Water Scarcity

Compiled by Rodney Mazinter

Water, or rather the lack of it, is an issue that looks set to affect the lives of every person on earth. Governments and the media quite rightly give high priority to the consequences of the devastating droughts being encountered throughout the world. Reliance on natural and traditional water resources are coming under increasing strain and this will touch every person living, rich and poor, first-world and third. 

The water shortage in the world has reached such staggering heights in the last couple of years that it has become a water crises. According to a statement published by the WHO and UNICEF in 2012, more than 1.5 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.

This statistic does not include the tens of thousands of people who lose access to drinking water in the event of a natural disaster – causing water sources to become contaminated or altogether destroyed. 

The problem starts with people taking the supply of water for granted not realising that over ninety percent of fresh water is tied up, frozen at the poles, and with no economical way to bring it to where most people are living. This means that we must rely on less that ten percent that is potable from rain, dams, rivers and lakes.

Fifty-five percent of our potable water from these natural sources is used for agriculture, which, together with six percent used for industry, makes a hefty sixty-one percent of clean, sweet water that is not absorbed by humans and animals, but mostly finds its way eventually into the ground and out to sea, polluted.

Water scarcity is a universal problem, yet the dangers facing mankind have not yet filtered down to all countries. Too many governments influenced more by current political considerations or just plain greed either ignore or appear to be unaware of solutions that are being successfully implemented around the world in countries that do recognise the danger. These enlightened countries with the interests of their citizens uppermost, are doing something about it. However, even those countries that are doing something about current and future shortages cannot ignore the consequences of the looming dangers when they will be confronted by desperate nations, some of them armed with sophisticated weaponry, facing a survival situation.

According to Seth M Siegel, author of the seminal book on the subject, Let There Be Water:

“Twenty percent of the world population − about 1.5 billion people − will be the first victims of this water crisis [affecting] global food markets…”

Siegel goes on to list five “macro trends” that will impact on the crisis: 

  • population growth, 

  • a rising middle class, 

  • climate change, 

  • polluted water, 

  • municipal supply leaks. 

He emphasises that “Each of these challenges…can be overcome.”

  • Over the past thirty years the world’s population has increased from two to seven billion, and by 2050 it is expected to reach 9.5 billion. With such an increase of people on earth, without creating new potable sources, finding water for even basic needs will be daunting if not impossible.

  • Not only is the world’s population increasing, it is also becoming wealthier with concomitant demands made on available, but decreasing, resources.

  • Rising world temperatures promotes higher loss of natural water supplies through evaporation of water in rivers, dams and lakes. Higher temperatures also increase demands for irrigation and domestic consumption.

  • Increased use of fertilizers and pesticides results in a leaching of these contaminants into aquifers, lakes and rivers making fresh water from these sources highly suspect.

  • The loss of good water through leaks in the municipal system can range between 25% in first-world countries to up to 60% in poorer countries resulting in losses of billions of litres.

The speed with which all this is happening is frightening, and yet there is an equally frightening complacency that the problem is for someone else to solve and that it will just happen. It won’t. We have a looming catastrophe staring us in the face. On the positive side there is a solution if we were to put politics aside and work in unison to find and implement it.

The Solution

While commendable suggestions are made for domestic water savings, this, if even fully applied, will not solve the long term and immediate problems in a situation where agriculture and industry are by far the greatest users of water. Getting fresh water to the right place and in the right quantities is critical for life on earth. What is needed are long-term solutions and facilities that reliably and consistently do the job.

Our wastage of natural water in rivers and lakes is leading rapidly towards a tipping point where fresh water simply will not be available for human usage and consumption. Ninety-seven percent of the water on earth is salted. Some of it is land-bound, brackish water, but by far the greatest repository is the ocean and it is long overdue that the sea should be seen as a ready and natural resource.

Israel has developed and provides unique technologies for desalination.

With the growing demand for fresh water, coupled with droughts and rising costs from traditional sources, desalination increasingly is becoming practical and economical. Roughly 80 percent of people around the world live within one hundred kilometres of a coast – using seawater is an obvious solution to the growing lack of fresh water.

Every country, should be focusing on the efficient use of water to produce food. Israel, with sixty percent of its country comprising desert and the rest, semi-desert, can serve as a model for countries everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities. Israel has not only solved its water problems; it also has an abundance of water and it can and does supply water to its neighbours - the Palestinians and Jordan - every day (see Politics of Water).

Under its 1994 peace treaty with the Kingdom of Jordan and the 1995 Oslo II Agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel provides water to each. To the extent that climate change, population growth, and prosperity create new water needs for the Palestinians and Jordan, Israel is in a position, and shows a total willingness, to give help to its neighbours in these difficult times. This cooperation is extended to other continents where countries benefit from Israeli expertise and know-how.

Droughts have plagued the Middle East since biblical times. Israel’s long-term strategy is to bring the entire area to a point where it can withstand even long droughts. All countries need to emulate the inspired vision of a nation and people that have long made water security a top priority by implementing programmes focusing on affordable sewerage and storm-water recycling, inventive irrigation techniques, and, importantly, desalination of sea and brackish water. 

Israel is helping countries and people as disparate as the Palestinians in the West Bank, Jordan, India, China and Russia. Many countries in Africa are working with Israeli scientists and engineers on their water challenges. 

The Players

“Sixty percent of Israel is desert and the rest semiarid” so Seth Siegel points out. The British white paper of May 1939 limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine on the pretext, among others, that there was insufficient water to sustain any growth in the then population. The Zionists responded in July 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, by developing a sophisticated and integrated national water plan. This had to be put on hold during the five years of war and the Holocaust, but those who saw the return to Israel as an achievable goal did not let it gather dust.

On Israel’s founding as an independent state in 1948 one of the first items on its order of business was a sustainable water supply for the development of the new country. The problem was exacerbated when almost a million Jews were expelled from surrounding African and Middle Eastern countries and fled to the only country in the world that would take them in, Israel. The country started off with barely sufficient water for its existing population and changing this and sustaining a secure water supply remains a priority to this day.

The creativity and hard work of Israelis, and the country’s ability to apply its newfound inventiveness to unprecedented technological advances saw its movement towards solutions for its water problems advance in leaps and bounds. There are good examples of this but this short essay will confine itself to the two already mentioned.

The water sector giant IDE Technologies, is an Israeli company:
Current Desalination Technologies

Existing desalination technology can be grouped into two categories: thermal distillation and reverse osmosis. Thermal distillation processes account for the majority of desalinated water, but advances in reverse osmosis technology in the past two years has increased the utilization of this filtration-based process. Both systems produce a brine byproduct that threatens marine life and the benthic zone (ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water) ecosystems when discharged into the ocean.

Thermal distillation processes, such as multi-effects distillation (MED) and multi-stage flash distillation (MFD) utilize a series of stages or effects to heat sea water and capture the desalinated vapor which is condensed into fresh water. While distillation is a widely utilized method of desalination, the process is problematic in several ways. Heating salt water to a boiling point causes the salt to build up around the sides and bottom of the heating chamber, causing scaling that can corrode, plug pipes, and limit heat conductivity resulting in maintenance, operational issues and high operating costs.

Reverse osmosis is the process of separating dissolved salt and fresh water by forcing fresh water through an osmotic membrane, leaving a salt concentrate on one side of the membrane and fresh water on the other. This requires substantial amounts of energy to overcome the osmotic pressure and force the water to pass through the membrane. 

The higher the pressure, the faster the fresh water can pass through the membrane and the higher the energy costs. For every gallon of fresh water produced through reverse osmosis, a gallon or more of brine is also produced.

In addition, all existing RO systems run on electricity, a much more expensive energy source than natural gas. The EFD Corp. process is powered entirely by natural gas, which is 7.4 times less expensive than electricity, and reuses 95 percent of the thermal energy expended, ensuring maximum efficiency throughout the system. The use of electricity by current desalination technologies results in desalinated water that is 2.4 times more expensive than water that could be produced by EFD Corp. processes.

(Source: IDE website

Environmental Impact of Reverse Osmosis

All existing utility-scale desalination technology results in the production of a brine byproduct made up of salt, minerals and other compounds which are discharged into the ocean. Because brine contains twice the salt concentration of sea water and does not contain oxygen, discharging it into the ocean causes it to sink and spread along the ocean floor, where it can have a devastating impact on the flora and fauna found on the bottom, or in the bottom sediments, of a sea or lake including the suffocation of fish eggs and other organisms that inhabit this region. The delicate ecosystems on the ocean floor can be smothered by the negative environmental impact of brine, resulting in a potentially disastrous environment for marine life and what is known as “kill zones.”

The negative environmental impacts of reverse osmosis and other desalination technologies have been tolerated throughout the world because of a complete lack of an environmentally friendly alternative. EFD Corp. technology does not produce brine. Instead, EFD Corp. technology introduces a revolutionary process of producing crystalised sea salt as a byproduct of desalination, a commodity that can be commercially shipped and sold worldwide. Currently, EFD Corp. technology is the only alternative to desalinating sea water on a utility scale without the production of brine.

Israel has developed and provides unique technologies for desalination. IDE Technologies in early January 2016 brought on-stream the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – a facility that will produce some 190 million litres of water daily for the residents of drought stricken Southern California. 

The plant is able to produce potable water of the highest quality while creating some 2,500 jobs and generating about $350 million for the local economy providing San Diego County with a drought-proof water supply and the ability to meet the water needs of future generations.
This is not theory but practical and working technology. 

This plant replicates three of five that Israel has been using with huge success along its coastline in the Mediterranean. IDE is involved in another ten projects in the United States and operates hundreds of facilities around the world. The process is highly reliable, simple to operate and has low maintenance costs. It is energy-efficient and tolerates variations in the quality of the seawater. 

With the growing demand for fresh water, coupled with droughts and rising costs from traditional sources, desalination increasingly is becoming practical and economical. Roughly 80 percent of people around the world live within 100 kilometres of a coast – using seawater is an obvious solution to the growing lack of fresh water.

Arye Kohavi and Water-Gen: water from thin air

What about the twenty percent of people who do not live near the coast? The need to find sustainable solutions to water shortage problem has never been as critical. Engineers and innovators around the world are, therefore, constantly searching for and finding new ways to economically combat this problem. The team at Water-Gen has created water supply solutions that leads the way in this field.

An innovation worth mentioning because of its impact and its transition from military use to domestic, is a water from air technology. Starting its application for soldiers on the battlefield, like many of Israel’s innovations it has found a major implementation for peaceful use.

A lack of water on the battlefield is not something that soldiers can afford to worry about in the heat of combat. Supplying clean water however, is not always an easy task given the dangers of any battle. Aware of this fact, Arye Kohavi, a former company commander in the IDF Special Forces, set about creating technology which would ensure that soldiers are never short of clean water and that the water supply is never delayed.

Kohavi in 2009, developed a revolutionary technology designed for the military which can produce clean water out of thin air by extracting water from the ambient air humidity. Israeli soldiers are often forbidden from drinking water on foreign soil for a variety of reasons including the fact that it can be unclean or even poisonous. The technology invented by Kohavi is now being supplied to the Israeli, British, French and American armies.

This solution does exactly that, it generates water from air. It produces 450 liters per day under conditions of an average temperature of 25 degrees C and 55% relative humidity. 

What makes this system so unique is Water-Gen’s patented breakthrough technology called GENius™. It results in GEN-350G “only requiring 310 Wh per liter of water under these conditions.” Kohavi further elaborates on the advantages of this unit, “Firstly, water can be produced at the point-of-use, reducing the logistical burden associated with a convoy of water, as well as the need for consumables like water bottles. Secondly, the source the water is generated from –the air we breathe – is available in abundance.” The unit also comes with an integral water tank that is continuously kept sterile. This makes it possible to conserve safe, premium, drinking water for as long as necessary. 

Following the successes of the technology, Kohavi set about bringing the appliance to the civilians in third world countries two years ago. The GENNY, as the civilian version of the appliance is called, is now used in India, Africa, Central America and China. Since water in these countries is too impure for consumption, many people have to buy bottles of water which are not always affordable. The GENNY can produce 20 litres per day for people who simply cannot drink from the pipes because the water is impure. The process can produce water that is much cheaper.

On June 2009 Kohavi founded Water-Gen a company that designs state-of-the-art solutions for supplying water. Water-Gen solutions for the defense sector include: atmospheric water generation (drinking water-from-air), treatment of air conditioning run-off water, and battery-operated mobile water purification units. The company has been selling its products to customers such as the US Army, UK Army, Israel Defense Forces, French Army, and civilian applications such as home-appliance water generator.

Water Gen invented a revolutionary dehumidification design technology called Genius that enables the system to generate water from air.

Using low-cost structural materials it enables the Genius models to be highly scalable to any size, giving rise to units that are transportable, can be used in largescale applications and in small units for the home.

Kohavi’s innovation earned him a place among the world’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014 and one of the world’s top innovators in Foreign Policy magazine.

Water Crisis Cape Town 2018

The four million residents of Cape Town will have their water supplies cut off unless the city manages to reduce daily consumption by 20 percent. The “Day Zero” shutdown is expected for mid-May 2018 and is recalculated every week based on current reservoir capacity and daily consumption.

The crisis is mostly attributed to three years of unprecedented drought that has dried up the city’s six-dam reservoir system. If the dams fall below 13.5% capacity before the start of the rainy season in June, taps will be turned off and residents will have to line up at municipal points to collect their allotted 25 liters per day. This amount is about a quarter of the water used by the average American daily.

As “Day Zero” approaches, it seems the whole world is watching to see what Cape Town does. In Israel, a country with its own history of water struggles and triumphs, experts are weighing in on how Israeli innovation and mindset may be able to help Cape Town and other water-scarce locations avoid future disasters.

“We are known around the world for being experts in water and having developed the most advanced technologies to cope with water scarcity,” says Prof. Eilon Adar, director of Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben Gurion University.

“But it’s not necessarily so that these technologies can be adapted as is and save the rest of the world. Every society has its own constraints – social, physical, natural – and the most we can do is to try and adapt the Israeli concept to see which technologies or innovations can be tailored for the local needs.”

The road to disaster isn’t set it stone. According to Seth Siegel, author of Let There be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World, water problems like the one in Cape Town are almost always avoidable.

“These problems tend to come at you pretty slowly; therefore you have lots of lead time to fix the problem or prepare your population,” said the New York-based author, activist and businessman. In order to arrive at the point of humanitarian crisis, he says, “you have to have a willful ignoring of your problems.”

His book cites factors like population growth, rising affluence, climate change, pollution of water sources, and leaky infrastructure as drivers of the world’s imminent water crisis. “The water crisis isn’t a ‘developing world’ problem reserved for international aid organizations operating in faraway locales,” he writes.

While many places, like São Paulo, California and Cape Town, have reached crisis points in recent years, Israel serves as a model to show that dwindling supplies of natural water sources and declining rainfall do not always determine a country’s destiny.

A desert nation keeps its head above water

From its inception, Israel has had to build its nation without abundant water or energy. Despite its arid climate, fast-growing population, and history of droughts, Israel today experiences a water surplus.

If there was no other dry place in the world that had mastered this problem, I would say that we’re all kind of in a tough situation,” says Siegel. “Israel is so successful in its water management that it has enough water for everybody, it’s self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables, which takes a lot of water, and it has so much extra water that it can export water to its neighbours.”

Israel’s national water grid, established in 1964, gave the country the ability to bring water from a relatively wet place (the north) to a relatively dry place (the south), something that many countries today still do not do. The grid now integrates surface water, groundwater and desalinated water into the same pipeline, which Adar says is unique to Israel. This infrastructure has helped Israel withstand drought and expand into desert areas once thought uninhabitable.

Yossi Yaacoby, director of WaTech innovation center for Mekarot ( Israel’s national water-management consortium, agrees that Israel’s dynamic planning capabilities have helped to secure Israel’s water future.

There is not one single solution for the water problem, he explained, but rather multiple layers of solutions and policies that work together. “If you rely on natural water sources without any storage capability, without investing, and without understanding that water has a price, you will not achieve any target of water supply. And this is the main problem,” he said.

An ‘all in’ approach

Israel’s use of innovative irrigation, desalination, wastewater recycling and reuse, and leak-detection technology has been credited with helping the country become a water superpower. It is the extent to which these innovations have been implemented that sets Israel apart, rather than the technology itself.

For example, drip irrigation is the norm in Israel, where the landscape consists of 60% desert. First developed in 1959 by Israeli inventor Simcha Blass, the method has been proven to save water, enhance yields and reduce energy consumption. Today it supplies 75% of irrigated agricultural fields in Israel with water. In comparison, only 5% of the irrigated fields around the world utilise drip-irrigation technologies. Many countries, including the US, still rely on wasteful flood-irrigation methods.

When it comes to wastewater treatment, Israel’s recycled wastewater ratio is four times higher than in any other country in the world, with 85% of the treated water available for agricultural uses. Currently the US recycles about 9% of its wastewater. Yaacoby says that a target average of even 20% reclaimed wastewater in the US would be a real revolution.

Israel has also invested heavily in desalination plants on the Mediterranean shore. There are currently six plants, two of which are the largest in the world, producing nearly 500 million gallons of freshwater from salt water every day.

Desalination has allowed Israel to get ahead of droughts and provide a substantial supplement to the water supply, creating more water for agriculture, replenishing its natural water sources, and supplying water to its Palestinian and Jordanian neighbours.

The global water crisis is unlikely to be solved without widespread use of desalinated water,” writes Siegel. “Even water-rich locations like New York City may decide to build a desalination plant as a backup for security or environmental reasons.”

Two desalination plants are being built in Cape Town, each expected to provide 7 million liters of water per day. However, experts say it is unlikely that residents will see water from these plants before “Day Zero.”

“Cape Town started designing or planning for this two and a half years ago, and now they are still in the middle of construction. It’s too slow and too late,” said Adar, who traveled to South Africa in 2016 to take part in a series of water-focused events organized by the Israeli embassy.

Although seawater desalination comes with a relatively high price tag, Adar reminds that paying more for water is better than having no water at all.

“For countries considering investing in the infrastructure, it has to be assessed with reference to a critical value of water,” he says. “This is the cost to produce alternative water when you don’t have enough. And it’s a matter of willingness to pay.”

Changing attitudes toward water

Technology aside, one of the most unique aspects of Israel’s approach to water is its understanding of water as a commodity.

Unlike in the US, where water is a personal property right, a series of laws passed in the mid-1950s made water ownership in Israel public. This gave the government the power to manage, regulate, price and allocate water in accordance with the best needs of the country.

“Around the world, the price of water is nearly universally subsidised,” explains Siegel. “What we know from basic economics is that when people get things for free or at a discounted price, they don’t value it the same way.” By charging the real price of water, Israel has gained a nationwide interest in saving water and a culture that values every drop.

Somehow, although it is a natural resource, we have all agreed to put a price tag on oil and gas, which means that we refer to it as a commodity,” says Adar. “However almost no one in the world but Israel treats water as a commodity as well.”

Adar places equal importance on education. “Without any doubt, education is the key,” he says. “If you take an eight-year-old boy or girl and begin to educate them on conservation, in five or six years’ time they are teenagers and in 10 years they are adults.” Cultural attitudes towards water can change, but it may take at least a generation.

Creating a global impact

Currently more than 150 countries actively use Israeli solutions – whether technology, training, or technical assistance – to help address their water problems. Despite offers of assistance years ago and more recently by Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Lior Keinan, there has been no formal engagement between Israel and South Africa regarding the looming water crisis. However, the South Africa-based Legacy Water Solutions management consulting company is actively considering various Israeli companies with which to partner.

“We attended WATEC in September 2017, where we had an opportunity to attend the sessions and visit the expos. We also had a delegation to Israel in March 2017 where we visited Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, where Prof Adar hosted us. He exposed us to many Israeli products and technologies,” Michelle Harding, Legacy Water Solutions managing director, tells ISRAEL21c.

As Siegel notes, not everything Israel has done in terms of water conservation and management will be relevant everywhere or to everyone. There will always be differences in topography, rain patterns, natural water resources, government priorities and spending, but every country has something to learn from some part of what Israel has done.

“If nothing else, Israel’s focus on water and its priority in the national consciousness can be an inspiration to leaders and engaged citizens everywhere regardless of geography or affluence,” he writes.

Though numerous seasons of above-average rainfall will be necessary for Cape Town’s water supply to return to normal levels, South Africa and other countries can take steps now to get ahead of future disasters.

“Every country should think about how all of their plans and infrastructure can be resilient in extreme conditions,” says Yaacoby. “It’s very important that we share ideas between countries in order to be ready for any disaster.” Yaacoby hopes that soon Israel will be able to offer the world even more water, particularly in times of natural disaster.

Whenever there is a crisis in the world, we are sending an airplane from the Israeli army with all of the equipment in order to save lives,” he says. “We are now thinking that another airplane should arrive with water solutions in order to help the people in those places to get fresh water and sanitation. It should be part of our mission.”

While it would have been great if everyone had started planning for a water-scarce future ahead of time, Siegel says it’s not too late to begin now. “There’s a vicious cycle for those countries that fail to develop their water supply, but there’s also a virtuous circle for those who do,” he says. “People who focus on good water will have far better outcomes.” 

Cape Town May Dry Up Because of an Aversion to Israel

The Palestinian Authority accepts the Jewish state’s help on water projects. South Africa refuses it.
By Seth M. Siegel

Cape Town, South Africa, has designated July 9 “Day Zero.” That’s when water taps throughout the city are expected to go dry, marking the culmination of a three-year drought. South African officials aren’t responsible for the lack of rain, but inept management and a devotion to anti-Israel ideology needlessly made the situation worse.

Even before Israel declared statehood in 1948, its leaders focused on water security as closely as they did military preparedness. Mostly desert, Israel would need adequate water to thrive. In the decades since, the country has developed an apolitical, technocratic form of water governance.

Conservation is taught from kindergarten. Market pricing of water encourages everyone to waste nothing. Sensitive prices have driven innovation. Israelis helped create desalination, drip irrigation and the specialised reuse of treated wastewater in agriculture. Although Israel is in the fifth year of a drought, today its citizens can reliably count on abundant water.

Cape Town is another story. Its reservoirs began receding more than two years ago. This problem turned into a crisis because of subsidy-distorted water pricing, inefficient irrigation, and a lack of desalination facilities and a long-term plan. In 2016 officials from Israel’s Foreign Ministry recognized the problem and alerted national, provincial and local governments in South Africa. Israel has trained water technicians in more than 100 countries, and it offered to bring in desalination experts to help South Africa.

South African officials ignored or rebuffed the no-strings Israeli proposal. It would be admirable if South Africa’s rejection came from a can-do attitude, in a statement of national self-sufficiency. But it appears to have been for ideological reasons that South African officials wanted no help from Jerusalem.

Even more confounding, the South Africans turned to Iran for help. In April 2016, when there was still enough time for a smart plan to make a difference, South Africa’s water minister visited Tehran. She brought home a memorandum of understanding in which Iran agreed to help develop South Africa’s water infrastructure.

Unlike Israel, Iran is not known for its water-management expertise. Anger over water shortages was a feature of the recent Iranian protests. Even before the South African visit, a former Iranian agriculture minister predicted that as many as 50 million Iranians—around two-thirds of the population—would need to be uprooted because of growing water scarcity.

As in South Africa, Iran’s water shortages can’t be blamed only on the weather. Water infrastructure projects in Iran are controlled by the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which diverts water to favored ethnic and political groups. In Tehran largely untreated sewage is discharged into nearby waterways, a waste of water that creates health hazards. Years of regime-encouraged overpumping of groundwater has left agricultural districts without water for crops.

Two months after the South African water minister’s Iran trip, Israel brought a team of water professionals to Cape Town. Neither the mayor, also strongly hostile to Israel, nor any senior municipal official would see them.

If the South Africans are snubbing the Israelis out of solidarity with the Palestinians, they might want to consider this: The Palestinian Authority has worked with Israel on a range of water projects since 1995. Israel offers training for Palestinians in wastewater management, infrastructure and security. Israel also provides the Palestinian Authority with more than half the water for domestic consumption by Palestinians in the West Bank. And it pipes more than 2.5 billion gallons of water into Hamas-controlled Gaza each year.

Why does South Africa feel compelled to be so anti-Israel? The question has no rational answer.

Mr. Siegel is author of “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” ( St. Martin’s Press), recently out in paperback.


Israel, with sixty percent of its country comprising desert, can serve as a model for countries and population concentrations everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities. Israel has not only solved its water problem; it also has an abundance of water and it can and does supply water to its neighbours - the Palestinians and Jordan - every day.

Under its 1994 peace treaty with the Kingdom of Jordan and the 1995 Oslo II Agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel provides water to each. To the extent that climate change, drought, population growth, and prosperity create new water needs for the Palestinians and Jordan, Israel is in a position, and shows a total willingness, to give backup to its neighbours and help in these difficult times. This cooperation is extended to other continents where countries benefit from Israeli expertise and know-how.

When Moses’ Israelites crossed the Jordan river into the “Land of Milk and Honey” it was in fact a desert they were entering. Modern-day Israel’s long-term strategy is to bring the entire area to a point where it can withstand even long droughts. 

Other countries suffering from drought and water insecurity such as Australia, South Africa, Namibia, the USA, South American countries along the Pacific, and others in Europe and Asia, need to emulate the inspired vision of a nation and people that have long made water security a top priority, by implementing programmes focusing on affordable sewerage and storm-water recycling, inventive irrigation techniques, water from air, and, importantly, desalination of sea and brackish water. 

Job creation? Economic enhancement? Drought solutions? —What is the world waiting for?

We all stand to benefit from advanced water technology by learning what Israel did to overcome daunting challenges and transform itself from a parched land into a water superpower being the only country in the world that transitioned into the 21st century with more trees than it had at the end of the 20th.



An award-winning desalination plant in Carlsbad for the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) that will provide clean water to about 300,000 people and generate over $50m annually to the regional economy. The Carlsbad desalination plant overcame significant practical, regulatory and economic hurdles to deliver a cost effective and environmentally friendly water supply. IDE and its partners worked for more than 10 years to develop a desalination solution that meets all the challenging criteria (see link below.)

  • Capacity: 54M gallons (204,412 m3) per day

  • Technology: Reverse Osmosis SWRO

  • Project type: Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC)

  • Location: Encina Power Station, Carlsbad, California

  • Footprint: ~5.5 acres

  • Commission date: 2015


Multi-award winner:

  • Desalination Deal of the Year 2013, Global Water Intelligence (GWI).

  • North American Water Deal of the Year, Project Finance Magazine.

  • Far West Deal of the Year 2013, The Bond Buyer financial newspaper.

Cutting edge technology – innovative pretreatment phase, resulting in higher efficiency, reduced energy consumption and high quality water.

Revolution for US desalination – ground-breaking project financing that relies on a true partnership model.

Environmental breakthrough – first major California infrastructure project to eliminate its carbon footprint.



The Sorek desalination plant sets significant new industry benchmarks indesalination technology, capacity and water cost. It provides clean, potable water for over 1.5 million people, comprising 20% of the municipal water demand in Israel, thus alleviating the country’s potable water shortage while minimizing the impact on terrestrial and marine environments.

  • Capacity: 624,000 m³/day (26,000 m³/hour)

  • Technology: Reverse (RO)

  • Project Type: Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT)

  • Location: Sorek, Israel

  • Footprint: 100,000 m² (10 ha)

  • Commission Date: 2013


Technological leadership – innovative design incorporating vertical arrangement of 16” membranes in a large-scale facility, resulting in a reduced footprint hence saving costs. Also utilizes IDE’s proprietary Pressure Center Design, Double Line Intake and ERS (Energy Recovery System) for increased efficiency and reduced energy consumption.

Competitive pricing – sets a new benchmark for low cost of desalinated water in BOT projects.

Environmental responsibility – minimizes marine, shoreline and land impacts thanks to pipe jacking of long and large diameter pipelines, smart structural design and sludge treatment for reduced energy and chemical consumption.



Tianjin Desalination Plant, China’s Largest Desalination Plant

China’s SDIC (State Development and Investment Corporation) needed a reliable and sustainable supply of clean water near the Tianjin power plant, 200km northeast of Beijing. The Tianjin desalination plant provides high quality drinking water for the local population, as well as industrial boiler make up and process water for the power plant.

IDE’s Multi-Effect Distilation (MED) solution is a win-win concept. The Tianjin Beijing Power Plant is a mega-size engineering system composed of a power plant, seawater desalination plant and salt production from brine, and is managed as an integrated system in which all three parts are interdependent on one another.

  • Capacity: 200,000 m3/day

  • Technology: Multi-Effect Distillation (MED)

  • Project Type: Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC)

  • Location: Hangu, Tianjin, China

  • Footprint: 125m x 160m

  • Commission date: 2010, 2013


Reduced atmospheric heat discharge – the system is powered by waste heat generated by the Tianjin SDIC electricity plant, thereby reducing costs and minimizing the discharge of heat from the plant to the atmosphere

Table salt production – using a new technology, the system recycles post-desalination waste brine to evaporation ponds for production of pure table salt

Reduced environmental impact – a unique closed seawater circulation technology eliminates dependence on external water resources

Trusted long-term partnership – after the successful installation of the first 4 units, SDIC selected IDE to expand the desalination plant and reach a total capacity of 200,000 m3/day



Gujarat Reliance Project, India’s Largest Desalination Plant

IDE has been delivering high quality Boiler Feed Water (BFW), as well as potable water, to India’s largest oil refinery for the last 15 years. This partnership has flourished and capacity has been expanded twice since first commissioning. Using a reliable Multi-Effect Distillation (MED) seawater desalination solution, IDE proves that eco-awareness, operational innovation and cost savings can go hand in hand.

  • Capacity: 160,000 m3/day (with future installations to follow)

  • Technology: Multi-Effect Distillation (MED)

  • Project Type: Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC)

  • Footprint: 4 units: 45m x 200m, 4 units: 60m x 120m, 1 unit: 45m x 45m

  • Location: Jamnagar, Gujarat, India

  • Commission Date: 1998, 2005, 2008


Size – one of the largest MED sites worldwide, and with a new reverse osmosis plant will reach a total capacity of 400,000 m3/day

Technology leadership:

  • Reduced energy consumption

  • Low temperature process for high safety

  • Minimal pre-treatment that saves costs

Track record – continuous successful operation for over 15 years

Robust, customized design – optimized for customer needs

Easy operation with low opex – inherent stability and automatic control reduce the need for labor and maintenance while maintaining high availability

Strong partnership – IDE chosen to supply Reliance’s first reverse osmosis plant at Gujarat



Praising IDE’s “faster, more cost-efficient and environment-friendly desalination process”, Fortune hails the “engineering alchemy” that has allowed the company to rise to no. 2 in the Change The World list.

This list recognizes companies that have had a positive social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy, rated by level of innovation, measurable social impact and business results.

IDE achieved the number 2 spot (behind GlaxoSmithKline) due to its pioneering work in the desalination industry, where it is an undisputed technological leader. Fortune were especially impressed by IDE’s global scale (plants in over 40 countries, including the new Carlsbad plant in California which is a game changer for desalination in the US) and innovations that include a wide range of energy- and cost-efficient desalination processes.


View the following seven links:

Politics of Water in the Middle East– Factsheet

Download the FactSheet Here

  • Definitions

  • Truth about water

  • Division of Water

  • Agreements, Entitlements and Use

  • Issues Facing Israelis and Palestinians


  • Does Israel have more water than the Palestinians?

  • How much does each consume?

  • Unapproved and approved wells?

  • Is the current rate of consumption sustainable

  • Does Israel respect the terms of the agreement?

Sources :

International Organizations Branch

Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria Head of Branch:Lt. Col. Sharon Ben Ari Tel: 02-997-7744

Fax: 02-997-7055


Beit El

Let There Be Water by Seth M. Siegel. Publ: Thomas Dunne Books Sept. 2015

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