Scientists from Israel and Australia launched an applied research program to create water sensitive cities in Israel, with the support of KKL-JNF in Israel and JNF Australia. The joint plan was presented at the conclusion of the water conference, where water professionals from both countries met and exchanged ideas.
The conference at the Maccabiah Village in Ramat Gan was not only theoretical, but also looked for ways to promote practical initiatives in Israel. Water sensitive cities are characterized by their ability to manage their water economy while creating sustainable solutions, taking advantage of appropriate technologies, and increasing community awareness.
Professor Tony Wong of Monash University opened the concluding session of the conference and said that getting to know new colleagues opens the door to future collaborations: "I am pleased that we were able to organize the ideas and create a plan that describes what needs to be done in order to make Israeli cities water-sensitive. Of course this is only the beginning; from here on we need to continue promoting the initiatives."
Professor Asher Brand of Ben Gurion University noted that this is an interdisciplinary scientific plan to create sustainable urban surroundings, by means of initiatives for proper management of the urban water economy.
Professor Eran Friedler of the Technion characterized urban water systems, which includes mapping existent water sources in urban surroundings – groundwater, grey water, sewage, runoff and recycled water; examining the effects of climate change, population growth and urban planning on these water sources; monitoring and evaluating water quality of sources that were not yet sufficiently understood, such as runoff water; developing strategies for groundwater rehabilitation; identifying opportunities for water recycling and harvesting runoff at home, in the neighborhood and in the city.
Professor Evyatar Errel of Ben Gurion University emphasized that "the plan does not only address technology, but a combination of technological solutions in an urban community." In the field of urban planning, the goal of the project is to define optimal means of the development of water economy management. The program deals with developing planning attitudes that view water as a resource that serves the public and contributes to the environment. An additional goal is the improvement of comfort by creating a comfortable micro-climate.
Professor Roni Walloch of Hebrew University said that in the field of technology, the goal of the project is to develop multi-purpose projects. "These projects will deal with various water sources, for example, runoff, groundwater and sewage," Professor Walloch explained. He noted that water sensitive technologies will be integrated with the purpose the water is intended for - for example, water that is suitable for watering gardens, infiltrating the aquifer, flushing toilets, and more.
Professor Tal Alon-Moses from the Technion spoke about ways of implementing approaches, technologies and planning needs that are a consequence of the plan. "There is a need to identify the obstacles that make adopting an alternative water economy difficult. We need to develop models for strategic evaluations of urban water management," she said.
Professor Uri Shani, director of the Israel Water Authority, noted that water intended for urban use is the main area in which water can be saved. He said that the water conservation campaign led to a savings of 160 million cubic meters of water out of a total of 660 million cubic meters. "This reduction saved agriculture, because otherwise, we would have had to take this water from what is allocated for agricultural use, and many farmers would have found themselves without a livelihood."
According to Professor Shani, "In the long run, people will have to live in an environment that encourages them to use water wisely, rather than forcing them to do so, as we are today."
He admitted that efforts to cut back water consumption create resistance amongst the Israeli public: "The price of water should represent its cost, but that's insufficient. The torch that KKL-JNF carries, together with the Israeli scientists and their colleagues from Monash University, can instigate a process that will change the way cities behave. We believe that we can create significant research work, but our goal is not only scientific publications, but to change the way we live and use water."
Simone Szalmuk-Singer, president of KKL-JNF Victoria, Australia, said in her closing remarks at the conference: "We came here yesterday with a vision, and tomorrow we will be leaving with a dream that is beginning to be transformed into a reality. In order to make certain that the dream will be realized; KKL-JNF in Israel and JNF Australia committed themselves to supporting the plan and to promoting it. From here we can only go forward, because we simply can't go back."
Yael Shealtieli, KKL-JNF CEO, went straight to the bottom line: "KKL-JNF in Israel and Australia commit to $250,000 for initial funding for the project. It was a year ago when we began meeting, talking and dreaming together. Over the last two days, we have taken the project significantly forward."
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