Opinion: Israel shows the world how to conserve water

Editor’s note: Seth M. Siegel is the author of “Let there be water: Israel’s solution to a water-scarce world” And the “Troubled Water: What’s Wrong With What We Drink. He is currently the Head of Sustainability at N-drip, a company that developed technology to save water for agricultural use. The opinions expressed in this comment are its own. Opinion More opinion on CNN.



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scorching temperatures and reports Water Scarcity Make headlines, as drought caused by climate change creates long-term problems for farmers and societies in United State And the around the world. Without an adequate supply of water, farmers are running had to transplant less In order to conserve water they will need another year of long drought. The consequences will be Food price hike Here, but also social instability in countries important to the United States.

Seth M Siegel

As frightening and insurmountable a challenge as chronic and growing water shortages may seem, there are solutions at hand that can save us from crises.

A small country in one of the driest regions in the world Among them that developed policies and techniques to save water in cities and farms alike. this country Israel. As drought turns into the new normal, it would be wise for policy makers to take a Look what Israel didand begin the process of creating their own waterproof communities that are less dependent on rainfall that may never return.

Although Israel gets Almost all tap water From water desalination plants Along the Mediterranean coast, a large part of its water is for cultivation by purification and Reuse of wastewater in the countryIsrael refuses to rely on any single strategy or technology meet their water needs.

This “all of the above” approach results in flexibility from this intentional repetition, but also opens the door to Cooperat A risk that often led to world-changing breakthroughs.

Israel became a state in May 1948, but decades earlier, when it was under the control of the British Mandate, the Zionist leadership began to prioritize excellence in the field of water, along with defense and immigration policy. In most countries, the (non-romantic) issues of water infrastructure and technology fall into the hands of mid-level officials and more junior cabinet members. But reading the diaries of Israel’s founders means to see the daily interest, bordering on obsession, in correcting water policy. For example, long before that Water desalination took off in Israel, the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurionoften wrote of the possibility of ‘desalinating the sea’ in order to ‘make the desert bloom’.

Not everything Israel does matters everywhere. Because of its small size, Approximately the land area of ​​New Jersey, they can do things more easily than water-poor countries of vast dimensions do. Likewise, having a long coastline and most of its population being relatively within easy reach of the country’s desalination facilities, provides opportunities not available everywhere.

But some of what Israel does, everyone can do – at least in theory.

First, Israel accuses the real water price. (Although the cost is subsidized for welfare recipients; everyone else pays the full price.) By using market forcesConsumers, farmers, and industry are always looking for ways to conserve water, or use technology that leads to the most efficient use of water possible. In most parts of the world, water is highly subsidized resulting in massive waste of water due to overuse. For example, because at full market it is cheaper to repair leaky pipes than to waste water, Israel has an uncommonly low leakage factor which is about 7-8%. Even in the United StatesThere are communities with mains water lose up to 50% of water flowing through it.

Israel’s success in the water field is also linked to the decision to place the country’s water management in the hands of apolitical technocrats. Their mission is to get the highest quality water to as many people as possible. Price is a factor, but it is not the only factor. By comparison, in some American cities, mayors know that their constituents may see higher water rates as a de facto tax increase. These results In the hanging water fee and with it inability To modernize facilities with the best equipment and software, the difficulty of attracting and retaining highly skilled engineers.

Israel also differs from much of the world in its approach to agriculture. decades ago, flood irrigation – which soak the soil by flooding the fields with water – have been discouraged by the government, effectively ending the practice. However, all over the world, 85 percent of the irrigated fields use flood irrigationa practice dating back to the time of ancient Egypt and the flooding of the Nile River Basin.

While this wasteful and unsustainable method may be thought to be in use only in less developed countries, here in the United States, we flood millions of acres in California, Texas, and even the dry Southwest. Farmers have little incentive to switch to water-saving technology because they can continue to use water as if it were plentiful and inexhaustible like sunlight or air. In Arizona, for example, 89% of irrigation Irrigation is used by immersion and in countries that deplete quickly Colorado River Basinthere are up to six million acres that continue to waste trillions of gallons annually by flooding fields.

It is fitting that Israeli technology comes to the rescue in the southwestern United States. The low-cost and attractive drip irrigation, developed by an Israeli scientist, has already been deployed on thousands of acres in Arizona And in other places. (Full disclosure: I work with This World Company.) This technology provides half the water previously needed for flood-irrigated fields while improving yields and reducing the need for water-polluting fertilizers. This newer approach is similar to the more common form of Drip irrigation invented in Israel More than 60 years ago. But this system uses gravity as an energy source, eliminating the constant use and expenditure of external energy.

It is said that the wars of the twenty-first century will be fought over water. It may be, but it’s cheaper and smarter for every water-stressed region and country to change how they use water. It has to start by changing the way we think about water. And in that, every country—rich or poor, big or small, landlocked or with a long coastline—can learn from what Israel has done.

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