Israel’s Water Authority says it is phasing out the practice of shutting off water supply to customers who have not paid their bills, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.
Dep. Dir. of the Israel Water Authority Tammy Shore said that new rules soon to be presented to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee will be aimed at totally discontinuing the shutoffs.
The problem is widespread. Currently, tens of thousands of consumers every year are unable to pay their water bills, most of whom live under the poverty line.
Water Authority Spokesman Uri Schor noted that the authority had in fact already submitted new rules, which would have given “protection from disconnection to about one-third of the Israeli population, among them: the needy, the disabled, Holocaust survivors and others.”
But the authority was forced to revise the rules after an Economic Affairs Committee objected to the format.
Committee chairman MK Avishay Braverman (Labor) praised the Water Authority’s decision to re-submit their proposal, at the committee’s behest.
“The Water Authority decision demonstrated tremendous social sensitivity and public courage,” Braverman said. “Water disconnections are an unethical tool to pressure citizens to pay water bills. Citizens must pay their debts, but in a country where poverty rates are among the highest in the Western world, we cannot leave families with children, elderly, and sick people without water.”
The MKs also held meetings with Udi Adiri, deputy director of the Finance Ministry Budget Department and representatives of the ministry to discuss a plan to increase the collection capacity of the Water Authority without disconnecting water supply.
“There is no doubt that water disconnections present a problem so we are willing to consider alternatives, but it must be understood that water is a product and you have to pay for it,” said Adiri.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor), while welcoming the authority’s proposal, added another of his own: “Instead of disconnecting the water to people, we need to close down the corporations themselves who increased the water rates in Israel sky high.”