Canadian province looks to Israel for water expertise

'We are going to put the ten best minds from our province and the ten best minds from Israel together to see if they can come up with ideas to best protect the health of our water'

November 25, 2007 17:19
4 minute read.
Canadian province looks to Israel for water expertise

manitoba-88. (photo credit: )


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The provincial government of Manitoba, Canada, has recently announced that the province will be holding a first-ever Manitoba-Israel symposium on water protection to take place in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, in August 2008. "This symposium will unite policy makers and leading scientific voices from both Manitoba and Israel to share strategies and best practices on protecting the health of our water," says Manitoba's Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick. The provincial government of Manitoba has announced that it has also partnered with the Jewish National Fund of Canada to develop a first-ever scholarship program that will enable Manitoban graduate-level students to pursue water-related studies at post-secondary institutions in Israel. The Manitoba government, which recognizes that Israel is very advanced in water research, will endow the Ministry of Water Stewardship scholarship program with a quarter of a million dollars. The scholarship program, to be administered in partnership with the JNF, will allow a student from Manitoba in each of the next ten years to study at an Israeli learning institution, such as the Weizman Institute, Hebrew University or the Technion in a range of areas, including nanotechnology, water conservation, and water-reuse. "We want the partnership to be very fluid so a student can study at whatever institution in Israel he or she chooses and then come back to work in Manitoba to share the knowledge,"says Melnick, who will award the first scholarship next year. The conference next summer will address issues of shared concern to Manitoba and Israel including wetlands reclamation, algal blooms, waste-water management, and nutrient removal. "To the best of my knowledge, no other government in North America or elsewhere in the world has developed this type of water-scholarship program or symposium," says Dr. Sharon Marcovitz Hart, National President of the Jewish National Fund of Canada. "In the United states, the JNF has developed co-operative efforts in forest management with the American Department of Forestry, but this partnership appears to be the first of its kind in regard to water issues. I am certain that other local and state governments who have similar concerns regarding protecting water resources for future generations would be interested in developing partnerships. It is a model that potentially could be used by the JNF elsewhere," she adds. Melnick, who has traveled to Israel five times prior to developing the unique scholarship program says, "Israel has already dealt with issues that we in Manitoba are now facing. These include how to control algal blooms, which Israel is dealing with in the Kinneret and Manitoba is currently facing in order to preserve the health of Lake Winnipeg. Another area of common interest is wetlands reclamation, which Israel has done in the Hula valley. The chief scientist for KKL-Israel, Dr. Avi Gafni is putting together a large project in the Negev around a reconstructive wetland, which is also of interest to Manitoba." Another area of common importance between Manitoba and Israel is in the area of the re-use of gray water. "While in Israel, I met the individual who has developed the most advanced filtration system in the world. Israel is taking gray water and recycling that water to the Negev," says Melnick. She believes Israel's knowledge in this area is relevant to Manitoba in the area of waste-water treatment plants. "We in Manitoba need to look at filtration systems that can remove nitrogen and phosporous from our water," Melnick adds. "I am grateful that the Israelis I have met have been so forthcoming in sharing their knowledge". Melnick says that "Lake Winnipeg is larger than the entire state of Israel," and Manitoba has "100,000 lakes," and "an abundance of water". However, climate-change science points to an increased need for adaptation to low water conditions in North America, and Manitoba has a great deal to learn from countries such as Israel where such conditions are a way of life. "Israel, along with many parts of the world, is facing a severe water crisis and it is important to conserve existing water resources while we pursue innovation in water research", says Dr. Gafni, hydrologist and research co-ordinator, forest division-land development authority, KKL-Israel. "This partnership between Manitoba and the Jewish National Fund is a significant step towards achieving these goals," he adds. The water symposium will bring together water experts from Israel to meet with their counterparts in Manitoba for two days. The third day of the conference will be opened up to the broader community. "We are going to put the ten best minds from our province and the ten best minds from Israel together to see if they can come up with ideas to best protect the health of our water," says Melnick. The province of Manitoba will be spending 100,000 dollars to host the symposium in Winnipeg, a city with a population of over 700,000, where approximately 15,000 Jews live. The symposium and new scholarship fund build on an already existing partnership between the Jewish National Fund and the government of Manitoba relating to the exchange of expertise in agriculture, irrigation, greenhouses, and food production. In 2006, the government of Manitoba committed one million dollars to the JNF to finance exchanges between Manitoba and Israel in regard to this technology. 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