Israel Might No Longer Experience Water Scarcity But Expert Warns of Bleak Future
© AP Photo / Oded BaliltyAn aerial view shows the Jordan River estuary of the Sea of Galilee near the community settlement of Karkom, northern Israel (File)
© AP Photo / Oded Balilty
Israel has several freshwater resources. In addition, it also possesses five desalination plants that utilise the Mediterranean and that provide the country with 70 percent of its water needs.
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel, whose landscape is dominated by deserts, has always been thirsty for water.
In 1967, it even went to war with Syria and Egypt after the Arab League's attempts to divert two of the Jordan River's three sources and prevent them from reaching the Sea of Galilee from where the water would be transferred to towns and cities across Israel.
No More Water Shortage
Now, however, almost 55 years after the war, Dr Idan Barnea from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, says the country "has no water shortage".
Israel has three main natural water sources. The Sea of Galilee, Mount Aquifer, and the Coastal Aquifer. It also contains a number of smaller resources dispersed across the country and a variety of reservoirs. All of these, provide the country with roughly 2,000 million of cubic metres a year.
But to cater to the needs of its rapidly growing population, Israel needs much more, especially given that average consumption has grown by 23 percent compared to the last decade and the country being required to allocate resources for industrial and agricultural use.
And this is why over the past twenty years the Israeli authorities have been investing in alternative water resources, including in recycling sewage water, establishing reservoirs, and developing various desalination projects.
From 2000 to 2018, Israel erected five desalination plants, whose overall output currently stands at 585 million cubic metres of water per year.
No Magic Wand
But Barnea says they cannot be a "magic wand" that Israel continues to rely on. "Desalination has its disadvantages. The water that comes out of those plants is always warmer [than fresh water] and requires a special cooling process. In addition, it is low in magnesium and as a result we are forced to mix it with fresh water to make sure it has enough minerals".
The desalination process has other disadvantages too. First of all, such plants are normally built along the coast, which makes this resource less accessible to the general public. Secondly, they emit many hazardous chemicals that contribute to climate change. And, thirdly, the repercussions of the desalinated water that's thrown back into the sea have not yet been studied, but some surveys suggest the water could be dangerous for the environment.
The Mediterranean Sea, from which Israel gets most of its desalinated water, is also shrinking, meaning that while the desalination process might be a temporary solution, it cannot present a long-term answer.
"Right now, we don't really have a shortage of water but Israel needs to look at what will happen here in the future. Some say that because of climate change half a century from now, the country will lose 50 percent of the water we currently have, and we need to invest in the environment not to be caught off guard".
But exactly this has happened in the past. From 2014 to 2018, the country was hit by five droughts, and water levels in the Sea of Galilee reached alarming lows on a number of occasions.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the country would soon dry out if the nation doesn't change its policies on these issues.
"There are those, who say that a change will come but it won't occur that quickly. And there are also those, who say that it is here already and we need to act fast to prevent a disaster", Barnea explained.
For now, that conflict remains unresolved and Israel prefers to stick to its wait-and-see policy.