TEL AVIV (Dec. 20)
Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan announced that effective next month, allocation of water to farmers would be cut back 20 percent because of the continuing drought.
Eitan, who made the announcement Wednesday night after consulting with the Water Authority, said he would wait two more weeks however before declaring a national water emergency.
Such a declaration would trigger strict conservation measures, including rationing water for industrial and domestic uses.
Eitan said he hoped the winter rains would arrive before rationing became necessary, but the Meteorological Service has forecast only slight precipitation in the days ahead.
Israel is in the fourth year of subnormal rainfall and the national reservoirs are dangerously depleted.
The authorities are considering importing fresh water, after an earlier scheme to import water from Turkey was dropped because it was too expensive. Two experts have gone to Yugoslavia to check prices and quality.
Farmers will be compensated by the government for losses incurred by the water cutback.
If water is rationed, industrial users would.