Water management

Water management in Israel: from scarcity to abundance

With the wave of new immigrants arriving after independence, a transportation network was already created to pump water from the Sea of ​​Galilee, in northern Israel, to the center and south of the country. But it was soon seen that this was not enough to cover domestic and agricultural needs. In 1959 engineer Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu invented the technology of drip irrigation. A system that today irrigates 75% of Israel’s crops and which represents a great saving because there is no evaporation and because the plant takes advantage of every drop that falls.

In addition, the country currently recycles 90% of domestic wastewater to irrigate fields. A way to take advantage of water that would otherwise be wasted.

Israel is the world leader, far from the rest, in the recycling of this type of water. Spain is the second country on the list, but only reuses 17% of wastewater.

For 20 years, Daniel Rahamim has been the irrigation manager of the Nahal Oz kibbutz, in the semi-desert north of the Negev. Here they have 1,000 hectares of crops. Thanks to wastewater irrigation, they now no longer have to look up at the sky, and they can also harvest more crops than before.

” We are relaxed and we don’t have to worry about whether it rains or not because we have water. “

Thanks to its innovative technology, Israel has been a pioneering country when it comes to turning arid desert lands into arable fields.

But if wastewater is recycled for agriculture, water from desalination plants is used for domestic consumption. Currently, there are five plants that treat seawater and supply 75% of the water that reaches Israeli households. There are two more desalination plants under construction. When they start operating in two years, 90% of Israel’s domestic and industrial consumption will be made with seawater desalinated by the reverse osmosis system. The remaining brine is returned to the sea.

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Proponents of this technology say it dissolves in the vastness of seawater without changing its salinity.

Oded Goldstein is the CEO of the Orek desalination plant, the largest in Israel and, until recently, the largest in the world. He believes that the bet on desalination plants has definitively solved the water problem.

“Desalination was the best possible system. And now we have more water than we need.”

The country now has so much water that it even exports some to neighboring Jordan.

The main problem with desalinated water is that the plants that produce it need a lot of electricity. 60% of the costs of this water are energetic. So it’s not cheap. For this reason, it is also important to control consumption habits.

In recent years, the Israel Water Authority has carried out several awareness campaigns on radio, television, and the internet about the need to save water. The success has been resounding. Per capita consumption has dropped dramatically.  

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