Is the world going into a water crisis? It certainly seems that way. The US government predicts that by 2025, 60%
of the world’s landmass, and 40 of our 50 US states, will experience water shortages
— some of them extreme. The US Intelligence Community sees worldwide
water shortages as a major national security risk. Water scarcity helped trigger the Syrian civil
war and has been a key reason why Africans have migrated in large numbers to Europe. More of this can be expected. But there is cause for optimism. And it comes from a very unlikely place — a
country in the middle of a desert. That country is Israel. Compelled by necessity and powered by remarkable
technological innovations, Israel has become the world’s water superpower. By reusing waste water, by making desalination
affordable, by rethinking irrigation, and by developing an array of sophisticated water
conservation techniques, Israel not only hasa sufficiency of water, but an abundance of it. What Israel has done, other nations can do,
too, including its Mideast neighbors. And while it’s a lot to hope for, cooperation
on water issues could become the basis for cooperation on other issues as well. For Israel, an obsession with water is not
new. The word “water” appears 600 times in
the Hebrew Bible. For over 2,000 years daily prayers for rain
in the Land of Israel have been a part of traditional Jewish ritual. For the founders of the modern State of Israel,
water was not only a daily concern, but a paramount question of future survival. Vast quantities of water would be needed for
the millions of immigrants who would make their way to the new country. Without plenty of water, economic growth would
be impossible. But where was the water going to come from? It was a daunting challenge, but one which
Israel overcame. Today, while other nations, even ones with
far more natural water resources, struggle with water management, Israel has a surplus
of useable water. The desert, as Israel’s founders dreamed,
is blooming. Not only does the country supply its own population
with an array of fruits and vegetables, but it exports billions of dollars worth of produce
to nations around the world. So, how does a small country with little annual
rainfall, with only one fresh water lake, and with no major rivers do this? It begins with a nothing-wasted attitude that
extends from the government to private industry to farming to consumers. Israel charges its citizens the market price
for water. No subsidies. You can have as much water as you want, but
you have to pay for it. And when you pay for something, you tend to
be more careful with how you use it. This also extends to the nation’s infrastructure. In virtually every country, massive amounts
of water are wasted every year in leaky pipes. Israel has developed technology that tells
it when and where a pipe is leaking, so that it can be fixed immediately. This not only saves water, but it saves homeowners
and industry money on their water bills. The biggest user of water in Israel and everywhere
is agriculture. To get maximum use of its water, Israel developed
the revolutionary farming technique known as drip irrigation — the process of applying
micro amounts of water to individual plants at their roots. This is much more water efficient than the
traditional method, still widely used around the world, of flood irrigation — flooding
fields with water. Israeli scientists have also developed drought
resistant crops that need less water to grow. Sewage is usually thought of as a nuisance,
but in Israel it is now a highly valuable resource. Israel takes nearly all of its sewage, treats
it to an ultra-pure level, and then reuses it in agriculture. No other country utilizes sewage as comprehensively
as does Israel. Israel has also pioneered the use of desalination,
turning seawater into drinking water. Once it was thought to be prohibitively expensive. No longer. Israel built five giant desalination plants
along its Mediterranean coast that together provide the equivalent of 80% of the water
piped into Israeli homes. Putting all of these practices and techniques
together, Israel has grown into a water superpower, as well as a global center of water innovation. As the world grows drier and thirstier, those
who want solutions will look to a little country in the middle of a desert for answers. Israel is ready with them. I’m Seth Siegel for Prager University.