How an arid desert land now exports water

I am vacationing in Israel for ten days, so why not take the opportunity to write about some of the interesting environmental initiatives over here? I’m going to start with water conservation and supply, a subject in which Israel is a world leader.

With population growth and the effects of climate change water supply is one of the world’s most pressing issues. Many countries are critically affected, including half of the United States, all of India, and about three-quarters of China. But despite being one of the most arid places on Earth, with 60% of the land desert and scarce rainfall that only ever falls in winter, Israel has become completely self-sufficient in water and actually exports both water and expertise to neighbouring countries and other parts of the world.

Here are some of the ways they do it:

desalination plant in Carlsbad, California

1. Desalination. Israel has developed and built ‘reverse osmosis’ desalination plants which guarantee the water supply. Despite criticism of some negative environmental effects – desalination has always been controversial – the technology is now used in other places including California, the Middle East and Asia.

drip irrigation, Mexico 2000

2. Water-efficient farming. Perhaps the best known method is drip-irrigation, an Israeli development in modern times. Drip irrigation can decrease water use by at least 40% and actually increases agricultural productivity, being better for the crops. Drip irrigation is now used in several hot climates including India and California.

3. Water recycling. Israel uses a super-impressive 95% of ‘grey’ water for farming. This compares to around 5% in the USA.

Very significant since farming is by far the world’s biggest user of water, at 68%.

Israel’s water story is described in Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth M Siegel

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