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Acting through the Caesaria Development Corporation, which it founded, the Rothschild family wants to establish a water desalination plant in the coastal town of Caesaria. The estimated cost of the endeavor is about half a billion dollars, Ma'ariv reports.

The family's motivation is the perennial water shortage in Israel, which has led to depletion of natural water supplies, including the sweet-water Sea of Galilee ¿ Lake Kinneret ¿ and aquifers.

The state has already begun to build one desalination plant, for which a consortium of French and Israeli companies was chosen after making the lowest bid in the world per cubic meter of water ¿ about 53 cents. This plant is expected to produce 50 million cubic meters of water a year.

But that plant alone cannot meet Israel's fresh-water needs. The state has meanwhile published another tender for a desalination facility to produce 65 million cubic meters of water a year.

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A prerequisite for contending in this tender is ownership of a tract of suitable land on which the plant can be built. The Caesaria Development Corporation has therefore already begun moves to rezone land on which a plant with an even greater capacity ¿ 250 million cubic meters a year ¿ can be located.

This second tender calls for the facility to be built in stages, starting with 50 million m3 capacity. Not many companies in Israel can meet the preliminary requirements to bid in the tender.