Israel has historically faced water scarcity. Efficient water management is a must, together with the diversification of water resources. Natural resources include water from the Jordan River basin, which includes the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake, as well as groundwater, including the Mountain Aquifer and the Coastal Aquifer.
The country’s water supply relies on unconventional water resources ─ reclaimed water and desalination ─ to complement natural sources. Israel’s desalination facilities are well known. A new plant, the sixth one in the country and one of the largest in the world to use reverse osmosis, Sorek II, is planned for Western Galilee, in the country’s north west.
But most impressive is how the country has revolutionised water recycling. Israel reuses close to 90% of its wastewater effluent, primarily for irrigation purposes, according to Fluence. About 10% goes to environmental uses, including increasing river flows and firefighting.
A flagship of Israel reclamation scheme is the Shafdan wastewater treatment facility, treating 97 million gallons per day of municipal effluent from Tel Aviv and its surrounding area. Wastewater undergoes secondary biological and tertiary soil aquifer treatment and is sent to the Negev Desert, where more than 60% of the agriculture is irrigated by Shafdan water.
Since the 2000s, Israel has invested over $750 million in a centralised water reclamation scheme, with 67 large wastewater treatment facilities and a nationwide pipeline network to enable distribution of surplus water if needed. Water reclamation supports the country’s economic growth and resilience to drought brought on by climate change.
Unless water is managed more efficiently, global water demand is expected to exceed supply about 40% by 2030, with an impact on the cost of food and global geopolitics. Israel recognised early the value of treated wastewater as a resource and has become a worldwide leader in water reuse. The Water Authority’s master plan aims to reuse 100 per cent of the wastewater effluent.
In addition to unconventional water sources, water policies in Israel encourage smart water management, and ongoing research and development in the water sector focuses on water efficiency aspects such as leak detection and drip irrigation.