Desalinated water is being connected to Israel’s national distribution system for the first time.
On January 1 Israel’s national water company Mekorot raised water rates by 25 percent in order to pay for the incorporation of desalinated water into the national water system, Israel National News reports.
Despite the rate increase, Mekorot’s CEO believes it is not enough to allow the company to cover its costs.
“An even larger price increase is necessary in order to cover the higher cost of desalinated water and the necessary upgrades to the water distribution infrastructure in the coming years,” Ido Rosolio said to Global Water Intelligence.
Mekorot’s national water carrier runs from Lake Kinneret in the north to the Negev Desert in the south, providing 80 percent of Israel’s drinking water. Water from Israel’s desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast is being added to the national carrier in an east-west expansion of the system.
The price increase, which will jump another 16 percent this summer, will pay for the upgrade and encourage water conservation, according to Israeli officials.
“We have another three hard years of having to save water,” said Uri Shani, head of Israel’s Water Authority, to a Knesset committee INN reports. “But without this reform in water rates, we won’t be able to pay for new desalination plants, nor connect them to the water distribution network, nor prevent water loss in these systems.”
Israel’s third desalination plant, located in Hadera, recently became operational. Government officials are trying to replace freshwater use with desalinated water to prevent water levels in Lake Kinneret from dropping. The lake, also known as the Sea of Galilee, is 1.5 meters lower now than at this time two years ago, according to INN.
Once the Hadera plant is fully operational, Israel will draw more water from desalination plants than Lake Kinneret.
Mekorot published a report on the state of Lake Kinneret in October 2009. Company officials said there is a 38 percent chance that the water in the lake will drop below the black line this year – a point at which pumping is no longer possible.
To prevent this from happening Mekorot initiated an emergency well drilling program in 2008-2009, reducing water withdrawals from Kinneret by almost half. Conservation efforts and a drought tax in Israeli cities decreased total water use by nine percent, Ha’aretz reports.
Construction is underway on two more desalination plants at Ashdod and Sorek. When these come on line in 2012 nearly 80 percent of household demand will be supplied by desalinated water, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton