Drought Lessons from Israel, Part 2

Drought Lessons from Israel, Part 2

Drought-Stricken Israel has Plenty of Water

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Israel is a drought-stricken country, yet they have plenty of water for farming and for their cities. What can California learn from these drought lessons from Israel?

Uri Shani, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, professor and former director of the Israel Water Authority during the high-stress drought six years ago, said Israel reached its current water-secure status using recycled water from cities and commissioning seven desalination plants along the Mediterranean Sea. Shani said, “Clean, desal water is used by everybody, even the farmers; however, they mostly use the recycled water from the cities. The advantage of desalinated water over recycled water is improved quality because it comes from natural water that is cleaner and less salty.”

“Of course the desal water that goes to the cities is then recycled,” explained Shani, “which goes to the farmers. We’ve solved the water quality problem in irrigation by generating more desal water, as it is not expensive anymore.”

Shani summarized, “In the competition between the cities and the farmers, the farmers will lose by definition because you must supply drinking water. So, when water is limited, the farmers will lose; there is no question about it. Now, the possibility of getting more water will always favor the farmer,” he said.



Israel Water Authority

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences


Drought Lessons from Israel

Drought Lessons from Israel  Part 1

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Six years ago, Israel was in the grips of a drought so dire the government considered shipping in water from Turkey, more than 1,000 nautical miles away. Instead, the country embarked on a coordinated effort of recycling water, desalinization (desal) and conservation education. Uri Shani, a professor at Hebrew University who was with the Israel Water Authority during this recent drought, says the country is now very secure in meeting its water needs, including agriculture and environmental requirements. California can learn from these drought lessons from Israel.

Desalinated water from Mediterranean Sea became a significant tool, but it didn’t happen very fast. Shani told California Ag Today, “For Israel it happened very slowly. The government hesitated going to desal and resistance came from, I believe, the farmers. They were afraid that desal would raise their prices for agriculture. In addition, pushback from the Minister of Finance focused on “the spending of money; they thought it was better to take the water from the farmers.”

Despite desal’s slow start, Israel relies very much on desal. “Private companies came in to build the desal plants,” Shani said, “and promised to run them for a minimum of 25 years. They were paid back when the government bought water from them.

“We use the metric system in Israel. One cubic meter of water equals 250 gallons. So the best price we get now is 50-60 cents (U.S.) for 250 gallons or 1 cubic meter. This is the price at the exit of the plant. It has only added about 60 cents to the urban customer’s water bill.