by: Terry Mason, Director of International Development
Have you ever been truly, deeply thirsty? Were you in a place where you were able to find clean drinking water to quench your thirst? The reality of physical thirst is foreign to many people blessed to live in parts of the world where water is abundant. But, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, one-third of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water. For them, water is a scarce resource that is hard to obtain. Unless something significant changes, the World Bank estimates that by 2025, nearly 1.8 billion people will live in conditions of absolute water scarcity. That shortfall is expected to impact everything from the cost of food to geopolitics.
Israel’s innovative water technologies are making a difference on many levels. Perhaps the most strategic difference of all could be peace. Water is becoming a major source of geopolitical strife. Indeed many experts believe that water—rather than oil—could become a main resource fought over in the coming decades.
In a recent BBC article entitled “How Water Shortages Are Brewing Wars,” Sandy Milne states, “Unprecedented levels of dam building and water extraction by nations on great rivers are leaving countries further downstream increasingly thirsty, increasing the risk of conflicts.” With global water use growing at more than twice the rate of population growth, there simply is not enough fresh water to go around. Major cities across the globe regularly ration their citizens’ water use. In the last decade, water crises ranked in the top five of the World Economic Forum’s list of Global Risks by Impact.
Potential major conflicts over access to water have sprung up across the globe in recent years. One example is the greater Tigris–Euphrates basin that stretches from Turkey into Syria, Iraq and Iran. To meet its own growing demands for water and electricity, Turkey is developing a massive infrastructure project that, when completed, will include 90 dams and 60 hydropower plants. Nations downstream are already feeling the impact with water flows down the ancient rivers cut by half.
Another imminent example is in Africa, where Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt all rely on the annual flow from the Blue Nile to maintain their economies. Ethiopia is pressing ahead with development of a massive dam that will significantly limit the flow of water to its neighbors downstream. And last year, Egypt and Sudan held a joint military exercise pointedly called “Guardians of the Nile.”
The growing water scarcity continues to lead the world down a drought-stricken path to potential strife. Israel, meanwhile, is working to augment its paltry natural supply of fresh water to secure an ample reservoir of this scarce resource—even during times of drought—and share its know-how with the nations of the world.
The Jewish state’s water tech innovations over the past two decades are too numerous to cover fully in this short article. Below are some highlights of Israeli water technology that could stave off war in many parts of the globe.
Recycling: Israel is the world leader in water reclamation and reuse. The country currently recycles nearly 90% of all wastewater, mostly for use in agriculture irrigation. There is a completely separate national water grid for recycled water. When you visit Israel, watch for the almost ubiquitous pink or purple pipes that irrigate city parks and make the desert bloom through agriculture expansion. Reclaiming water that goes down the drain for useful purposes is one way to offset the lack of available water in dry parts of the globe.
Purification: SunDwater’s solar-powered distiller is a “green,” low-cost and low-maintenance system that converts dirty or salty water into drinkable water without any need for infrastructure or an external energy source. Under sunny conditions, the basic model produces 400 liters (105.7 gal.) of clean water per day.
Another major source of purification is the technology of desalination, by which salt water from the ocean is made usable for human consumption. Israel led the way in development of commercial-scale desalination.
Extraction: What happens if there simply isn’t water available to purify? Another Israeli leader in water innovation, Watergen, found a way to extract water out of thin air. Watergen has scalable models that produce anywhere from 20 to 9,000 liters (5 to 238 gal.) of clean water per day with no need for a water source other than the humidity in the air.
Conservation: When a precious resource like water is scarce, the need to conserve what is available is all the more heightened. The drip irrigation technology pioneered by Israeli firm Netafim has received much well deserved publicity. Around 70% of global water use is for agricultural irrigation. Taking minimal amounts of water directly to the base of each plant saves tremendous amounts of water.
An even newer innovation sector in water conservation is the use of IT. For instance, Israeli company Aquarious Spectrum enables infrastructure managers to detect and prevent potential water leakage. And BwareIT has developed technology products to help monitor and track water consumption. If people are aware of how much water they use per day, it can help them to be more conscious of trying to save.
Israel is making a difference in water availability on a global scale. In 2015, India, the world’s second most populace country, signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel to increase cooperation in water management. That same year, the World Bank signed a cooperation agreement with Israel that would aid the transfer of water technology know-how to developing countries.
God promised in His Word to bless the world through the Jewish people. Isaiah 44:3 states, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”
Conflictual rhetoric over water access is increasing in many other parts of the world. If countries can creatively supply water and better manage its use, the strain on demand should diminish. As more and more countries consult with Israel regarding technologies to help solve their water shortages, we can only hope that conflict over this increasingly scarce resource will become less likely in the decades ahead.
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