Conservation efforts, while tremendously helpful, are often insufficient in
solving water scarcity issues in extremely arid regions, experts concluded
during a conference on Wednesday.
Neighboring states should therefore
coordinate their efforts to develop technologies to overcome water issues, said
panelists at the WATEC Israel exhibition and conference.
Moses had a stick – he went into the desert with our people for 40 years and
they didn’t have a problem because he had the stick – we need this technology,”
said Abraham Tenne, chairman of the Water Authority’s Water Desalination
Tenne and his colleagues were speaking at a panel about
water management under scarcity conditions, during the sixth international WATEC
exhibition on water technologies, renewable energy and environmental control,
held from Tuesday to Thursday at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Center.
natural water sources in countries such as Israel continually decrease every
year, they must learn to create sustainable and reliable supplies using new
techniques, many of which Israel has already undertaken, according to
Some such strategies that have already taken force in this country
include raising the price of water, using waste-water for agricultural irrigation
– Israel currently reuses 80 percent of its waste water, while Spain comes in
second at 17% – desalinating brackish and ocean water and educating children
about conservation, Tenne explained.
“These are the water police. They
are teaching their parents to close the tap when they’re shaving,” he
“Israel is a desert, and long forecast plans are that the
precipitation will drop by about 15%, meaning the demand will grow and the
amount of water from nature will go down,” Tenne added. “We have a huge problem
and we need to deal with it.”
Other places around the world, such as the
western United States, are dealing with quite similar crises.
for example, has an ever-increasing population and a climate that is only getting
“hotter and dryer,” said Prof. Sharon B. Megdal, director of the Water Resources
Research Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
projected water needs for 2013 and 2020, respectively, are 1,765 and 1,970
million cubic meters per year, Arizonans use about 8,634 million cubic meters
each year, according to Tenne and Megdal respectively.
Similar to Israel,
Arizona reuses sewage water, desalinates brackish water and is pursuing talks
with neighboring seaside states about creating shared ocean desalination
“There are a lot of similarities [between Arizona and Israel],”
Megdal said, gesturing toward photos on her PowerPoint slide. “The Coca Cola
plant and the Ikea [store] could be in Tempe, Arizona – but no, they’re here by
the Shafdan facility.”
“An importance difference is we don’t have the sea
to help solve the problems,” added Megdal, who will be a visiting professor at
Hebrew University next semester.
In Arizona, about 40% of the water used
comes from groundwater, 3% from recycled water and the remainder from the
Colorado River, whose basin Arizona shares with six other states, as well as
Mexico and Native American reservations inside Arizona that have independent
“They have sovereignty when it comes to water
management, so we share water with a lot of different entities,” Megdal
But after years of battling each other over water rights, these
divergent entities are beginning to cooperate more on how to best share the
minimal amounts of water, said both Megdal and Patricia Mulroy, general manager
of the Las Vegas Valley Water District in the Southern Nevada Water
“I’m going to take you on a journey across the Hoover Dam,”
Mulroy said. “I’m going to take you to fabulous Las Vegas.”
Nevada and Arizona share a border, the Mojave Desert around Las Vegas is even
more arid than Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, according to Mulroy, who is also
president of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies in
“When it was formed nobody said it should be there,” she said.
“We have no agriculture to speak of whatsoever.” Much more of its water – 90% –
must therefore come from the dwindling Colorado River.
Nevada Water Authority] has the impossible task of providing this city of nearly
2 million people and 40 million annual visitors with a reliable and secure water
supply,” she said. “We are the extreme. We have, as you can see, no ocean to
fall back on – we are a community that reuses virtually 100% of its
waste-water. Everything that hits the sewer system is reused.”
Nevada, Israel also reuses most of its sewage – around 80% – a number that is
expected to soon rise to 85-90%, according to Tenne.
“We actually pay our
customers to take their grass out,” she explained.
In the southwestern
US-Mexican region bordering the Colorado River, it is crucial for cooperation to
occur among the neighboring states, Mulroy agreed with Megdal.
“This is a
place where innovation and technology, but most importantly diplomacy, is
all-important. Our solutions are not ones we can find within our own
boundary,” she said. “What do you do the day that there’s nothing left in the
Colorado River to exchange? That’s the challenge. How do we face a
reservoir that has less than one year’s supply left in it?”
In Mulroy’s opinion,
you work with your neighbors – to go so far as to invest in financing
desalination plants in Mexico’s vast open space, and then sharing the end
“We seven, very different, disparate states have to agree,” she
said, adding that “Mexico has to be a full participant.”
collaboration is already occurring among Israel and its neighbors, including
local partnerships with the PA and Jordan, as well as larger regional efforts –
like the EU-sponsored SWAM project, in which Israel is working with Spain and
Greece to achieve new solutions, explained Prof. Uri Marchaim, head of the
Biotechnology department at the MIGAL Galilee Technology Center and an Israeli
representative to SWAM.
“The main activity is to try to develop between
industries collaborative [efforts] to find solutions,” he said, noting that 13
projects have already begun.
And in the southwestern US, the same type of
cooperation would be ideal for developing the region’s water supply, Mulroy
“We stopped fighting because we know that the changes that are
occurring in our climate, in our water supply, that 25% of this country’s GDP
depends on, are evaporating before our eyes,” she said.
“The only way is
peace between the states, a common water vision.”