…but not a drop to drink

Israel’s water shortage has reached a critical point. The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the country’s main source of fresh water, has dropped below all previous “danger” levels, and experts are warning that the two main aquifers may soon suffer irreversible damage.

There are two questions to ask about this situation: Why? and What now?

Our water resources are limited, and highly dependent on rain. The past few years have been particularly dy — but, if our water eceonomy were properly managed, that should not be too large a problem.

More challenging has been the population explosion that this country has experienced, not only in its 60 years, but especially since the early 1990s. Of course, this has brought a massive increase in consumption — in homes, in agriculture and in industry — as well as increased wastage.

What of conservation efforts? Unfortunately, they have been minimal and belated. And although drip irrigation makes Israeli agriculture water-thrifty, the fact remains that our lucrative produce and flower industries amount to a massive export of our precious water resources.

Fanciful solutions to Israel’s perpetual water shortage have been proposed, including such far-fetched ideas as floating huge water balloons from Turkey across the Mediterranean. These are largely impractical and overly costly measures. The least drastic, and most feasible, solution offered thusfar has been desalination. Although not a perfect solution, it can produce large amounts of drinking water in a short amount of time and at a reasonable cost.

Israel already features the world’s largest desalination plant of its kind in Ashkelon, and another is set to come on-line soon. There are even suggestions that, if it builds more desalination plants, Israel can be a net exporter of water.

In any case, Israel must act quickly to remedy its dire water shortage. All the major security issues of the day will pale in comparison to the disaster that will take place here if the proverbial well does, in fact, run dry.

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