97. Israeli Water Management

Seventy per cent of Earth is water. However, if we consider the current global water situation, we see several places affected by drought. The globe has many places where agriculture is impossible due to the scarcity of water. Also, we see many examples where people have to wander for even a single sip of water.

It is not that there is no water at all. Water is certainly available and that too in abundance as we see flooding taking place. However, the excessive abundance of water or the flood leads to dire situations. Moreover, such disproportionately abundant water goes waste. Thus, in the times of scarcity as well as excess – the two diametrically opposite conditions, it is the water that brings tears (water) to us.

So, water is not a problem. The only issue is its inefficient use. It is here that we come across Israel as an example, which brought its water problems under control with orderly and systematized use.

When modern-day Israel came into existence, most of the land was an arid desert or had high temperatures, thus leading to scarcity of water. Even with this scarcity, water had to be arranged for drinking, farming and industry. Moreover, almost every day, the immigrating masses of Jews were increasing the population at a breakneck pace.

Precipitation map of Israel-Jordan region

Israel was well aware that it had limited water resources and that it could harness only them. As a result, from the very start, Israel took steps to efficiently use these resources and implemented systematized, central planning to overcome the challenge.

Sources of water and the web of canals and water pipelines are key factors in the water distribution system. Like any region on the earth, the primary natural source of water for Israel also is rain. However, in Israel, it rains only during the winter and that too only in the northern parts. If anything less, global warming is eating into it. Hence, for Israel to survive such conditions, effective and optimal water management is highly critical.

For this, Israel started with efforts to store every available drop of water. One may be surprised, but Israel did not even let the morning dew go waste, in fact, it just cannot allow the wastage. Just on hearing the word ‘dewdrops’, our mind eases itself. Dewdrops are cited a number of times in several novels and stories to accentuate the ‘romantic’ description of nature. They also inspire poetries out of poets. However, Israel could have least afforded to engage with dewdrops just through poetry. The Israeli companies have developed systems which store water from the morning dewdrops.

Israel has numerous water storage and treatment facilities like – water storages to stock available water as also the excess water during rare floods, water treatment plants to carry out various processes on water, pumping stations to supply water at long distances, sewage treatment and recycling plants that supply water to industries, seawater desalination plants, groundwater treatment plants that supply water to agriculture, etc. They are of various capacities. However, for their holistic central planning, all these different projects fall under a single, larger and unified national plan – the ‘National Water Carrier of Israel’. In fact, any water project in Israel generally is a part of the National Water Carrier.

Infrastructure built under the ‘National Water Carrier’

Actually, water scarcity is not a new problem for Israel. It has been around since biblical times. Consequently, with the advent of movements like Zionism and others in the region, a thought process to resolve the issue began in parallel to them. However, the effort went in the right direction only after the creation of Israel. A web of numerous canals, water storage facilities, pipelines and underground waterworks spread far and wide in Israel lie at the core of the National Water Carrier.

Rainfall in Israel is received mainly by the ‘Sea of Galilee’, a freshwater lake in northern Israel. The sea-like water body spread over an area of more than 165 square kilometer is mainly fed by rainwater and underground springs. At about 210 meters (700 feet) below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on the earth.

The principal purpose of the National Water Carrier is to supply water from the Sea of Galilee and other reservoirs in the north to central Israel and the desert areas of the Negev through its mesh of water channels. The waterworks under the National Water Carrier, with a length of about 130 kilometers, supply 1.7 million cubic meters of water daily. Besides, as per the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty signed in 1994, Israel gives Jordan almost 50 million cubic meters of water each year from the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee

The National Water Carrier starts on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. From here, several three meter-diameter concrete pipelines, hundreds of meters long, carry the water into a reservoir on the shore and then into a pumping station. Thereon, the water is raised from below sea level to bring it at par to sea level using a 2,200-meter long pipeline. From here, the water flows into the 17 kilometers long Jordan Canal. It is then supplied all across Israel through a net of water storage facilities, pumping stations, pipelines, underground waterworks, etc.

Recently, advanced filtration plants have been added to this grid. Earlier, water used to be filtered using the conventional way by settling the sludge, sediments, etc. to the bottom by using their weight. However, these days, with the modern filtration plants, various tests are performed on the water before it enters the closed pipelines. It is then filtered and made potable. At the end of the filtration process, the water enters the 86 km long network of pipelines, which transport and release it into the water supply system of the Negev.

The National Water Carrier and the Sea of Galilee have a place of paramount importance in the Israel water management system. However, as the population gradually increased, the Israeli researchers came to the terms that with the Sea of Galilee only, sufficing all of Israel’s water requirements could not be possible. Subsequently, they took to explore alternative sources of water.(To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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