JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel's National Water Authority, Mekerot, plans to reduce home water usage by 10 percent in 2009.
In a press conference on Monday, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu) presented the main components of the government's multi-pronged approach to water conservation.
Despite relatively sufficient rainfall in February and early March, it wasn't enough to make up for the fifth consecutive winter of below average precipitation.
The rainfall raised the water level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel's main source of sweet water, somewhat, but the coastal aquifers remain largely depleted.
Among the proposed innovations to carry the nation through the extended drought are low-flow faucet aerators, which mix air with the water, reducing the amount of water by 30 to 50 percent.
While new buildings must install aerators, Mekerot will promote their use in all households, along with hourglass shower timers.
The government hopes to issue tenders for the distribution of both products by June.
In addition to reducing water to irrigate public parks, Mekerot will impose tight restrictions on residential lawns and gardens, coupled with substantial rate hikes.
Though 25 percent of domestic water use is charged at the highest rate, the government is seeking a whopping 300 percent hike, which requires new legislation that the Water Authority and Finance Ministry are preparing to present as an amendment to the State budget.
According to Mekerot, the media campaign to reduce water use, entitled Yisrael Mityabeshet (Israel is drying up) has reduced household consumption by 12 percent.
The new media campaign is intended to reduce urban consumption by another 10 percent and private use by an additional 15 percent.
Last, the government wants to put the Palmahim desalination plant on a 24-hour shift schedule, with a view for the same at the Hadera desalination plant when it comes on line.
Mekerot also wants to explore the feasibility of constructing mobile desalination facilities.