Israel is one of the countries with a serious shortage of water resources in the world. 90% of the country’s land is desert, surface water and groundwater are scarce, and per capita freshwater resources are less than 3% of the world average.
The natural conditions of Israeli agricultural production are harsh, but the Israeli people rely on scientific agricultural water resources management to expand the area of irrigable land, research and promote advanced agricultural water-saving technologies, cultivate new drought-resistant varieties, and vigorously develop the agricultural pillar industries like fruits, vegetables and flowers in desert areas. And has created a miracle in the desert.
Israel controls and produces precious freshwater resources mainly through the following five methods.
Water resources management system
The Water Law which is promulgated in 1959 is the most important law on water resources management after the founding of Israel.
Israel’s land ownership system is private ownership. In order to make limited water resources meet the needs of national development and residents’ production and life, the Water Law stipulates that water resources are the public property of the state, and private land ownership does not include the land where water flows or water resources near.
Israel strictly controls the exploitation and use of water resources. No individual or organization may exploit or use water resources privately, unless they obtain licenses for the exploitation or use of water resources – even if you have the right to use water resources on your private land. A permit is required before well drilling, extraction, supply, consumption, underground infusion and water treatment, etc.
Israel’s water resources are managed by the Water Resources Committee. The Water Resources Committee is a government agency responsible for formulating national water resources policies and water economic development plans to ensure the stability of national water supply and meet the needs of living and production. The Water Resources Committee is also responsible for the development of national standards for water resources production and supply, requirements for water quality, quantity of water, production processes, and water resources protection, and the issuance of water resources licenses and supervision and punishment for eligible individuals or organizations.
At the same time, in order to improve the efficiency of water resources management, Israel has also established two state-owned water resources management companies, one responsible for water conservancy engineering design, and one market operation and corporate management of the national water network to ensure normal agricultural water use.
Scientific and precise water distribution system
In order to maximize the role of limited water resources, Israel has established a water resource allocation system, which clarifies that water resources should give priority to ensuring domestic water use in arid regions, followed are industry, agriculture, commerce, and services.
Clearly define the key aspects of water resources management such as water rights, water quotas, water quality control and water fee collection.
A fixed supply area is divided by region, and the resident domestic water, industrial water and agricultural water are allocated in a quota.
Among them, when quantifying agricultural water quotas, firstly, water consumption standards should be set for different types of crops, and agricultural water consumption should be determined according to crop types and planting areas.
Establish a water conservation incentive mechanism.
Give play to the role of economic leverage, and implement step-by-step pricing for residential water, industrial water and agricultural water. The greater the water consumption, the higher the water price.
Take agricultural water as an example. If the agricultural water consumption is within 50% of the national water resource quota, the water price is 0.1 US dollar/m3.
If the agricultural water consumption is 50% to 100% of the national water resource quota, the water price is 0.14 US dollars/m3.
If the agricultural water consumption exceeds the national water resource quota, the water price will increase to a punitive 2.0 to 3.5 times.
Through this measure, the waste of agricultural water resources in Israel has been effectively curbed, which has greatly promoted the development of Israel’s water-saving agriculture.
Implement large-scale water conservancy projects
After the founding of the country, Israel has successively implemented several national water conservancy projects, adjusted the national water resources, promoted the recycling of water resources, and increased the use of water resources.
The only freshwater source in Israel is the Sea of Galilee, located in northern Israel. The residents live mainly in the central and coastal areas, and the agricultural land is mainly in the southern Negev desert, where there is virtually no surface water.
Due to the large amount of water used in agriculture, accounting for more than half of Israel’s total water use, in order to resolve the contradiction between water resources distribution and residents’ lives, especially agricultural water, Israel implemented a large national water transfer project in 1953—North Water Channel South project. The project has a total investment of US$170 million and lasted for 14 years. It mainly transports fresh water from the northern Lake of Galilee to the South Lake Negev Desert.
This has enabled the development of irrigated agriculture in the southern desert areas, which account for more than half of Israel’s land area, laying the foundation for the development and take-off of the Negev area in the future.
With the increase in population and the development of industry and agriculture, the shortage of supply and demand for freshwater in Israel is growing.
In 1972, Israel implemented the “National Wastewater Reuse Project”, which used treated urban and industrial sewage instead of fresh water for agricultural irrigation and opened up new agricultural water resources.
These treated sewage generally do not meet drinking water standards, mainly used for agricultural irrigation, urban non-potable water and urban greening.
It can not only avoid water pollution by direct discharge of urban sewage, but also reduce the demand for fresh water resources for agricultural water and reduce the exploitation of water resources such as rivers and groundwater.
At present, Israel’s sewage reuse rate reaches 75%, and more than 70% of agricultural irrigation water in the Negev desert area is processed urban and industrial sewage.
Israel also reclaimed the treated sewage into the ground using natural leaking riverbeds to reduce sewage discharge and increase water resources.
With the rapid development of agriculture in the Negev desert area, the contradiction between supply and demand for fresh water has become increasingly prominent.
But Israel has a long and narrow terrain and abundant sea water resources.
Among them, the salinity of the Dead Sea in the southeast is 10 times that of the general seawater. The salinity of the southern Red Sea is higher than that of the general seawater, and the Mediterranean Sea in the west bank is the salinity of the general seawater.
Due to seawater infiltration, groundwater in the coastal areas of Israel is mostly salt water, with salinity higher than fresh water and lower than seawater.
Since the seawater desalination research was carried out after the founding of Israel, more mature desalination technologies and equipment have been formed, and the cost of seawater desalination is low. The Israeli government has made seawater desalination the key to solving water resources problems. In 1999, it implemented “large-scale seawater desalination plan”. The desalination plan will focus on the construction of a large desalination plant in the southern part of the water shortage.
The goal of the Israeli desalination project is to achieve 750 million m3 of seawater desalination by 2020, accounting for 38% of the national water consumption.