This is the fourth blog of a series of blogs, which explore issues of water demand management in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, looking at water saving options in the domestic and agricultural sector. This entry about domestic water demand management in Israel was written by Josef Wenninger,FoEME intern at the Tel Aviv office.
In 2010, FoEME conducted an analysis to identify opportunities to conserve water resources in Israel. It estimates the water savings from a range of different policies. The study estimates the costs of each water-saving measure and primarily addresses demand management measures, as these represent the cheapest, technologically easiest, and most environmentally beneficial means of living within a strict water budget.
The study identifies five options to reduce domestic water consumption. Three of them, awareness raising, change in plants and gardening techniques, and water loss reductions appear to offer genuine cost savings and thus, should be prioritized for implementation. They offer both environmental and economic benefits. Together they would conserve up to 267 mcm per year – more water than a new desalinization plant! The two other options, rainwater catchment and storage and grey water systems demonstrate water conservation potential but given current infrastructure and policies are more expensive options. Therefore, the Israeli authorities should support efforts to lower the costs and promote grey water use and rainwater catchment and storage, also in the domestic sector.
The following figure demonstrates the domestic and municipal water consumption In Israel by use.
Another cost effective approach to reduce water consumption is to change plant types in parks and in private gardens. Much of the flowers, plants, and trees in parks and gardens, both public and private, are water intensive species. According to discussions with landscape architects, the Israeli Water Authorities Master Plan for Water Conservation, and reports by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, replacing such flora with varieties with low water needs and improved irrigation techniques could result in a 50% decrease in water consumption for urban irrigation. Recent Israeli policies, such as raising water prices for public gardens twofold, encouraged municipalities to reduce their water consumption.
Leakages and associated water losses account for 10-15% of the domestic water consumption. Such a percentage of water losses is not considered high by international standards (see FoEME‘s blog entries on Jordan and the Palestinian Territories). Still, the rate of water losses can be reduced in Israel. Cost savings from reduced leakage were calculated at $1.05 per cubic meter conserved. The cost of upgrading infrastructure is estimated at $0.30 – $0.60. Thus, such measures would result in a net cost savings of $0.45 – $0.75 per cubic meter.
The following figure summarizes the potential water conservation in the domestic and municipal sector in Israel.
As this figure illustrates, the study was able to identify numerous cost-effective options for water conservation at scales that would allow for reduction in the need for desalination and free up water that could be returned to the natural flows of rivers such as the long-suffering river Jordan.