The state of water in Israel
- There are several reasons that the water shortage in Israel has reached such extreme proportions:
- Aridity of the region and scarcity of natural water sources
- Reduced supply: seven years of drought have deprived natural water sources of adequate replenishment
- Increased demand: A growing population and a rising standard of living have led to a sharp increase in water consumption
- Errors in managing the water economy
- Overexploitation of water resources have brought Israel's aquifers and the Kinneret, its only freshwater lake, to dangerously low levels, where they risk pollution and increased salinity.
- The cumulative deficit in Israel’s renewable water resources is approximately 530 billion gallons, which is equivalent to one year of national water consumption, or more than 2,000 Empire State Buildings full of water.
- With constantly shrinking aquifers and precipitation levels, the Mediterranean Sea has begun to infiltrate Israel’s underground water resources. In some cases this process is irreversible.
- The water levels of Lake Kinneret have declined precipitously in recent years, frequently reaching very close to the “Black Line”—the level below which pumps can no longer operate.
- A declining level of the Kinneret also means that the lake’s water mass is reduced, causing saline springs at the bottom of the lake to flow at an increased rate. This can lead to an environmental downward spiral and cause a proliferation of algae that use up the oxygen in the water. If the lake becomes too salty, it will cease to be a viable source of drinking water.
- In a normal, non-drought year, Israel gets seven billion cubic meters of precipitation. However, only about a quarter is collected in the aquifers or above-ground reservoirs and the Kinneret. The rest is either lost to evaporation or as surface run-off into the sea.
- Two thirds of Israel’s land mass qualifies as desert (defined by annual rainfall levels below 10”). The Galilee in the north receives about 35” of rain a year and Tel Aviv about 20”, while Eilat gets only 1”. So, 2/3 of the rain in Israel falls on only 1/3 of its land mass.
Measures to Curb Consumption
- In 2009 and 2010, household water consumption decreased to the lowest levels in 20 years, due to an aggressive public relations campaign as well as economic penalties.
- Average bi-monthly water bill for a family of four in a major city:
Nov-Dec 2008 – NIS 308.4 - $88.11
Nov-Dec 2009 – NIS 1,189.4 - $339.82 (drought tax = NIS 680 - $194.28)
Nov-Dec 2010 – NIS 796.6 - $227.60
Non-conventional water resources: desalination and wastewater recycling
- Israel’s main concern is its capacity to supply water for household use.
- Domestic consumption makes up 38% of total water usage in Israel.
- Israel currently supplies just under 50% of household water needs with desalinated water produced in three different facilities. Its goal is to construct a few more plants and supply all household needs by 2020.
- The agriculture sector in Israel accounts for 56% of the country’s total water usage. The Water Authority aims to reduce the agriculture sector’s use of potable water so it can be saved for domestic consumption.
- Where will the water for agriculture come from? High-quality purified wastewater.
- Israel recycles 75% of its effluents—the highest rate in the world. Spain comes in second at 13%. Even still, vast amounts of treated water are lost to the sea simply because there are not enough reservoirs to store the water. Israel’s goal is to utilize 95% of treated wastewater by 2020, making continued reservoir construction vital.