With California and other parts of the U.S. facing extreme drought conditions, water conservation is a huge push these days. Thankfully, the U.S. can learn a lot from our friends in Israel, a desert country that struggled through its own drought not too long ago . . . and has emerged a water superpower, according to a recent New York Times article.
“We were in a situation where we were very, very close to someone opening a tap somewhere in the country and no water would come out,” said Uri Schor, the spokesman and public education director of the government’s Water Authority.
But that was about six years ago. Today, there is plenty of water in Israel. . .
With its part-Mediterranean, part-desert climate, Israel had suffered from chronic shortages and exploitation of its natural water resources for decades.
The natural fresh water at Israel’s disposal in an average year does not cover its total use of roughly 525 billion gallons. The demand for potable water is projected to rise to 515 billion gallons by 2030, from 317 billion gallons this year.
The turnaround came with a seven-year drought, one of the most severe to hit modern Israel, that began in 2005 and peaked in the winter of 2008 to 2009. The country’s main natural water sources — the Sea of Galilee in the north and the mountain and coastal aquifers — were severely depleted, threatening a potentially irreversible deterioration of the water quality.
Measures to increase the supply and reduce the demand were accelerated, overseen by the Water Authority, a powerful interministerial agency established in 2007.
Desalination emerged as one focus of the government’s efforts, with four major plants going into operation over the past decade. A fifth one should be ready to operate within months. Together, they will produce a total of more than 130 billion gallons of potable water a year, with a goal of 200 billion gallons by 2020.
Israel has, in the meantime, become the world leader in recycling and reusing wastewater for agriculture. It treats 86 percent of its domestic wastewater and recycles it for agricultural use — about 55 percent of the total water used for agriculture. Spain is second to Israel, recycling 17 percent of its effluent, while the United States recycles just 1 percent, according to Water Authority data.