Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth M. Siegel: a review #water #Israel

Siegel outlines the many innovations Israel has made in the field of water and suggests that the rest of the world could benefit from its wisdom. Israel has exported its water know-how and technology to places like Africa, Iran (before the Islamic Revolution), and California.

Among Israel’s supply-side measures are:

  • Desalination of seawater
  • Desalination of brackish water in the desert
  • Intense use of wastewater (85% is reused)

Among demand-side measures:

  • Inculcation of a conservation ethos, extending even to schoolchildren and tourists
  • Drip irrigation (invented in Israel)
  • Full-cost pricing of water, even for agriculture

Siegel seems to have a bias toward free-market, capitalist solutions to water problems, but he admits that some of Israel’s innovations were developed by government programs (such as the National Water Carrier, the backbone of pipelines carrying water from north to south) and by kibbutzim, collective farms (such as Netafim, the drip irrigation pioneer).

He also admits that Israel came comparatively late to the idea of protecting its environmental water, but says that the development of the innovations listed above means that less water is taken from Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the Jordan River, and smaller streams.

Siegel doesn’t have much to say about groundwater. He says that the brackish water extracted in the Arava desert is ancient water, which seems unsustainable in the long run. I think he also glosses over the disputes between Israelis and Palestinians over the West Bank aquifer.

However, he ends with a vision of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians treating their lands as a common watershed with each providing what they can and all getting what they need. Even the Dead Sea could be saved from drying up. If all that happened, that surely would be a miracle.

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