Water usage in rural areas has special characteristics which have been established over many years through a range of legislation. This has resulted in autonomous management of water resources for the variety of needs in the rural environment, which encompasses all types of rural community, including the kibbutz, the Moshav and village communities. It is made up of some 840 Jewish communities in the different categories (some half a million residents) with an overall annual water requirement of some one billion cubic metres, of which 913 million cubic metres is allocated for agriculture. The rest is allocated for municipal and industrial uses.
Management of water systems in the rural sector can be divided into the following methods:
1. Communities (principally kibbutz communities) in which the co-operative association is billed for the water supplied at the entrance to the community, and/or for the water pumped from private wells. Individual private consumers are not billed, with the exception of businesses and/or agricultural users. The co-operative association is responsible for the maintenance of the water supply network and water wastage.
2. Communities (principally agriculture-based Moshav communities) in which the co-operative association is billed for water usage, but individual private consumers’ usage is metered and the association is responsible for billing and collecting debts from these consumers. The association bears full responsibility for all water wastage, which is divided up among the consumers according to different indices. A significant proportion
of the association’s water allocation is used for agricultural irrigation.
3. Communities (principally Moshav communities) that have joined up to create a single water association. Most of these associations manage the water supply, pay the water supplier, bill consumers, collect debts and maintain the communities’ water supply networks. Water wastage is usually the responsibility of each community and is billed according to predetermined indices. Water allocations always remain under the control of each individual community, and the water association only serves as a management tool.
4. Communities (principally village-type communities) billed as a unit according to water meter readings at the entrance to the community. The local municipal authority charges each individual consumer for use of water, usually based on the tariff set by the National Water Commissioner for urban consumers. The local authority is responsible for the upkeep of the water supply network, and consumers pay for water wastage according to a variety of different indices (usually through direct or indirect taxation).
The reality of the present situation shows that the great majority of water distribution networks suffer from lack of investment; there are high wastage levels and there is an appalling waste of precious natural resources. Water system managers in rural communities have no real interest in dealing with water wastage problems because the cost of water is relatively low and because all the system’s users fund wastage en bloc.
Clear evidence of this can be found in the statistics showing water consumption per person. While in Israel as a whole per capita water consumption is 120 litres per person per day, in the rural sector it is three times as much, reaching 375 litres per person per day. Even when some increased consumption can be explained by the larger sized plots of land surrounding rural houses when compared to the urban sector, this does not explain the vast difference.
The steady decline of the rural sector during the 1990s has resulted in a drop in the quality of water resource management, much lower investment than required and ultimately an increase in the amount of water that is wasted. These circumstances, together with an increase in the cost of water, are ample proof of the seriousness of the situation in this sector.
A settlement site in Israel
To add insult to injury, it is difficult to monitor the realities on the ground, because in some of the communities (mainly kibbutz communities) there is no measurement of household usage whatsoever, and the high cost of the infrastructure required to measure water consumption makes it unaffordable for most of these communities. Moshav and village-type communities are not required to report consumption in the manner required of the urban sector, and the available information is therefore insufficient to allow water usage monitoring according to sector.
Two views of an Israeli kibbutz
It often happens, for example, that allocations of water for agricultural use are used for municipal purposes, principally to solve problems of community growth as agricultural activity declines.
Another point that must be emphasised is that within the generalisations mentioned above, there are communities that manage their water systems properly. They monitor different types of water wastage (caused by non-measurement, leakages, management wastage) and their investment in the system is appropriate to the requirements of financial depreciation and professional management.
THE AUTOMATIC METERING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Automatic meter reading (AMR) management has been taking place for over three decades. Water meter manufacturers and communication companies have developed generations of products with the aim of transmitting water meter readings to the administrative authorities without any need for the involvement of human resources.
The field of AMR is particularly well developed in the USA, where over half of the water meters installed in recent years include AMR systems (2.87 million meters out of a total of 5.5 million installed each year). As this technology develops, the market has moved on from modem communications applications and Local Area Networks (LAN) to wireless communications (RF) systems.
Israeli water meter manufacturers, working with communications and software companies, have developed unique AMR systems incorporating military communication know-how – including installation of the transceiver inside the metering mechanism – together with advanced applications that enable the unit to:
1. Identify and issue warnings about attempts to damage the meter and/or steal water.
2. Identify and issue warnings about leakages by comparing metering groups with the main water meter.
3. Identify and issue warnings about a leak at an individual consumer’s premises by examining the periodic usage profile.
4. Issue a warning about water meter disconnection.
The system as a whole is managed using an Internetbased application service provider (ASP) with secure access from any location by any user holding an appropriate licence.
AMR SYSTEMS IN THE RURAL SECTOR
Up to now most AMR systems have been installed by large water authorities as they replace and/or upgrade water meters, install a municipal control system, and set up an interface with the municipal debt collection system. Some Israeli water meter manufacturers have focused their marketing attention specifically on the rural sector, and their accumulated success has become even more significant than the installations in the urban sector.
There are a number of reasons for this success:
1. The smaller the closed water system, the more effective the AMR system, which can be used to create closed circuit controls. In the rural sector, this means up to 400 consumers are usually supplied from a single source.
2. System installation costs are low when compared to the situation in an urban environment.
3. Given the specific nature of water usage in the rural communities, installation of an AMR system is followed by immediate savings, and there is a return on the initial investment within a relatively short time.
4. The system is easy to install, because the many different types of structure in urban environments do not exist in rural areas.
5. The control, billing and collection ASP software offered by various manufacturers is easy to use and well suited to rural communities.
Thus far close to 30 rural communities have installed such systems, using the products of several local manufacturers. Some of these communities have seen a dramatic drop in water wastage – from around 30% to something closer to 5%. They have been able to identify different problems immediately, and they can ensure far more accurate metering of the water supplied to each individual consumer.
Israeli water meter manufacturers have paid particular attention to special developments for the rural market, and they continue to improve the sector’s ability to manage this precious resource, so scarce in the State of Israel.