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Reducing Water Use

Israel aims to further increase the use of treated effluent in the agricultural sector. Photo: Dan Ogle.
Israel aims to further increase the use of treated effluent in the agricultural sector. Photo: Dan Ogle.

In order to maintain water security in Israel, it is crucial that water use is reduced. The availability of natural water supplies is expected to decline by 10-15% due to climate change. However, the expected increase in population from 7.6 million people in 2015 to 15.6 million in 2050 will put significant stress on the resource unless it is managed properly.[1]

The Water Authority has outlined a number of management policies to reduce waste in all sectors. These policies include investing in education, increasing tariffs, upgraded water metering, and encouraging the use of brackish water and effluent in industry and agriculture. Additionally, the government continues to support technological advancements in water-efficient agriculture.[2]

Demand management

One of the main methods for managing demand in the agricultural and domestic sectors is the fixed water quota. This means the sectors are only allocated a certain amount of water per year. Both sectors can use water beyond this quota. However, in the agricultural sector any increases in use will only be from effluent or brackish water, whereas in the domestic sector any additional water is supplied from desalinated water. The Water Authority provides both sectors with tools, knowledge and incentives to limit waste and encourage the use of effluent and/or brackish water in the agricultural sector.

Demand management in the domestic sector is done through the blocked tariff system and through automated meter-reading systems (AMR). Areas with AMR systems have seen a 15% reduction in water use since the meters’ installation. Additionally, a severe drought in 2009 led the government to impose a water quota for municipal gardens based on the size of the garden with a maximum use of 20 MCM/yr. The same year, a multimedia campaign about the water crisis resulted in a 10% reduction in domestic consumption (76 MCM). After the campaign ended, water consumption increased again but not to previous levels. Finally, in 2010, domestic sector tariffs were increased by 40% in order to finance new desalination plants and reinforce the conservation progress made through the campaign.[3] More recently (2014-2015), the water tariffs were reduced by 15%, though demand remained stable.[4] The most recent tariffs are shown in Figure 9.

Improving efficiency

The Water Authority developed a master plan for the water sector in 2012, which outlines problems and potential solutions for improving water efficiency in the country. The main objective of the plan is “to ensure the supply of water, provision of sewage services, the reuse of wastewater and the management of drainage and runoff water with appropriate quality, quantity and reliability, and in an economically viable manner, for the sustainable benefit of all consumers”.[5]

The main objectives and timeline for improving efficiency outlined in The State of Israel’s National Water Efficiency Report can be summarized as follows:

  • Decrease reliance on potable water for irrigation in the agriculture sector from 42% to 26% by 2050 by increasing reliance on effluents for irrigation.
  • More than double the quantity of effluent provided for irrigation in the agricultural sector by 2050.
  • Continue national investments in research, development, training and demand management incentives to increase conservation and use-efficiency in the agricultural sector.
  • Maintain or decrease the domestic per capita water consumption at or below 100 m3/person/yr (as of 2009, it was 90 m3 per person).
  • Maintain natural potable water consumption rates at or below the average natural supply rate.
  • Replace natural potable water use with alternative sources: desalinated seawater, effluent and brackish water (Fig. 2, 3). Increase reliance on these alternative water sources. Supply more than half of the country’s water requirements by 2015 with these alternative water sources (Fig. 3)
  • More than double the contribution of desalinated water to the national potable water supply from 20% (307 MCM) in 2010 to 46% (809 MCM) in 2020.
  • Increase water recycling in the industrial sector by approximately 10% by 2035.

[1] Rejwan, A., 2011. The State of Israel: National Water Efficiency Report. Prepared by the Planning Department of the Israeli Water Authority.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.