Gov't study: Water usage from natural sources down since 1967
By Zafrir Rinat Haaretz 6 April 2008
Contrary to established opinion, water consumption from natural sources in
Israel has actually decreased since the Six-Day War, even though the
population more than doubled, a recent study found.
The state Water Authority conducted the study, among other reasons, to
refute a claim made by international water experts that Israel launched the
1967 war to increase its water pumping capacity.
The main factor in the study's findings is the major increase in use of
purified wastewater for agricultural irrigation. Half of the consumption in
recent years has been met also through two large desalination plants.
Despite this, Israel is in a severe crisis because several cycles of draught
years over the past two decades created steep drops in the level of Lake
Kinneret and groundwater reservoirs, even though overall water consumption
did not go up.
According to the Water Authority's data, the annual natural water
consumption for 1967 was 1.4 billion cubic meters. In 2006 it was 1.23
billion cubic meters. The rest, some 600,000 cubic meters, were supplied
through purified wastewater and desalination plants.
"That figure refutes the claim that we started the war to utilize more
water," the official in charge of water issues with the Palestinians and
Jordanians, Baruch Nagar, said.
Nagar is referring to a contention made last month in an interview with
Haaretz by the German hydrogeologist Clemens Messerschmid, who serves as a
consultant on water projects for the Palestinians in the territories: "For
Israel to consume all the water it does, it must keep that water away from
its neighbors and from the people it is occupying - and this is evident in
the Golan, Lebanon, Jordan and the occupied territories."
When the total natural water consumption is divided per capita, it yields
another surprising statistic: Annual consumption in Israel decreased from
508 cubic meters per capita in 1967 to 170 cubic meters today. The latter
figure also reflects changes in agriculture, since household water
consumption rose steadily.
Use of treated wastewater for irrigation also influences the existing
thinking on saving water. At an Israeli Water Association conference last
month, the Water Authority's director, Prof. Uri Shani, said that Israeli
household consumption is "perfectly reasonable." Most household water winds
up being recycled for irrigation, Shani claimed, but this is not the case
with water for public parks and gardens, so that is the area where savings
measures are most in need.