Each Drop is a Mitzvah

[From "Ma'anayei Ha-Yeshua" – Parashat Mishpatim 5769]

If global warming continues, we can expect difficult years of a lack of water ahead. Although water covers two-thirds of the earth's surface, it does not help us since it is mostly salt water. Only 2.5% is not salt water. Of this amount, two-thirds is found in icebergs and frozen rivers and one-fifth is found in desolate areas. And even the water found in settled areas, the majority comes at the wrong time or in the wrong way, i.e. monsoons or floods. In sum: mankind only uses 0.09% of the earth's water.

As a result, 20% of humanity does not have access to clean water. 50% of them live without minimal hygiene – on account of a lack of water. A lack of water also hurts agriculture which requires huge quantities of water. For example, in order to grow a ton of wheat in China, they need 1000 tons of water. As a result, there are 850 million hungry people on the face of the earth. 30,000 children under the age of five die every day, i.e. almost a million a month on account of hunger or sicknesses which is easily preventable with the help of hygiene. Three million people die every year from drinking contaminated water. Three million babies die during childbirth because their mothers drink contaminated water during pregnancy. If we continue in the same direction, the situation will become even more severe. During the next 20 years, the need will rise by 20%. In the next 10 years, there will be 20% less water for agriculture. Millions more will be hungry and thirsty.

Blessed is the One who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time that we are in our Land. But even here the situation is not simple. Because of the small amount of rain, the Kinneret – the central reservoir of the country – not only does not reach the lower red line which warns of danger, but does not reach the black line in which it is no longer possible to draw water for the national pipeline, the life-giving artery of the country. The wells are also become more salty because of the penetration of ground water. Baruch Hashem, there are various solutions: desalination of sea water. This is an expensive solution, but we hope it will develop. So too, reusing purified sewage water for agricultural needs, which is less expensive than new water or desalinated water.

How to solve the national and - all the more so - the global problem of water is not our issue. But we as Jews must conserve water. It is possible to conserve water in our daily activities. We can obviously fill mikvaot and wash "netilat yadayim" with a full cup. But do not waste water. Here are a few general principles:

The Kitchen (20% of household needs - 30 liters a day per person): Close the tap when between rinsing the dishes. Lessening the quantity of water without effecting comfort can save a third of the water. Also, do not run the dishwasher until it is full.

The bathroom (35% of household needs – 55 liters a day per person): Flush with the smaller flush capacity (most toilets in Israel have two options for flushing). This saves 18 liters a day per person. When possible, change from a 9 liter water tank to a 6 liter tank.

Washing and showering (35% of household needs – 55 liters per day): Close the tap when soaping your hands or brushing your teeth. Do not take long showers.

Washing machine (5% of household needs – 8 liters a day person): Only run it when it is full.
Do not water your garden in a wasteful manner. Furthermore, design a water-conserving garden.

Washing a car: Only with a pail of water and not with a hose (it is forbidden according to law and there is a fine).

Leaky faucets: this is a huge waste of water without realizing it. In order to verify it, shut off the taps in the house and the lawn and see if there is a difference in the water meter. Leaking can be fixed by changing the washer. A leaky toilet can be checked by placing toilet paper under it. If it is wet, change the sealant.

Reuse the water which drips from the air conditioner for watering plants.
Dear children, do not have water fights. This is not the time.
Reporting: If you see water being wasted by government authorities or institutions, please report it.

The water level is getting lower and lower, and each drop we save adds up to be a huge amount. We love the mitzvot, we rejoice in fulfilling them and we search for ways to fulfill them. And now, we have an available mitzvah at every moment – the mitzvah of settling the Land is equivalent to all of the other mitzvot in the Torah. Each drop is a mitzvah.

And as in everything, we must combine action and pray. We should therefore pray for rain in our Land: both as individuals and publicly. Bless us with a year of goodness and give us dew and rain as a blessing.