Israel provides a key example of how countries should manage their water
infrastructure in coming years, as national populations increase at
unprecedented speeds and governments grapple with the need to combat water
scarcity, according to Dr. Glen Daigger, president of the International Water
Daigger addressed an audience of “water enthusiasts” at
Monday’s annual Conference of Israeli Water Organizations, held in Ramat Gan’s
Kfar Maccabia hotel.
“Many of the things I’ll talk about are already
happening in Israel,” said Daigger, who is also senior vice president and chief
wastewater process engineer at the American company CH2M HILL.
has a lot to share with the rest of the world, as do other progressive locations
in water-short areas.”
The conference – hosted jointly by the Israeli
Water Association, the Israel Water Works Association, the Israel Association of
Water Resources and the Israel Desalinization Society – covered a broad spectrum
of both local and global topics, including preparation for climatic change,
management of surface runoff water, agricultural visions, reconstruction of
water sources and new technologies.
But kicking off the day’s speeches
and breakout sessions was Daigger’s call for increased relations between Israel
and the International Water Association, as well as his praise for the country’s
strides in water management.
“Israel has been dealing with this situation
for a long, long time and is really one of the examples on the planet in terms
of how many other places will need to be managing water,” he told The Jerusalem
“Certainly in Israel and the Middle East, there has been a water
shortage for most of human history, but if we look around the world, that’s an
unusual circumstance,” Daigger continued, noting, however, that with worldwide
population growth, this had changed dramatically.
“Water scarcity is no
longer the exception; it’s becoming the rule,” he said.
causing water professionals to have to think differently.”
To tackle this
new “rule,” Daigger advocated international cooperation – and while Israel can
certainly share its wealth of research and innovations on water management and
technologies, it can also benefit from implementing other countries’ models, he
said. Some other productive nations that he cited were Australia, New Zealand,
Singapore and the southwestern part of the United States.
is really necessary for the rest of the world, but the experimentation going on
there will continue to benefit you,” he said to the audience of water
Particular areas in which Israel excels most in water
management include reuse for irrigation, desalinization, innovation in pipe
materials, sensors, control devices, efficient use of water, security and
emergency management, said Helena Alegre – senior vice president of the
International Water Association and principal investigator at Portugal’s
National Laboratory of Civil Engineering – in her address to the
“For successful collaboration, there must be this win-win balance,
so Israel has to define the topics where it finds a potential interest, where
it’s really interested in gaining from IWA,” she told the Post.
where Israel could benefit from borrowing the knowledge of other participating
countries include restoration of water quality after pollution events, and
pricing of water, Alegre said.
Recalling her previous visit to Israel 25
years ago, Alegre said that early on in her career, “the best inspiration to
become a water professional came from Israel.”
First and foremost, all of
the water experts agreed, Israel and the rest of the world must look far
“During the first 60 years of this country, we built fast, and
sometimes we were reckless,” said Yonatan Richter of the Israel Water Authority,
who served as convention chairman.
“We have to look at things as far as
60 years and plan accordingly,” he added.
“The estimates are [that] by
the year 2025, about half the human population will live in areas that are
experiencing water stress,” Daigger told the Post.
“Because of the
magnitude of the infrastructure required to manage water, you have to be
planning 30 or 40 or 50 years into the future – when we say this is 15 years
away, it’s like it’s tomorrow.”
Daigger also suggested that water
professionals should stop looking first to surface and ground water as primary
“What if rather than that, we say, let’s look at reuse
first?” he asked the audience.
“There is no such thing as new water,” he
said to the Post. “Water simply cycles within the environment. There are those
saying that we drink the same water that the dinosaurs drink, and that’s
By cooperating to conserve a mutually critical resource like
water, Daigger believes, nations have an even greater chance of achieving a more
sustainable regional peace.
“There are those who have been saying for
quite some time that the wars of the 21st century will be over water,” Daigger
said. “But water can be a factor that helps disparate communities and countries
to collaborate. It is essential.
We can live many days without
Without water, it’s about three days. As water becomes in
desperately short supply, the solution is to collaborate.”
panel at the conference was dedicated to this sentiment, analyzing the different
ways that Middle Eastern countries could partner to conserve water, and the
possible ramifications of such collaboration.
“We can reach cooperation,
but at the beginning, it will only be by acceptance of activities the other side
is doing,” Shimon Tal, president of the Israel Water Authority and CEO of
Tal-Content, told the Post. “When the shortage will become more severe, I think
we will cooperate and build a system – there will be no other
Tal sees cooperation between Lebanon and Syria occurring
easily, as well as a partnership between Israel and Jordan.
And while he
doesn’t think that increased participation in International Water Association
projects and talks will expressly achieve these partnerships, he does feel that
these means will indirectly contribute to such causes.
“I’m not sure that
this will create direct cooperation between us and our neighbors, but I think
that people all over the world will know much more what Israel thinks and what
Israel is doing,” Tal said.
Meanwhile, Doron Merkel of the Water
Authority presented research from the Red Sea-Dead Sea Study Management Unit,
which encourages cooperation among Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan
in taking water from the Red Sea and using a reverse osmosis procedure to
generate fresh water, with residual salt emptying into the already extremely
saline Dead Sea.
Daniel Reisner, an attorney for Herzog, Fox and Ne’eman
and former director of the IDF’s legal branch, said that while Israel and its
neighbors should share the existent technologies and narrow the gap in water
management abilities, this should not be related to repairing political
“We have the same water source, but there isn’t an equal
ability to use it,” Reisner said of the current situation.
“All of the
surrounding countries want Israel to establish the technologies and leave them
the natural waters, like rivers, because they’re not able to develop the
Daigger hopes that as a “global leader” in agricultural
irrigation, desalinization and so many other water preservation technologies,
Israel will continue to partner with its neighbors for a more sustainable
“No one in the region is really as efficient in the use of water
in agriculture,” he said. “That’s an area where Israel really stands out.”