Drought-plagued Israel ready as global heat soars

The last six months have been the hottest on record around the globe, according to an American weather analysis.

July 19, 2010 02:20
2 minute read.
The sun setting

The sun setting. (photo credit: AP)


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After five years of drought, Israel may in fact be better prepared than other nations as the world experiences unprecedented high temperatures.

The last six months have been the hottest on record around the globe, according to an American weather analysis. The heat wave has contributed to droughts around the world, though Israel continues to face the most exceptional situation.

The last five years have represented the longest and most severe dry period in Israel since the 1920s. Britain, meanwhile, has entered its worst drought since 1929, while Thailand is braving its worst in 20 years.

According to reports from the American National Climatic Data Center, the first six months of this year have been .03º Fahrenheit (.017º Celsius) warmer than the first half of 1998, the previous record holder.

But cooler temperatures in the second half of the year could still lower the average global temperature to below levels in 2005, the hottest year on record.

The high temperatures – which contributed this year to the thinnest Arctic ice levels on record – have been attributed predominantly to the El Niño weather pattern that acted up earlier this year. The drastic weather changes in the Pacific occur every three to seven years and can alter weather conditions around the world.

In the last five years, Israel has seen its fresh water supply drop by nearly 25 percent, said Eli Feinerman, a professor of agricultural economics at Hebrew University who serves on the council of the Water Authority.

Over the past century, Israel has had access to approximately 1.3 billion cubic meters of fresh water a year. In recent years, that figure has dropped to only 1 billion cu.m.

But according to Feinerman, the current crisis has forced Israel to take actions unseen elsewhere.

Among other steps, Israel has heavily encouraged the use of recycled water for agricultural use – the heaviest source of water consumption. Today, as much as 50 percent of that water is recycled.

“There is no country that is even close to such an amount,” Feinerman said.

In addition, Israel has made great strides with desalination technology.

The Water Authority expects to produce nearly 600 million cu.m. of fresh water through desalination in 2013 – more than half of the fresh water currently available. Legislation mandating even further expansion is under consideration.

A recent public awareness campaign, in conjunction with increasing water prices as part of an economically efficient approach to water distribution, has also successfully reduced urban consumption by 15%.

The Water Authority says that efforts to conserve water could return the country’s water supply to sustainable levels within three years.

But the recovery cannot depend on changes in precipitation, Feinerman said.

“We are afraid that it’s not going to be better. It’s going to be worse,” he said. “We think that because of this global warming, the probability of consecutive dry years is much higher than it used to be in the past.”

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