Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saving electricity and water

Two initiatives have been announced here recently, aimed at encouraging people to use less water and electricity. Israel has a serious water shortage, and water could be a reason for war in our region in coming years. Israel is also near its capacity for electricity production, and plans to set up new power stations, using gas rather than coal, keep being delayed.

The first plan is a "drought levy" on water usage over a certain level, determined according to the number of people in each household. Everyone has had to declare how many people live in their household. Some friends of ours declared their dog, but we didn't list our cats, since they drink negligible quantities of water and don't use water to bathe... This levy is supposed to apply mainly to families with gardens, and we don't expect we'll have to pay it. However, it has been very controversial, and there is now a plan to postpone it until April, but to raise the basic cost of water significantly over the next few months, so in the end everyone will be paying more. I just wonder why they are targeting home users while still giving much lower water rates to agriculture and industry. I think efficient water usage should also be encouraged in these sectors. One of the aims of this levy is to raise funds to build desalination plants, which should have been done years ago. I hope to see this achieved soon.

The second plan means that households that manage to reduce their electricity consumption by 20% over the winter will receive an additional 20% discount to their electricity bill. The newspapers published some recommendations on how to reduce electricity consumption. These include using energy efficient light bulbs, not leaving equipment on stand-by mode, and so on.

Many of the things people are now being encouraged to do to save water and electricity are things we have always done. We have never had a dish washer or a dryer, and have always washed dishes by hand and dried clothes on the washing line (and on the few rainy days, indoors on a clothes horse). I always use the washing machine on a low temperature and a short program. Of course, we always turn off lights in rooms we're not using. We also keep our use of the air conditioner to the bare minimum. Most of the cooking is on the gas stove rather than using the electric oven. We have always had dual-quantity flushing toilets to save water.

These new plans make us feel a bit like the prodigal son - we are now not going to receive the benefits that people who were wasteful all these years will receive if they start doing what we have always done. On the other hand, we know we have been doing the right thing all along, and that is its own reward.

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