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Monday, September 1, 2014

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Israel’s innovative water technologies

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On Kol Nidrei night, I was once again asked by my congregation to make the annual State of Israel Bond appeal. For 14 years, I have related the value of that investment opportunity in Israel, in terms of supported infrastructure projects. This year, my focus was water.

In September 2011, documents were released by Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor’s Foreign Trade Administration, Investment Promotion Centre. The Israel’s Water Sector presentation, along with the brochure Israel’s Water Industry: A History of Turning Desert into Oasis, summarize statistics that explain what drives Israel’s leadership in the water sector. 

An Israeli consumes 250 litres of water a day. By comparison, Canada’s water consumption rate is about 325 litres of water a day, according to a 2010 McKinsey and Company summarization of a Water Resources Group report.

In Israel, 49 per cent of available water is used for agriculture, 35 per cent for domestic use, six per cent by industry and the remaining 10 per cent is used to supply neighbouring areas or other natural uses. Through improved efficiency and technological innovation, Israel’s total water consumption has remained nearly the same since 1964, in spite of a growing population and agriculture. In Canada, where fresh water is in abundant supply, finding a comparative breakdown is difficult. We know that water is used to generate electricity, raise crops, develop the Oil Sands, produce forest products and manufacture consumer goods. Water-intensive manufacturing sectors including food and beverage face direct challenges with respect to sourcing water of sufficient quality and quantity.

Israel’s water consumption in 2010 was 2,030 million cubic metres (MCM) per year, of which only 1,170 MCM is refilled by natural means. To help with Israeli rainfall, we add, “Mashiv ha’ruach u’morid hageshem,” to our daily Shmoneh Esrei prayers between Shmini Atzeret and Passover. Prayer will only get us so far.

This scarcity of water in Israel has led to innovation. Israeli scientists have managed to turn the country into a world leader in innovative water technologies.

According to Israel Bonds, the country has some 166 water-technology enterprises, including 91 companies offering water-efficiency solutions, 50 firms specializing in waste-water reuse and desalination, and another 25 offering water control and command systems.

Israel’s capabilities in water technologies include: water recycling and management, leakage and water-loss detection and prevention through the use of advanced metering, analyzers and control systems, advanced irrigation and desalination.

Water desalination converts saltwater so that it may be suitable for irrigation. Israel is pioneering cost-effective ways of providing fresh water for regions where its availability is limited. Infrastructure build-out is supported by Israel Bonds. The world’s largest seawater reverse-osmosis desalination plant opened in Hadera in May 2010. With two more plants planned for the near future, Israel predicts that two-thirds of the nation’s water will be provided by five plants when all of them are in operation.

Over the next few articles we will look at ways Israeli water technology could bring value to Canada.

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