Sunday, September 08, 2013
Amazing Israel Makes Drought A Thing Of The Past
One of the major problems in the Middle East is water and the lack of it. All over the region,there's a struggle to have enough clean water for the needs of growing populations while still maintaining enough for agriculture and industrial use.
When drought hits, it can become a matter of life and death.
Except in one country - Israel.
The Israelis have always been a water conscious society. As a small country surrounded by genocidal enemies, they had to make every bit of land count, and that meant making every drop of water count too, especially given the periodic attempts by the neighboring Arab countries to dam off water sources from reaching Israel and its major source of fresh water, Lake Kinneret.
The Israelis became world leaders in irrigation technology, built a major water carrier and followed up with state-of -the-art desalinization projects...and all without billions in petro-dollars to fund it. And it's paid off. Just a few years ago, the Israeli government was running ads on television featuring celebrities like model Bar Rafeali, singer Ninet Tayeb and actor Moshe Ivgy on the dangers of drought and urging people to conserve water at all costs.Now those ads are off the air.
Alex Kushnir, the head of Israel's water authority weighs in, saying that in Israel, for the foreseeable future, the water crisis is over :
“How did we beat the water shortage? Because we said we would. We decided we would,” says Kushnir, a big man with a warm smile and a robust Russian accent. “And once you’ve made that decision, you build the tools to reduce your dependence. We’re on the edge of the desert in an area where water has always been short. The quantity of natural water per capita in Israel is the lowest for the whole region. But we decided early on that we were developing a modern state. So we were required to supply water for agriculture, and water for industry, and then water for hi-tech, and water to sustain an appropriate quality of life.”
The National Water Carrier — which takes water from the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) south through the whole country to Beersheba and beyond — exemplified Israel’s ambition. Contemplated even before the modern state was founded, its planning and initial construction were “a dominant feature of the first Ben-Gurion government — an unprecedented investment,” Kushnir notes. “It stressed our desire to achieve a different reality.”
Carrying almost 2 million cubic meters a day nationwide, that supply line, together with water from underground aquifers, kept Israel watered through the 70s. By the 1980s, though “we had a bigger population, bigger needs and the natural resources were overstretched. So we experimented with a small desalination plant in Eilat. And we began recycling purified sewage, and bringing industry into purifying water.”
“Use any superlatives you like,” urges Kushnir, to describe the fact that, today, “over 80% of our purified sewage goes back into agricultural use. The next best in the OECD is Spain with 17-18%. It’s so justified energy-wise, and environmentally as well.”
As Israel's population and agricultural and industrial needs grew, even these programs weren’t enough to meet the demand. So the Israelis came up with yet another innovation:
“By 2000 our balance was really strained,” says Kushnir. “We would have had to cut back drastically in agriculture or industry or home use and we weren’t prepared to do that. We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with.”
The solution was desalination, on a major scale — the third phase in a water revolution that had begun with the water carrier and continued with recycling. The first large desalination plant came on line in Ashkelon in 2005, followed by Palmahim and Hadera. By the end of this year, when the Soreq and Ashdod plants are working, there’ll be five plants — built privately at a cost of NIS 6-7 billion (about $2 billion).
Israel uses 2 billion cubic meters of water per year — which is actually a little less than a decade ago, as efficiencies have been introduced in agriculture (which uses 700 million), and water-saving awareness has permeated. Of that two billion, half will be “artificially” manufactured by year’s end — 600 million cubic meters from those desalination plants, and 400 from purified sewage and brackish water.
“We’re not the world’s biggest desalinators,” notes Kushnir, “but no one has made the shift so fast to a situation where half of its water needs are filled from ‘artificial’ sources. And it means we are now ready for the next decade, without dramatic dependence on rainfall fluctuations.”
That's what a people can do when they have a culture of self-reliance, education and innovation. And it's noteworthy that while government assisted in some areas and coordinated certain projects, all of Israel's desalination plants were privately built and owned.
As Kushnir mentions, less dependence on ground water also means Israel's aquifers will have a chance to refill,and as Kushnir also notes, the replenishment of the aquifirs is well on the way, especially since rainfall collection has also become much more efficient.
With it's new technology and innovation, Israel may actually become a water exporter.
Imagine what would happen if instead of constantly trying to murder the Jews and drive them out of the region, the Arabs actually made peace with them and learned from what Israel has to offer?
(H/T,Professor Bill at Legal Insurrection)