Water independence — Key to a thriving future

Dec. 2, 2013

Israel is making water independence a priority for the future.

I initially joined the Water Quality Association (WQA) because my company, Dataman Group, provides direct mail and phone lists to members of the WQA, but through the years of my involvement and attendance at WQA events and conferences, I have become more and more interested in the importance of water because, in short Water is Life.

In the U.S. we tend to take water for granted as we turn on our taps and let the water flow. Not so much in the Middle East.

I just spent a week in the desert areas of Israel and Jordan. It was easy to see how this precious resource is the key to develop these regions and allow the people and economy to flourish.

In Israel, we saw communities and farms and green pastures created by the technologies of drip irrigation and treated wastewater. In Jordan we did not see cities of green – we saw Bedouin boys herding their goats to graze barren desert lands searching for something to chew on.

In Israel, we heard plans to bring more of the population into the Negev region, an area which covers 55 percent of Israel’s land with only 12 percent of the population. There are no such plans to colonize the Jordanian Edom.

In this region of the Middle East, wars have been fought over water.  Wikipedia refers to this as the “War over Water,” which began after the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

The 1949 Armistice Agreements created three demilitarized zones on the Israel-Jordan-Syria border, in the area of the Yarmuk and Jordan Rivers. The issue of sharing the water between the three countries turned out to be unsolvable and through the years, there were many water-related skirmishes and failed diplomatic attempts to resolve this.

With increased demands for a growing population and economy, Israel designed and completed its National Water Carrier program in 1964, siphoning off water from the Sea of Galilee to bring much needed water resources into Israel. The Arab states were not prepared to co-exist with this endeavor and the Israeli defense of the project and the control of water resources are considered among the many factors which led to the Six-Day War of June 1967.

The Water Commission of Israel has been working on a solution to the scarcity of water for years.

Necessity being the mother of invention, because of the water problem, Israel’s irrigation industry has become one of the most modern and rapidly developing in the world, taking up water-saving approaches such as drip irrigation.

With an eye towards the future, scientists have reviewed options that ran the gamut from towing in an iceberg from the South Pole, re-using wastewater for drinking or building a new pipeline to transport water from the sea. While each option had merit, the key was to create a sustainable system to balance water demand and water resources and to prevent ecological deterioration. The answer to this dilemma became the manufacturing of water.

By the end of this year, the goal is that the State of Israel will no long be water dependent, relying on a significant increase in manufactured water for drinking, improved desalination technology and continued use of recycled water and recharged groundwater for agriculture.

Make no bones about it, this will cost the government and citizens of Israel a great deal more, but it is the only way to overcome the water crisis and create water independence for the future.

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