The Israeli water industry is one of the best in the world, and this is because of the country’s breakthrough in technological innovations in areas like desalination, drip irrigation and water security. The country uses its water so sustainably that since 1964, its total water consumption has remained nearly the same in spite of a growing population and increased agriculture. Moreover, Israel is a water-scarce country but due to its emphasis placed on education, academia and technology, it has been able to achieve considerable success in managing its water resources.
One of its breakthroughs is in the field of agriculture and that is invention of drip irrigation, which has helped maximise water efficiency to 90% and has helped the country save 30-50% of its water used for irrigation. Another breakthrough in the field of water management is that Israel treats 80-85% of its wastewater. The country desalinates its water which is another key to its sustainability. Israel has considerable experience in this field and local companies have developed a range of innovative technologies and solutions geared to maximising desalination efficiency. All these innovations in conjunction with high tech communications has helped the country improve its monitoring system and control its water resources while using less manpower and enhancing scalability.
Israel, a partner in India Water Week 2016, has delegates who are hopeful that India can also achieve such breakthroughs after using similar technological innovations. India Water Portal interviewed Uri Schor, the Spokesman of the Israeli Water Authority.
85% of wastewater in Israel is treated and recycled. For what purpose is the recycled water used?
It is mainly used for agriculture but can be used for gardening and industries. The water can be treated in three phases making it potable for drinking also. The level to which water is treated depends upon the location of the plant.
Is the water recycled at one major plant or is it a decentralised a system of recycling? Also, is the recycling technology different or is it one technology for all the plants?
There are few main plants near big cities to collect and recycle the major amount of sewage while few small plants are also present. In all, the technologies used for recycling of water are quite similar, but there are many different technologies being used in Israel.
Can the technologies be copied and adapted in India?
It depends on the chemical quality of the water. In Israel you have all kinds of sewage that you must check, so it depends on whether the industrial or human sewage needs to be treated.
Is there a particular figure or cost/litre for the water that you recycle?
The cost depends upon the technology and the amount of effluents in the water. Also, despite having less availability of natural water, the price of treating sewage in Israel is less than most of the other countries in the world that have lots of water like England, Australia and Sweden, and this is because of the technologies that Israel uses.
Drip irrigation: Israel has the highest ratio for crop yield per water, is that something that India can achieve?
Dripping system is an invention in Israel. The system gives the plant exactly the amount of water it needs and exactly at the right place. We do not flood the field, and through this system the water reaches the root with minimum evaporation and minimum loss.
What about the brine coming from desalination plants, is it put back into the sea? If yes, then what effects does it have?
First the brine is checked and then it is put back into the sea in more concentrated form. The sea is very huge and after all, the brine has come from the sea only. Also, the brine is being monitored all the time for any unwanted particles that can come from cleaning the machinery or digging the membrane and may enter into the sea with brine.
Isn’t desalination an expensive method?
Of course, desalination is more expensive than the other technologies but when you need it you have to do it. Israel made its spectrum and we did it because we had the need. However, the cheapest way to get more water is to use water wisely and not to waste it, followed by preventing leakage and stealing of water. After that comes recycling of wastewater followed by desalination. Desalination of seawater is more expensive than the brackish water which is a salty water but not as salty as sea water.
Despite being a water-rich country, should India use desalination?
In India, in a very short time you get huge amount of water, so the primary thing is to collect this water in huge reservoirs, and post that prevent water losses from the reservoirs due to leakages and evaporation.
Water is an emotive subject in India, so do you think that will matter if desalination or recycling of water is proposed?
Public awareness is the key to this. In order to achieve everything from recycling to desalination, you must get maximum public awareness. The moment the public are aware about the problem, the technology that you should use, the cost and the benefit they will get, then it will get easier. In Israel, more than 50% of water supplied is hand-made, that is the water is coming from either recycling or desalination.
Three methods of public awareness which you feel really work?
First thing is to be aware of the water. Water is not something that you have; water is something that you get. I will give you an example; I give lectures on public awareness from very small kindergarten kids to university students. To the kindergarten kids I always say ‘Isn’t the technology magic’. Also, in India along with awareness there is a need of certain laws in order to avoid wastage of water. Watering the garden by flooding, sprinklers open during daytime and on a hot sunny day is something that we never do in Israel.
In India water is cheaper than electricity. Is that so in Israel too? Is the cost of water the same for everyone in Israel?
Even in Israel water is cheaper than electricity, gas and cell phones. In Israel, the Government decided that the price of water will be same for everyone, so we have two rates. Until a certain amount you pay less and from the certain amount you pay much more. Low rate is for basic uses of water i.e. for domestic users, for agriculture and industry the water price is different. Also, prices for potable water and recycled water are different.
Any water wisdom that you want to share with us?
Without compromising on drinking of water, everyone can cut down the use of water without changing their lifestyle.
India Water Portal would like to thanks Uri Schor and the Embassy of Israel for this conversation.