As the world’s population continues to grow, the need to ensure individuals and communities have requisite access to clean water is compounding. Despite global reductions in poverty, increases in living standards, and greater access to economic opportunities for many of the globe’s inhabitants, clean access to water remains one of our most daunting development challenges. Currently, nearly 800 million people do not have access to clean water, with over 315,000 children dying each year from illnesses related to poor water sanitation. Without improvement, the World Bank estimates that by 2025 nearly 1.8 billion people will live in conditions of absolute water scarcity.
Recognizing the importance of water to global development and existing deficiencies within water infrastructure, the private and public sector have embraced the search for new solutions for our global water needs. As expected, public sector spending to improve infrastructure is a key aspect of the equation, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that at least $1.3 trillion should be collectively invested annually by governments to improve water infrastructure. On the flip side, the private sector is also increasing its activity in the sector, with private companies playing an important role in the water sectors of over 100 countries.
While water security is an important global issue, there may be no other country in the world doing more to advance innovation in the water sector than Israel. Driven in large part by necessity; Israel’s geographic position in a dry, arid, desert climate has undoubtedly served as impetus for policymakers to adapt policies that would not only encourage water conservation but spur technological innovation in the sector. Yet, beyond just conservation, Israel continues to develop advanced and effective technologies in the areas of desalination, purification, and extraction.
Despite its geographic location, Israel is now water self sufficient, possessing enough water for the country’s sanitation, consumption, and agricultural needs. Not surprisingly, Israel’s agricultural sector has been recognized as one of the world’s foremost leaders and the country boasts a wastewater recycling or reclamation rate of nearly 80 percent, the highest in the world.
As the saying goes, Israel has been successful in “making the desert bloom” and accordingly the world is eagerly turning to Israeli innovations to solve their own water problems. In Africa, where more than 300 million people live without access to clean water, Israeli technology is helping to change lives. For example, Israeli water purification companies like SunDWater are improving the quality of water in Africa while others like irrigation pioneer Netafim are providing much needed solutions for sustainable agriculture on the continent. Hoping to benefit from Israel’s expertise, India, the world’s second most populous country recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel to increase cooperation in the field of water management. The United States is also benefiting from Israeli water technologies, with Israeli IDE Technologies operating a billion dollar desalination plant in Carlsbad, California. On a global scale, in 2015 the World Bank signed a cooperation agreement with Israel, specifically designed to aid in the transfer of water technology knowhow to developing countries.
Israel remains a global innovator in water technology, with Israeli companies continuing to develop new innovations. Examples include Israeli startup Water-Gen which boasts technology that can extract water from air, and Aquarious Spectrum which helps infrastructure operators prevent and detect potential water leakage. Like their predecessors, new developments are also catching the eye of international observers, with Israel’s BwareIT a company whose products help monitor and track water consumption winning the UK Water Efficiency Innovation Award in March of this year.
Born from necessity, Israel’s innovations in the water sector have been instrumental to the country’s economic growth and development. As the “startup nation” continues to build upon existing technologies we can expect continued innovations in the water sector. Also out of necessity, the world will continue to look for solutions to improve water security, one of humanity’s most pressing issues. Global policymakers and leaders would be wise to look to Israel for answers; undoubtedly their citizens will thank them and Israel.