Gishmei Brachah Helping, But Israelis Need to Save Water, Says Minister

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Tel Aviv beach on Tuesday, a windy winter day. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The gishmei brachah that have fallen in recent weeks are helping, but they haven’t been able to make up for four years of sub-par rainfall, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said, at a conference on water issues. Winter 2017-2018 is shaping up to be the fifth straight year in which Israel is not getting more than 70 percent of the rain it needs, and as such, it is necessary to enact emergency measures to save water and increase supply, Steinitz said.

According to Steinitz, Israel’s water sources, including aquifers and streams, are at a 100-year low, which is as long as measurements have been taken. Despite recent rains, the trend is down for this year, a process that will be accelerated during the summer months, as demand rises and evaporation increases. The minister quoted hydrological experts as saying that if things don’t improve by next winter, the country’s water system could have trouble supplying drinking water without drastic steps to save water.

In preparation, Steinitz called for an immediate plan to be developed to build more desalination plants, despite the extensive costs involved. Along with increasing supply, the country will have to enact emergency measures to save water, including raising the cost of water for consumers, businesses and agriculture. In addition, this summer could already see restrictions on watering home gardens and a cut in water allocations for agricultural uses. The state will also fund a major campaign to raise awareness to save water among Israelis, the minister said.

A major winter storm is predicted for Israel for the weekend. Forecasters said that a rare weather system will blow in from the north overnight Wednesday (as opposed to the weather systems that usually come in from the west), bringing cold weather and possibly snow to many parts of the country.