(photo credit: )
Mr. Shimon Tal, Israel's former water commissioner, gave a very clear and concise description of Israel's water crisis to the participants of KKL-JNF's World Leadership Conference. He noted that "40% of Israel's water comes from the other side of the Green Line, and if we do nothing, by 2025, our natural resources will only be enough for domestic and municipal needs. Unfortunately, until 2000, the government did not begin to take the crisis in the water sector seriously enough, so we are behind schedule. We are now in our fourth drought year, something that is part of life in the Middle East, but is more extreme now due to global warming.
"We cannot afford to totally deplete our natural water sources, which are Lake Kinneret and the underground aquifers. We need to produce new sources, and the primary means of doing that is by means of desalination, efficient harvesting and use of natural sources and treated sewage. If we don't do so, we will not be able to maintain agriculture, and we need to realize that in Israel, agriculture is more than economics. It is also about preserving open green spaces and maintaining possession of the land. Today, there is also mounting public pressure to return water to its natural courses, such as Israel's streams. The peace process is also a consumer of water - we provide Jordan with a certain amount of water as part of the agreement we signed with King Hussein.
"KKL-JNF is addressing this national interest, and doing a very good job of it. As you all know, KKL-JNF has already built two hundred water reservoirs. Right now, we are recycling 75% of our effluents, and our goal is to achieve 100%. KKL-JNF has been a part of developing new systems of sewage water purification and recycling. In 2007, for the first time, Israel made more use of marginal water than water from natural sources."
Mr. Tal shared a fascinating new initiative with conference participants: "Together with KKL-JNF, we are promoting the use of water reservoirs to produce solar energy. How, you might ask? One of the main problems of creating electricity by solar energy is the amount of land you need for "farms" of solar reflectors. Israel has a real land shortage - even in the Negev, open land is either nature reserves or used as training grounds for the army. Our idea is to cover the water reservoirs with solar panels. Just by using already existing water reservoirs, we would be able to provide 10-15% of Israel's power needs! In addition, by covering the reservoirs, we would prevent evaporation, which causes a loss of about 20% of the water. The cost of producing electricity by means of solar panels is still much higher than when it is produced by fossil fuels, however, this is definitely one of the directions of the future, and there may be European countries interested in investing in such a project.
"KKL-JNF has been and will continue to be a full partner to addressing this issue, which I believe to be the single greatest environmental and economical problem Israel is facing. We can always count on KKL-JNF to fill in where the government bureaucracy stops."
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