Ali Serim
Climate Advocate

Israel’s Desalination Technology Superiority

Israel, situated in one of the most arid regions on the planet, has historically faced severe water scarcity. Over the last several decades, Israel has become a global pioneer in desalination technology, transforming its water scarcity challenge into an opportunity for innovation and sustainability. My article examines the historical development of Israel’s desalination efforts, the technological advancements made, and the significance of these developments for climate change mitigation, particularly for developing states and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Additionally, I aim to highlight the United Nations’ message on the importance of addressing water scarcity as part of global climate action and significance of giving the leading role to help developing states.

The journey of desalination in Israel dates back to the early 20th century, with major advancements occurring in the 1960s. Early efforts centered on thermal desalination processes such as multi-stage flash distillation (MSF) and multi-effect distillation (MED). These processes, though effective, were highly energy-intensive and costly, limiting their broader application.

A pivotal shift occurred with the adoption of reverse osmosis (RO) technology. RO involves forcing seawater through semi-permeable membranes to filter out salts and impurities. This method proved to be far more energy-efficient and cost-effective compared to thermal desalination, revolutionizing the field.

Ashkelon Desalination Plant commissioned in 2005, was a groundbreaking project in Israel’s desalination narrative. Utilizing advanced RO technology, it produces approximately 120 million cubic meters of potable water annually. The plant set a global benchmark for large-scale desalination projects, demonstrating the viability of RO technology on a commercial scale.

Hadera Desalination Plant became operational since 2009. advanced Israel’s desalination capabilities. With an annual production capacity of 127 million cubic meters, it supplies about 20% of Israel’s domestic water needs. The plant features state-of-the-art RO membranes and energy recovery devices that enhance efficiency.

Sorek Desalination Plant inaugurated in 2013, is one of the largest and most technologically advanced desalination facilities worldwide. It boasts a production capacity of 150 million cubic meters per year and uses advanced large-diameter RO membranes, which reduce energy consumption and operational costs, setting new standards for future desalination projects globally.

Israeli companies like IDE Technologies and Mekorot have been at the forefront of desalination innovation. They have developed advanced RO membranes with higher permeability and salt rejection rates, as well as energy recovery systems that reduce the overall energy footprint of desalination plants. Recent innovations include the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to further diminish the environmental impact of desalination.

The scientific underpinnings of Israel’s desalination technology are rooted in rigorous research and development. The use of polyamide thin-film composite (TFC) membranes has significantly enhanced the efficiency of RO processes. These membranes are characterized by their high flux and rejection rates, essential for effective removal of salts and impurities from seawater.

Statistically, Israel’s desalination plants collectively produce over 600 million cubic meters of water annually, accounting for approximately 80% of the country’s domestic water consumption. This substantial contribution has enabled Israel to achieve water security despite its arid climate and limited natural freshwater resources.

Significance for Climate Change and SIDS

The significance of Israel’s desalination technology extends well beyond its borders, offering critical insights and solutions for global water scarcity and climate change mitigation, especially for developing states and SIDS.

Desalination provides a stable and reliable source of freshwater, independent of climatic variability. As climate change intensifies droughts and reduces freshwater availability, desalination becomes an essential tool for ensuring water security in arid and semi-arid regions, including many developing states and SIDS. The United Nations emphasizes the need for sustainable water management as a cornerstone of global climate action.

By supplementing natural freshwater sources with desalinated water, Israel reduces pressure on rivers, lakes and aquifers, helping to preserve ecosystems and maintain biodiversity. This approach is crucial for developing states and SIDS facing similar ecological pressures. The UN advocates for protecting natural water sources to maintain ecological balance and resilience.

Israel’s advancements in desalination technology are being exported globally, assisting other countries in addressing their water scarcity challenges. For example, Israeli desalination technologies have been implemented in nations like India, China and the United States, promoting global resilience to climate change. Developing states and SIDS should benefit significantly from these technologies, which offer scalable solutions to their water scarcity issues.

Modern desalination plants in Israel incorporate state-of-the-art energy recovery devices, such as isobaric energy recovery systems, which significantly reduce the energy required for desalination. Efforts to integrate renewable energy sources further enhance the sustainability of desalination processes, reducing their carbon footprint. This is particularly important for developing states and SIDS aiming to balance development with environmental sustainability. The UN highlights the importance of energy-efficient technologies in achieving climate goals.

Desalinated water is increasingly used in agriculture, reducing dependency on freshwater sources for irrigation. This is especially relevant as climate change threatens traditional water supplies for agriculture, impacting food security. Israel’s efficient irrigation technologies, like drip irrigation developed by Netafim, complement desalination by maximizing the utility of available water resources. Such innovations are crucial for developing states and SIDS to enhance agricultural productivity sustainably. The UN stresses the role of innovative agricultural practices in ensuring food security amidst climate change.

Examples of Water Scarcity in SIDS

Many SIDS face unique challenges related to water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change. Here are some examples:

The Maldives, a nation comprising over 1,000 islands, relies heavily on rainwater and limited groundwater for its freshwater needs. Increasing salinization of groundwater due to sea level rise and more frequent droughts pose severe threats to its water security.

Classified as a water-scarce country, Barbados faces significant challenges in maintaining an adequate water supply. Over-extraction of groundwater and prolonged droughts have stressed its limited freshwater resources, necessitating investments in desalination technology to ensure a reliable water supply.

Kiribati is a Pacific island nation struggles with severe water scarcity due to its limited freshwater lenses and increasing salinization of groundwater. Climate change impacts, including sea level rise and changing precipitation patterns, further threaten its already scarce water resources.

Cape Verde is located off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic which experiences frequent droughts and limited freshwater availability. The country has increasingly relied on desalination to meet its water needs, highlighting the critical role of desalination technology in ensuring water security for SIDS.

Tuvalu is a low-lying Pacific island nation is highly vulnerable to sea level rise, which contaminates its freshwater resources with seawater. Prolonged natural disasters exacerbate the water scarcity problem, making desalination an essential technology for ensuring a sustainable water supply.

Marshall Islands another example with limited groundwater resources have been dealing with water scarcity as a pressing issue. The country relies on rainwater harvesting and desalination to provide potable water to its population.

The Bahamas faces significant water scarcity due to limited freshwater resources and increasing demand from tourism and agriculture. The country has turned to desalination to augment its water supply and ensure water security for its inhabitants.

Antigua and Barbuda face significant challenges with water scarcity due to limited freshwater resources and increased variability in rainfall patterns. Desalination is becoming a vital component of their water management strategy to ensure a reliable supply of freshwater.

Fiji known for its abundant natural resources, Fiji faces localized water scarcity issues, particularly in its outer islands. Desalination technology is increasingly being adopted to address these challenges and ensure water security but more is needed.

Importance of International Cooperation, Aid, and Assistance

International cooperation, aid, and assistance are critical in addressing global water scarcity and promoting the widespread adoption of desalination technology. Collaborative efforts between governments, international organizations, and private sector entities play a vital role in ensuring sustainable water management practices worldwide. Here are key reasons why international cooperation and assistance are essential:

International cooperation facilitates the sharing of resources, knowledge, and expertise among countries. Nations with advanced desalination technologies, such as Israel, can provide technical support and training to developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) facing water scarcity. This exchange of expertise helps build local capacities, enabling countries to implement and maintain desalination plants effectively.

Desalination projects require significant financial investment, which can be challenging for developing countries and SIDS with limited budgets. International aid and assistance from developed nations, international financial institutions, and donor organizations are crucial in providing the necessary funding for desalination infrastructure.

Joint research and development (R&D) initiatives between countries and international organizations can drive innovation in desalination technology. Collaborative R&D efforts focus on improving the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and environmental sustainability of desalination processes.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Desalination technology is a critical tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation. International cooperation ensures that countries vulnerable to climate change, especially SIDS, have access to desalination technology to secure their water supply amidst changing climatic conditions.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emphasizes the importance of international support for climate adaptation measures, including desalination. Through mechanisms like the Adaptation Fund, the UNFCCC provides financial and technical assistance to countries implementing desalination projects as part of their climate adaptation strategies.


International cooperation, aid, and assistance are indispensable in addressing global water scarcity and promoting the adoption of desalination technology. By sharing resources, providing financial support, harmonizing policies, fostering research collaborations, and building local capacities, the global community can ensure that sustainable desalination practices are implemented worldwide. Such collaborative  efforts are vital for enhancing water security, mitigating climate change impacts, and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in developing states and SIDS. Israel’s role will be significantly appreciated.

About the Author
With a diverse and dynamic career background started more than two decades ago in Ernst & Young, I bring a wealth of experience in auditing, corporate consulting, entrepreneurship, climate advocacy and publishing. My journey began in auditing, where I honed my ability to scrutinize financial statements and processes, ensuring accuracy and compliance in various industries. Transitioning into entrepreneurship, I founded and developed businesses, implementing innovative strategies that drove growth and operational efficiency. As a corporate consultant, I've advised businesses on strategic decisions, helping them navigate complex market dynamics and enhance their competitive edge. My dedication to social and environmental causes is evident in my active role as a climate advocate, where I've collaborated with NGOs and engaged in volunteer leadership to promote sustainable practices and policies. Additionally, my diplomatic endeavors have involved facilitating discussions and partnerships between stakeholders to address global challenges, particularly in the realm of environmental sustainability. This blend of professional expertise and voluntary commitment highlights my comprehensive approach to contributing to societal and environmental well-being.
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