Many parts of the Middle East struggle to acquire adequate freshwater for household, agricultural and industrial use. Many factors have compounded the problem including a growing population, rising standards of living and more frequent drought, desertification and salinization, and all of these put a strain on water resources in an already parched region. However, since 2007, Israel has implemented numerous technological and organizational measures to increase its water security, to great success. Around the end of the 2000s, decades of drought in the Fertile Crescent and record low levels in the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s largest body of freshwater – prompted the government to focus on Israel’s water crisis and build resilience for the future.
4 Methods Used to Solve Israel’s Water Crisis
- Water Recycling. The national water authority built water treatment systems that recycle the water from drains to use for agricultural irrigation. Israel now recycles 86% of its drain water, the most in the world, with Spain a distant second at 19%. Furthermore, low-flow toilets and shower heads were installed across the country.
- Monitoring Leaks. Leaks in pipes and water systems can cause serious water loss. The World Bank estimates that on average countries lose 30% of their piped water to leaks. To solve Israel’s water crisis, Israelis invented technology to monitor and discover leaks early on. As a result, Israel now only has a leakage rate of 7-8%.
- Desalination. This has been the most important and far-reaching measure to solve Israel’s water crisis. For the last two decades, Israel has been extracting salt from Mediterranean seawater with reverse osmosis, converting it into drinkable water for the nation. Desalination is not a technique exclusive to Israel–around 300 million people worldwide get their water through desalination. Along the Israeli coast, there are five desalination plants that now provide almost all the nation’s tap water.
- Adding Water to the Sea of Galilee. Although the Mediterranean now provides most household water in Israel, the Sea of Galilee remains a crucial source of water for irrigation, in addition to its ecological and climatological importance. Yet, it can experience high fluctuation of its water levels due to short and long-term drought. To remedy this, the Israeli government is building a pipe that will carry desalinated water 31 kilometers to the Sea of Galilee’s tributary when the water level drops.
The techniques used to solve Israel’s water crisis show what the future may look like for arid regions, especially coastal ones. Hopefully, with the increasing adoption and affordability of techniques such as desalination, more countries can improve their water security.
– Emilie Zhang