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Water authority joins scheme to turn off lights, help wildlife at night

Mekorot to keep most of its plants dark in nighttime hours to save money, minimize light pollution that disrupts animal behavior

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Migrating Gray Cranes at the Agmon Hula Lake in the Hula Valley in northern Israel, November 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Migrating Gray Cranes at the Agmon Hula Lake in the Hula Valley in northern Israel, November 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

The Mekorot water authority announced Sunday that it will be switching off the lights at night at most of its facilities, both to save money and to cut light pollution that interferes with nature.

Manmade light can disrupt ecosystems and a myriad of natural processes, from bird migration and coral breeding to human hormonal cycles.

Working together with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Ministry for Environmental Protection, the authority examined where it could keep the lights off.

Staying dark and only turning the lights on when necessary will yield an estimated NIS 600,000 ($175,000) annually.

A green turtle hatchling heads for the sea at night. (BBC/Screenshot)

Light pollution wastes electricity and money, increases the country’s carbon footprint and harms nature.

Most mammals in Israel are active at night, including species of bat which help to control agricultural pests and mosquitoes. Artificial lights blind the bats and impairs their ability to function. Most of the birds that migrate over Israel, on their way to and from Europe and Asia, fly at night and, for those that use the stars to navigate, skyward lighting can interfere with their spatial orientation. Coastal illumination interferes with the orientation of sea turtles that hatch out of nests in the sand and head for the sea when the water is lighter than the land.

Netivei Israel — the National Transportation Infrastructure Company — is also looking into ways of preventing light pollution along roads by ensuring that it lights up the road and not other areas nearby. The need to reduce light pollution has been built into the company’s planning process and lighting on existing roads with be replaced over the coming years with more environmentally friendly fixtures.

Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures Ltd, a government company which stores and distributes fuel, is also moving to replace polluting light around its storage depots.

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