Years ago, Israel had severe issues with water. Being a young country, it has undergone a harsh drought which got to the point of exceeding critical levels in some regions. The main problem was not agriculture or cattle raising, it was fulfilling population´s water demand. Despite the fact of being located in the Fertile Crescent, Israel’s economy is based in high technology development, representing the primary sector just 2,8% of its GDP.
During 2008, de so called “black-line” was surpassed in Galilee Sea. Implications of this fact are as crucial as causing the complete inadequacy of water drained from this sea in terms of its use for agriculture o human consume.
In 2007 Israel instilled drastic measures such as restrictions, the use of shower heads, low flow toilets and the installation of systems which were able to capture 86% of water headed to the drainage network in order to recycle it. Concerning water recycling, Israel leaded the list of water recycling countries, however, it suffered the consequences of not being able of rightfully managing water in the past. The mentioned measures proportioned 1.4 billion cubic meters, but this country’s demand was of 1.9 billion cubic meters. The 0.5 billion cubic meters remaining should be attained somehow: draining it from Galilee Sea.
Nevertheless, the fact that Israel was able to foresee these water scarcity related issues should not be disregarded. Being conscious of its situation, a cabinet formed by engineers, scientists and policy makers developed a new insight to it. This new interpretation of water was based in the following main points:
1. Water belongs to the country. The cabinet concluded that national management was the best way to obtain the optimum results and that this would be the way Israel would handle the situation.
2. Looking for people set and determined to let people know about the problem with water and about what would the future yield if nothing was done.
3. Creating a water-conscious mentality. Raising children in an educational system which brought out the importance of this valued resource, would lead to a much more aware generation.
4. An innumerable amount of actions related to saving and making the most of every single water drop.
5. Denying the extended mentality that the happier the consumer is the happier the producer will be. Even in the 30’s, Israel understood that, in the case of water, they could not allow having its population paying just a portion of water costs, the way it happens in several occidental countries, Israelis had to pay 100% of the cost. This way nobody would misuse water without thinking of their wallet first.
6. Extending the national supply network to every single corner in which water could be consumed. By these means, the water awareness campaign would also reach every inhabitant.
7. Politicians would no longer be in charge of water and the decisions it entailed. Instead, a group of specialist would substitute them.
8. Search of innovative techniques developed to save and reuse water by private entities and motivation of public-private partnerships.
9. In the same way power was removed from politicians, city majors are pulled apart from decisions having to do with water. These would only concern a technocratic bureau created to guarantee that taxes payed on water would be destined to improvements in this area and not to any other thing which had nothing to do with hydrological resources.
10. Broadcast the idea of the necessity to act instantly planning for the future, making emphasis on those areas dependent on the primary sector.
11. Establishing, by law, that no water would flow from any source to any point where water could be it without going through a measuring device. This way, consume patterns could be identified and trends detected.
12. Spread the fundamental idea: the moment to act is now.
Considering water scarcity, Israel’s government gave green light to the installation of the first desalination plant in 2005. Ashkelon plant produced 127.000.000 m3, but that was not enough to satisfy the 0.5 billion cubic meters need. In the following eight years to more plants were built: Hadera in 2009, providing 140.000.000 m3 and Sorek in 2013, delivering 150.000.000 m3.
This last desalination plant is the biggest of its kind in the world. But not only this fact makes it special, it also has introduced the possibility of not using chemicals in the process.
Sorek desalination plant puts water through a biofloculator in the first treatment, then it has to go through a mixed filter formed primarily by solidified lava. This lava tuff is super-porous and provides a larger surface for microbes and microorganism to develop life. When the tuff is washed by an upwards water and air stream, the floccules formed come off but get stuck in the second filter thanks to the fact that they are bigger because they had better conditions to grow. The resulting effluent is floccule-free.
Altogether, the three desalination plants above mentioned, produce 0.6 billion cubic meters, satisfying the deficit and giving a margin to the country of 0.1 billion cubic meters.
Summing up, thanks to all the measures cited in this blog entry, Israel is nowadays a rich in water country and a role model in water management. This mentality of “every single water drop is relevant” has brought to the country nothing but good results. Seeing this, the following question runs up to my mind: ¿Why don´t countries around the world follow Israel’s path?
MARIA DE TOMAS PARDO DE ANDRADE