At the peak of the drought, Shabi Zvieli, an Israeli gardener, feared for his livelihood.
A hefty tax was placed on excessive household water consumption, penalizing families with lawns, swimming pools or leaky pipes. So many of Mr. Zvieli’s clients went over to synthetic grass and swapped their seasonal blooms for hardy, indigenous plants more suited to a semiarid climate. “I worried about where gardening was going,” said Mr. Zvieli, 56, who has tended people’s yards for about 25 years.
Across the country, Israelis were told to cut their shower time by two minutes. Washing cars with hoses was outlawed and those few wealthy enough to absorb the cost of maintaining a lawn were permitted to water it only at night.
“We were in a situation where we were very, very close to someone opening a tap somewhere in the country and no water would come out,” said Uri Schor, the spokesman and public education director of the government’s Water Authority.
But that was about six years ago. Today, there is plenty of water in Israel. A lighter version of an old “Israel is drying up” campaign has been dusted off to advertise baby diapers. “The fear has gone,” said Mr. Zvieli, whose customers have gone back to planting flowers.
As California and other western areas of the United States grapple with an extreme drought, a revolution has taken place here. A major national effort to desalinate Mediterranean seawater and to recycle wastewater has provided the country with enough water for all its needs, even during severe droughts. More than 50 percent of the water for Israeli households, agriculture and industry is now artificially produced.
During the drought years, farmers at Ramat Rachel, a kibbutz on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, took water-economizing measures like uprooting old apple orchards a few years before their time. With the new plenty, water allocations for Israeli farmers that had been slashed have been raised again, though the price has also gone up.
“Now there is no problem of water,” said Shaul Ben-Dov, an agronomist at Ramat Rachel. “The price is higher, but we can live a normal life in a country that is half desert.”
The Latest on: Drought management
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The Latest on: Drought management
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