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Prospects for agricultural water management
To reduce water demand and increase water supply, in July 2000 and in April 2001 the Ministerial Economic and Social Committee, headed by the Prime Minister, took among others the decisions to:
- Take steps to increase the efficiency of use and savings with the object of reaching additional savings of 200 million m3 of freshwater per year for the next three years—half from municipal consumption and half from agricultural consumption;
- Establish plants for water desalination at a production capacity of 200 million m3 with supply to start in 2004;
- Prepare a programme for the desalination of brackish water with an objective of 50 million m3 over the next three years;
- Allocate 50 million m3 of water for the conservation of nature;
- Remove obstacles to effluent reuse and advance plans for upgrading effluent quality to allow maximum use of effluents in agriculture, industry, nature and landscape, without harming the environment and groundwater;
- Reclaim contaminated wells and increase production and transport capacity;
- Contract a private developer for the supply of water from the deep-water aquifer in Mishor Rotem at a rate of 30 million m3 per year;
- Increase water tariffs in order to reduce water demand for municipal gardening, home gardening, the domestic sector and the agricultural sector;
- Promulgate regulations on water savings in the urban sector including water-saving devices, car washing, facilities for water recycling, cooling towers, etc;
- Continue the public information campaign on water conservation until 2003;
- Establish an inter-ministerial team under the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office for coordination and control purposes.
While Israel has one of the best performing water sectors in the world, it still faces crucial challenges most of which are characteristic of a mature water economy operating in an acute water stress condition. These challenges include:
- Addressing the potential side-effects for increasing brackish water and wastewater use in agriculture (e.g., groundwater contamination, soil sanity, and health hazards);
- Allowing and facilitating the exchange of water permits to promote market-based water allocation and compensation;
- Redefining the role of public agencies to avoid centralization and permit private sector participation;
- Making the Water Commission free from political pressures and rebuilding its own planning and regulatory capabilities;
- Building consensus on crucial areas of disagreement (e.g., supply augmentation through water transfers from Lebanon and Turkey and sea water desalination, installing national/regional carriers for saline/waste water collection and distribution, and decentralization and privatization of Mekorot); and
- Sharing water with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and creating institutional structures for the joint management of shared groundwater aquifers.
The first three issues were addressed by the 1997 report of the Public Commission on Water Sector. With an already exhausted freshwater supply, an estimated future annual growth in water demand of 30 million m3 means the inevitable need for costly options like sea water desalination (World Bank, 1999).
A study based on a Ricardian model tested the relationship between annual net revenues and climate across Israeli farms. Including the amount of irrigation water available to each farm, the model predicts that only modest climate changes are beneficial while drastic climate change in the long run will be harmful. Using the Atmospheric Oceanic Global Circulation Models Scenarios it was shown that farm net revenue was expected to increase by 16 percent in 2020 while in 2100 farm net revenue was expected to drop by 60 percent to 39 percent varying between the different scenarios. Although Israel has a relatively warm climate, a mild increase in temperature is beneficial due to the ability to supply international markets with farm products early in the season (World Bank, 2007).