State water sources are the property of the public and are intended for the needs of its residents. State authorities, along with water corporations, manage the water sector as public trustees to best meet the needs of residents, considering that water is a valuable resource.
For years, water corporations would disconnect customers without stipulating rules for severance, as required by law. From the years 2015 to 2017, following the submission of petitions to the High Court of Justice, the Knesset Economics Committee approved regulations for the Water Authority, which uniformly posit obligatory conditions for cutting off water supply to individual consumers.
Among other things, a general prohibition was imposed on severing water supply to domestic consumers, from which it is possible to deviate only under a number of conditions and qualifications, including repeated examinations of the consumer's economic capacity by a number of authorized bodies.
However, the Water Authority never established regulations regarding cutting off an entire group of consumers from water. There are also no rules regulating the reduction of the water supply in a sweeping ongoing fashion as a collective sanction imposed by Israel’s National Water Company Mekorot on the residents of an entire locality, irrespective of each consumer's relation to the debt, their ability or economic need, or capacity to address the situation upon being disconnected.
Clause 114a of the Water Law states that a water supplier to which the local authority has paid at least 80% of the payments owed is not entitled to terminate water supply to a local authority due to a balance of debt. This clause allegedly authorizes Mekorot, as a water supplier, to disconnect localities from water. However, this is a draconian and disproportionate authority whose operations are not anchored in clear regulations, and even contradict explicit rules put forth by the Water Authority and approved by the Economic Committee regarding domestic consumers. As such, we deem its implementation illegal.
The current legal circumstances in Israel have created a large, inexplicable, and unreasonable gap: the highly limited authority of corporations and local authorities to disconnect individuals from water due to personal debt is anchored in legal arrangements and delayed regulations that reflect legislators' current perceptions of the basic right to water. In contrast, Mekorot's draconian and unrestrained authority to disconnect entire communities from water as a means of pressure over local authorities, including households and various institutions, is anchored in old legislation that has not been updated and contradicts regulations for disconnecting individual consumers.
Attorney Raghad Jaraisy, Director of ACRI’s Arab Minority Rights Unit, appealed to the Minister of Energy, the Water Authority, and Mekorot. Atty. Jaraisy explains that the application of the stringent restrictions imposed on severing the water supply to private consumers and public institutions should also be applied to Mekorot’s authority to sever thousands of domestic consumers from connection to water at once — a disconnection that is not due to the debts of the consumers themselves, but rather those of their local authorities.
ACRI called for an immediate halt to the practice of disconnecting entire communities from water and to establish new regulations to Mekorot's authority to charge communities that do not have local water corporations that meet their need for basic water rights and water supply.
ACRI's letter to the Minister of Energy, the Water Authority, and Mekorot (Hebrew), March 12, 2019