After seven dry years that sent Israel into somewhat of a water austerity regiment the Water Authority announced last week that it was lifting the "severe drought" advisory issued for the water market several year ago.
"The water crisis is over," said Water Authority Head Alexander Kushner, adding that while the water market is stable, Israelis should not become complacent.
According to the Water Authority, while the heavy rains of late were a blessed addition to Lake Kinneret – Israel's main source of freshwater – it is the fast-growing desalination and water reclamation industry that is responsible for bringing Israel back from the brink.
According to Kushner, that is also the reason why water prices have not been decreased. Desalination and water reclamation, he told Yedioth Aharonoth, "Is an expensive endeavor."
Other than the high costs of the process itself, the State's contracts vis-à-vis the desalination facilities stipulate that they will be paid on a regular basis, even when there is a rainwater surplus that the water market can hypothetically rely on.
"Manufacturing water cost money – there's no way around it," Kushner explained. "Nevertheless, we are exploring how we can reduce the number of water corporations, which can bring about a 5% savings. We're also looking into efficiency measures as well as a new rates system."
There are currently three major desalination plants in Israel, in Ashkelon, Hadera and Palmachim and together they supply nearly 50% of Israel's drinking water needs. Two new facilities are slated to become operational between 2013 and 2014, in Sorek and Ashdod, increasing that amount by 25%.
According to Kushner, while the importance of precipitation-abundant years remains high, Israel's dependency on them is diminishing. "Good rainfall gives us a safety net," he explained. "It allows us a safe distance from red lines and underground water reservoirs.
"With the correct water market management we can create an actual 'safety zone' that will last until 2025 – even if we go through another two or three dry years," he said.
The head of the Water Authority stressed that despite the water market's good state, the public still has to avoid wasting water.
"The basic water conservation rules, like not watering gardens indiscriminately, washing cars with hoses etcetera, still apply… and over the past few years, we've seen the public adopt them. The average household water consumption has decreased by 10% compared to the previous decade. "