JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Monday it was building a 1.5 billion shekel ($423 million) desalination plant, which upon completion in 2013, will join four other plants in providing the country with three-quarters of its drinking water.
The government signed with Mekorot, the national water company, to build and operate the reverse osmosis plant in the Mediterranean coastal city of Ashdod, which will produce 100 million cubic meters of desalinated seawater a year, or 15 percent of Israel's household water use.
The water will cost 2.4 shekels per cubic meter, the Finance Ministry said.
Israel is two-thirds arid and has faced six straight years of drought. To avoid further depleting its main fresh water source, the Sea of Galilee, it has become a world leader in desalination and wastewater recycling.
"The desalination of water from the Mediterranean Sea as a substitute for drawing from the Sea of Galilee is a must for us and we will continue to act and broaden production from existing plants," said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
($1=3.55 Israeli Shekels)
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mike Nesbit)