Preservation of Israel's water resources is one of the major challenges confronting the country today. Israel entered the 21st century with one of its greatest water overdrafts ever. Today this cumulative deficit stands at some 1.5 billion cubic meters, an amount equal to the annual consumption of the country, in comparison to the average annual replenishment rate of major aquifers. Moreover, water scarcity is exacerbated by the deteriorating quality of water resources due to demographic, industrial and agricultural pressures.
Israel is being warned that the country's water supplies are dangerously low, and it will have to accept drastic cuts in consumption. Israeli Water Commissioner Shimon Tal is expected to call for a total ban on watering lawns for the next three years and for a 10% cut in the supply to industry.
Israel's water sources are limited by the country's climate, geography and hydrology. Seventy-five percent of the annual rainfall is concentrated into four winter months. Rainfall averages up to 950 millimeters per year in some parts of Galilee in the north in contrast to 25 millimeters in the southern tip of the Negev. Variations occur from year to year, with periods of drought or near drought interspersed with periods of heavy rainfall. Global climate change may magnify the pressure on Israel's water system by increasing temperatures and evaporation rates and changing the precipitation regime.
But the issue is politically charged and linked to the wider dispute over Palestinian statehood. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians run local government but Israel still controls most of the water resources.
To continue to supply the population with its water needs, under conditions of water scarcity, sustainable water management policies, which relate to both quantity and quality of water, are being introduced. The goal is to utilize Israel's natural water sources in a balanced way and to increase water supply from such sources as desalinated seawater, desalinated brackish water, effluents and more. Furthermore, river restoration action plans have been significantly advanced in recent years and enforcement against polluters of water resources has been stepped up.