JNF looking to revive plan to import water from Turkey

Group to fund $100 million worth of water projects.

water resovior kkl (photo credit: )
water resovior kkl
(photo credit: )
Leading officials of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) told the national committee investigating Israel's water crisis on Thursday that they planned to invest $100 million in water projects over the next several years. One project they were examining was the option of importing water from Turkey. Russell Robinson, the organization's chief executive officer, told the committee that the JNF was in talks with both the Israeli and Turkish governments, and with private Israeli entrepreneurs about reviving the idea, which had been all but discarded in recent years. The JNF officials said they felt that in the current financial climate, investors in desalination projects would be harder to find, making it worthwhile to take an old idea off the shelf. Moreover, they said, the current global financial crisis had dictated new conditions that could reduce transport costs and make importing water more economically feasible. The water crisis committee has been looking into apparent failures in water planning and is nearing the stage in which it will prepare its final report. It is chaired by Prof. Dan Bein, a retired judge who, together with his two colleagues, Prof. Yoram Avnimelech and Prof. Yoav Kislev, has heard testimony from more than 70 witnesses. Robinson and several of the other JNF officials told the committee that an Israeli innovation could be worth looking into in conjunction with importing water from Turkey. Inventor Roni Yafe has invented a cloth sleeve that he says can hold fresh water and transport it over long distances. Fresh water is lighter than salt water, so the sleeves float and can be towed by ships. Yafe has tested a 60,000 cubic meter bag, but said he believed a load of 300,000 cu.m. could be towed. He also has said he could import 500 million cubic meters of water per year using this method, the equivalent of five large desalination plants. The Water Authority has remained skeptical of Yafe's invention, awaiting further tests before seriously considering it. The government also prefers desalination over dependence on a foreign country, especially one whose relations with Israel occasionally resemble a roller coaster ride. Foreign Ministry legal advisor Ehud Keinan told the water crisis committee Thursday that plans to import water from Turkey had not been implemented because of high costs, technical difficulties and internal Turkish issues. Keinan handled negotiations on the issue from 2000 to 2006. The JNF also plans on investing in more sewage treatment reservoirs, which could provide the country with an additional 200 million cubic meters of water per year, mainly for agricultural use. Its officials told the committee that in the future, the JNF planned to invest in other projects that could generate up to 200 million cubic meters of fresh water per year. The organization has invested $75 million in Israel's water economy over the past 10 years, primarily by building reservoirs and funding research studies.