We are experiencing the beginnings of a water crisis. Hydrologists have advised the government that we had better take special measures, since we are using our water 15% faster than it can be replenished. That means that at the present rate there won't be any. The government is already negotiating the purchase of water from Turkey, to be shipped in giant plastic barges. Meanwhile, we are irresponsibly polluting the water we have.

In the Jerusalem post of 22 June 1990, Tel Aviv area residents were advised to boil their water until further notice. Coli bacteria had somehow entered the municipal water system. Mekorot- the national water carrier- claimed that they had done the appropriate tests, and that the water entered the region without these bacteria. Chief Health official, Ms. Adler, guesssed that the presence of algae had caused this problem.

Where did these algae come from- since we all know that algae need sunlight to grow? Had they entered through mekorot pipelines, or had they been present in reservoirs? What happened to monitoring & water purification systems?

The answer to the last question was answered for me in June 25th's Jerusalem post. There was no water purification system. There is heavy chlorination- up to maximum allowable- and no filters. Soon (when?) we will have filters- we start paying for them in our bills from next month.

The paper also reassured us that Jerusalem's water comes from underground sources, and is of superior quality, and we don't need to boil it, whereas Tel Aviv's water comes from the Kinneret via the National Water carrier.

However, Tel Aviv has actually had a better record for water purity than Jerusalem, though marginally. Groundwater is less easily contaminated, but it is almost impossible to monitor and control.

73% of Israel's water is used for agriculture.

22% ............................. domestic purposes

5% ............................. industry.

We try to keep a 3 year reserve -

1250 MCM (million cubic metres) in the coastal aquifer-(receives 300-350 MCM each year) and 1000 MCM in the mountain aquifer (receives 400 MCM each year)

40% of our water is stored in the Kinneret, reaching us via water carrier (most of this to Tel Aviv, coast). 60% comes from groundwater- underground sources. (Jerusalem, highlands)

60% of urban wastewater is re-used for agriculture. There are plans to increase this to 80%, but since the water quality has become very degraded lately, this may not happen. Total water recycled amounts to over 6% of all Israel's water- with plans to increase this to 15%. Israel leads the world in water re-use. This means that about 25% of the water we receive for domestic use is actually recycled.


*Chemical fertilizers- (which could be partly replaced by recycling organic waste),

*pesticides- (which can be replaced by hormone and parasite, predator control systems)

*non biodegradable and highly toxic industrial waste, (which should be monitored better- laws should be passed and enforced.)

*seawater- when water demand on the coast is high, especially from agriculture, seawater penetrates the coastal groundwater systems. *domestic waste water,

*animal dung, leaching from solid waste (especially organic)


*storage tanks- (should be cleaned regularly)

*penetration into municipal systems through pipes.

*from water source

*malfunctions in disinfecting equipment- i.e. inadequate chlorination.


*Put a brick, or a bottle or two filled with water(!) in the W.C. Or don't flush it every time. 40% of domestic water is used to flush toilets.

*Use the Israeli soap and rinse method- for dishes- and for personal showers. ("Navy showers"- get wet- soap-scrub-rinse) Other ways of washing and bathing are extremely wasteful.

*Fix all leaks immediately. Report public leaks and follow up- make yourself a nuisance till something is done!

I think that one way we can all protect our water is, strangely enough, by conserving our food. Over 50% of Israeli domestic waste is organic- waste & spoiled food, peels etc. It follows that by minimising our organic waste we are reducing risk of water contamination later. Less waste results in less demand- which means that land, pesticides and agricultural processes will be to greater real effect. BAL TASHCHIS!

*Avoid spoiling- check your fruit and vegetables every day- make sure they are eaten before they spoil.

*Use left overs- puree them & put them in soups, casserole them, make a fry up, put left-over sandwiches into the food processor with an egg & make instant burgers.

*Don't buy more than you will use!

*Compost your own organic waste in a metal drum with a lid- and holes in the bottom for drainage, to make your own garden fertilizer.

*I would like to be able to say- "eat those healthy peels" but I don't advise it because of pesticide residues and it is much more difficult to see if unpeeled vegetables are wormy. Most pesticides are designed to break down within a few days of application- but there are insufficient controls on which pesticides are used, and how soon before harvesting they are used. Chemicals are also added during storage. Buy organic!

Other action- write to the Municipality and to Knesset members, asking for proper legislation and control of water systems. They will probably tell you they don't have the money to pay inspectors. Insist they tell you exactly what is, and what is not being done. I can supply a list of M.K.s.

The data above are taken from Joyce Whitman's book- "The Environment in Israel" -published by the Government Print. If you want this book, or the quarterly bulletins from the Ministry of the Environment, call the editor and distributor, Shoshanna Gabbay 669931

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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