to the future water shortage,” he said.

While the Water Authority does not oppose using gray water systems in homes, it also does not support the notion, according to spokesman Uri Schor.

“The Water Authority isn’t against it, although it won’t [increase the water supply] from the country’s point of view,” Schor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

While allowing a private citizen to recycle his or her own water could certainly be beneficial, Israel takes an even more beneficial approach by recycling sewage on a broader level, according to Schor.

“By now, more than 75% of the sewage in Israel is recycled,” he said. “When we recycle sewage it includes water from showers, etc. – it includes gray water and black water.”

Without the inclusion of gray water in the sewage recycled, the wastewater would be much thicker, and the country would end up with less treated water available for agricultural use, Schor explained.

Although private water recycling might help raise public awareness about the importance of water, this cannot occur as long as the Health Ministry remains against the idea, he said.

The Health Ministry declined to comment about the issue.