In 2014 Israel became a country with a water surplus. A century ago, water availability was so scarce that a Kibbutz in the Negev desert only allowed one cup of water per person each day for personal use. This ration included both consumption and personal hygiene.
As of January 1, 2015, Israel saw a 10% drop in the price of water following price cuts last January and July of 2014. This was mostly thanks to streamlining in water companies. For decades, Israeli government and businesses have aggressively worked on closing the gap between domestic water supply and demand. The government has done so by making the water industry more efficient and cheaper through long-term planning, recycling, technology and conservation. This hard work and focus has shifted Israel from a drinking water shortage to surplus. Let’s take a look at how Israel accomplished this goal:
Culture of Conservation. Since independence, Israelis are used to being bombarded by PSAs about conserving water by turning off hoses and sinks when not in use. These PSAs have been found everywhere from TV and billboards to bumper stickers on public water fountains and sinks themselves. Israelis took it a step further and called on citizens to take a ‘Zionist Shower’, which is a term used to describe the act of only using water to rinse off soap and/or for couples to shower together, all in the name of saving water.
Enterprise. Private companies have played a significant role in conservation, particularly in agriculture and landscaping. One of many examples is Netafim. Netafim invented the world famous drip irrigation that waters plants and crops by releasing a drop of water at a time. This technology is replacing sprinklers, which often over saturates the soil. Many public urinals in Israel are also now waterless (you can see this at the Western Wall). The technology is fairly straightforward; there is a liquid which serves as an ‘EcoTrap’ in the urinal that is lighter than urine, so the urine passes through the EcoTrap to the waste pipes. The EcoTrap not only forces urine down the pipes, but it also seals all odors. These are just a few examples of ways Israel has aggressively made an effort to help conserve water and curb demand.
Desalination. The greatest water advancement for Israel and the world is desalination. Last year Israel had 35% of her domestic water use comes from the sea, making her the world leader in desalination. This number is expected to increase to 40% in 2015 and 70% by 2050. The desalination plant in Palmachim is the largest plant of its kind in the world. In Hadera, Israel has the largest seawater reverse osmosis plant in the world. Israel continues to invest and plan smartly. There is a future plant planned for Ashdod where an offshore gas pipeline can directly feed the expensive energy needed for desalination, further bringing down the costs of water.
After years of planning, investment and conservation, last year Israel increased water supply immensely. Over time with economies of scale and the opportunity to export fresh water to much needed dry middle east neighbors, Israel will not just see a water surplus, but a surplus in her residents wallets as water becomes cheaper, subsidized by exports and more available. Most importantly, Israel has something all of our neighbors need to live, water. This new wild card has provided Israel with new leverage in the dry Middle East and helped her become an even greater regional power.