Israel is well known for its expertise in the field of environmental technologies. Where does this come from? How come Israel is in such a leading position? One important explanation is the innovative people one can find here, from many areas of economy and society.
Professor Uri Shani greeted me and welcomed me into his office at Makhteshim Agan, which is one of the world-leading companies producing crop protection solutions. The atmosphere in the head office was light and open. The colors on the walls and furniture were fresh and new, representing innovation and creativity. Before taking on his current position, he served the State of Israel for four and half years as the Water Commissioner, the Head of Israel Water Authority.
KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Besides being the Vice President of his company, he holds several other important positions externally. Most important is his role as the head of the Red Sea - Dead Sea Conveyance steering committee. In this position, he leads and advises the World Bank supported feasibility assessment that studies the viability of building a conduit of water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting him to discuss the important issues the Israeli water sector has been facing in the past decades. As we talked, I noticed not only his expertise and many years of experience, but also his down to earth approach in solving daily challenges. He gave several examples of his leadership and achievements in Israel water management; for instance, steering the water sector away from dependency on rain, through the strategic decision to invest in large-scale commercial desalination facilities.
In addition to desalination, water treatment plays a key role in the Israeli water system. Over 80 percent of the water is recycled and reused for agricultural purposes. For example, the 220 water reservoirs built by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) all around the country provide important water storage for rainwater and recycled water.
Several years ago, the Israeli Water Authority decided that recycled water is to be used only for agricultural purposes even though the quality of recycled water would meet the quality standards required for household use. According to Uri Shani, there is always a risk that treated water will be contaminated to a small degree, and toxic materials develop resistance to water treatment. If the water is solely used for irrigation, this risk is being minimized. This policy was another fundamental decision made by the Water Authority under Uri Shani’s leadership.
After four and half years at the Water Authority, Uri Shani is now leads a private enterprise while constantly looking for new business opportunities for his company. He sees that there is a major need for water products and solutions in the global markets. Shani''s expertise is highly sought for many important water projects.
It is obvious that water management will play a key role in the Israeli economy. I strongly believe that it will become a significant area in global-scale business development in the coming years. The environmental technologies and fundamental decisions that are made here in Israel, especially in the water management, are the future, and will raise the standard of living, and boost social and economic development.