The Importance of Wastewater Technology in Israel

Nearly three years ago, the pandemic broke out, sparking tremendous shifts in our lifestyles and priorities. One trend that may have long lasting effects – an explosion of interest in wastewater analysis for the purpose of disease tracking and prevention.

Such analysis has proven to not only be effective for monitoring and improving public and environmental health but is also well-suited for many other applications as well.

Israel, a world leader in water conservation and related technologies, was at the forefront of implementing innovative wastewater analysis during the pandemic. Now, Israel’s leadership in the field can help spur other countries to adopt this innovative technology for a wide variety of benefits, such as predicting the outbreak of future variants of viruses like polio or the flu.

Water Technology Innovators

Israel has long been a world leader in water technology – one of the nation’s first global success stories was drip irrigation pioneer Netafim, which has spurred a global revolution in agricultural yield.

How did Israel’s leadership in water technology come about? Israel’s perennial lack of water resources encouraged Israeli entrepreneurs to develop innovative technologies in the fields of water management and agriculture, allowing authorities along with the private sector to work together to enact immense transformation countrywide. Water and sewage organizations have collaborated to advance the maintenance of municipal water supplies; cutting-edge desalination facilities now provide roughly 70% of the country’s water; and Israel’s wastewater treatment plants remain among the most advanced in the world, collecting, treating, and reclaiming far more wastewater than any other country.

The latest instance of Israel’s forward-thinking emphasis on water technology innovation came in December 2021, when the Ministry of Health launched a first-of-its-kind wastewater analysis initiative to track COVID-19 through Israel’s sewer systems. Coming off the heels of earlier successful localized trials, this groundbreaking project marked the first time an entire country received rapid data insights about the spread of the pandemic from its sewer network – insights that enabled officials to accurately map and track the virus with unprecedented efficiency.

Water, Water Everywhere

Recently, investment in water technology has started to grow significantly. Israel is uniquely poised to capitalize on this momentum and adopt solutions that can benefit current and future generations.

Consider that practically any human habit can be reflected and detected in wastewater – from diet trends to illnesses to drug use to smoking habits. New wastewater intelligence technologies can also be used to proactively prevent and address the threat of contaminants leaking into public systems and publicly accessible bodies of water, tracking contaminants to their source, allowing authorities to identify any perpetrators of illegal dumping in the process. The technology can also extract insights from sewer systems that reflect public health behaviors and habits to help us learn and improve on public and environmental health initiatives.

Additionally, as climate change further exacerbates challenges for water infrastructure – water shortages, non-revenue water, and the rising demand for water globally – there is a real need to improve efficiency of essential services including provision of safe and secure drinking water, stormwater and wastewater management.

Stay Ahead of the Future

Alongside its unique ability to monitor public health trends, wastewater analysis can also be deployed as a predictive measure to establish and promote future-facing health policies, playing a critical role in mitigating the effects of diseases and health crises in the future.

It has become clear that everything that happens in cities ends up in their sewers. By measuring disease levels in municipal sewage systems in real time, Israel can analyze the data and react accordingly before crisis strikes, putting the country in an ideal position to become a world leader in disease prevention through the use of wastewater analysis.

Wastewater Is-raeli Useful

Now, as the pandemic wanes from public consciousness, it is vital that leaders in the field work to maintain the momentum built in the wake of the pandemic.

With continued investment into innovative water technologies that boost the economy as well as public and environmental health, Israel can continue to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to water technology, guarding its citizens from future health threats while allowing them to continue their day-to-day routine.

As more and more industry leaders and innovative officials alike begin to understand that our “waste” is anything but, the possibilities for building a safer, healthier future through “sewage sleuthing” will be endless.

About the Author
Dr. Andrew Engeli is the Chief Strategy Officer of Kando, a data intelligence solutions provider specializing in wastewater analysis. Dr. Engeli was previously Deputy Director for Innovation at the UK's Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and Deputy Director for EMHP at the UK Health Security Agency.
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