Urban water consumption in Israel: convergence or
Boris A. Portnov
, Isaac Meir
Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Management, Graduate School of Management, University of Haifa,
Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel
Desert Architecture & Unit Planning Unit, Department of Man in the Desert, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research,
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus 84990, Israel
According to the recently published United Nations report of
the World Water Assessment Programme (UNESCO, 2003),
over 1.1 billion people across the globe lack access to improved
water supply, and 2.4 billion—to improved sanitation. As a
result, there are vast numbers of people around the globe who
contract water-borne diseases causing gastro-intestinal ill-
nesses; vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, schistosomiasis);
and water-washed diseases (e.g. scabies, trachoma). The
potential for health complications is exacerbated by a limited
access to proper sewage and sanitation (Abu Qdais and Al
Nassay, 2001; Gleick, 1998; Lane, 2002; Pinstrup-Andersen and
Pandya-Lorch, 1998; Rogers et al., 2002; Stein and Niklaas,
2002; von Schirnding, 2002).
The Middle East suffers from endemic drought, and is thus
traditionally associated with water scarcity. In the past, water
scarcity may have served as one of the main factors limiting
growth, and access rights to fresh water were traditionally
ensured through legislation—either religious or secular (see,
for example, Naff and Dellapenna, 2002). Recent decades
(since roughly the late 1940s) have brought forth alternative
solutions, such as desalination plants in a number of the
Middle Eastern countries, especially the afﬂuent Gulf states
(see inter alia, Afgan et al., 1999; Al-Mutaz, 2001; Abdel-Jawad
et al., 2001; Bushnak, 1990). However, water is still one of the
most expensive and least available commodities in the region,
and by all population growth projections the situation will
only worsen in the future (Stikker, 1998; Feitelson and
Chenoweth, 2002; Feitelson, 2002).
environmental science & policy 11 (2008) 347–358
Published on line 26 November 2007
by consumption sector. In the domestic sector, per capita water use tends to grow faster
in ‘thinly’ consuming places than in localities with high per capita rates of water
consumption, indicating that water consumption rates tend to converge over time.
Concurrently, in the non-residential sector (municipal consumption), water consumption
tends to diverge, with heavily water-consuming places raising their per capita water
consumption rates more rapidly. According to the explanation proposed, the observed
convergence trend in the domestic sector is likely to stem from two major factors—the
saturation of water consumption in afﬂuent places, and the rising standards of living in
poor localities, enabling them to consume more water for household use. Recent
improvements in the level of infrastructure development in the peripheral areas of
the country may have also contributed to the convergence of water consumption rates
for domestic use.
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