When 15 students in the Engineers without Borders (EwB) chapter at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found out that more than 600 Ethiopian schoolchildren in rural Meskele Cristos had no reliable source of water for drinking and handwashing, they volunteered to design a safe drinking-water system for the school.

Built by the Israeli students and local residents over the course of two years, the system collects rainwater from the rooftop during the rainy season and stores it in a stone reservoir constructed as part of the project. The water is cleaned and treated before reaching the school’s holding tank.

The Israelis formed an engineering club for older children at the school and taught them how to maintain the system and treat the water. EwB-Technion continues to provide training support and is looking into other ways to help Meskele Christos be assured of a safe and sustainable water supply. Meanwhile, the EwB-Technion Nepal group is working on a bio-sand filter to improve water quality in rural areas.

Kids in Meskele Cristos now have a source of drinking and washing water at school. Photo courtesy of Nimrod Polonsky, Matan Segman, Tal Dana/Technion Spokesperson’s Office
Kids in Meskele Cristos now have a source of drinking and washing water at school. Photo courtesy of Nimrod Polonsky, Matan Segman, Tal Dana/Technion Spokesperson’s Office

Ten students from the Tel Aviv University chapter of EwB planned, designed, and built a rain-collection and purification system, and a solar-panel grid, in the village Minjingu in north Tanzania, where the drinking water was saturated with dangerously high amounts of fluoride.

Since the project was finished in 2014, it has been supplying safe drinking water to more than 400 children daily. Now the chapter is raising money to connect the Minjingu medical center to the power grid, as well as expanding the water collection and purification system.

Water experts par excellence

Israel, considered the world’s most successful country in terms of water technology and conservation, frequently offers expertise and equipment to water-strapped nations — from the United States to developing countries in Africa and the Far East.

Industry, academic institutions, NGOs and government agencies all are involved in these efforts.

“Just over five years ago, Israel had fears of turning on the tap and no water coming out. In just a few years, Israel has innovated its way to becoming the world leader on water innovation,” says Ashleigh Talberth, CEO of the Israeli consulting firm @GreenTECH and cofounder of the Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership, a new initiative to leverage Israeli and American knowhow in combatting California’s drought crisis.

With countries across the globe lining up to purchase Israeli water-tech products, several business and government initiatives seek to match the most appropriate technology with a specific area’s needs.

And in times of crisis the Jewish state shares its water technologies generously, even with enemy states.

When civil war began in Syria, the United Nations chose water-purifying tablets from Medentech, Israel Chemicals’ Ireland-based subsidiary, to Syrian citizens suffering water contamination.

WaterSheer’s Sulis personal water purifier was brought along by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs relief teams in Taiwan, Myanmar and Haiti.

Last May, the Embassy of Israel in Colombo included water pumps, water filters and 50,000 tablets for water purification in its shipment of disaster-relief supplies to Sri Lanka after heavy rains triggered deadly floods across much of the country.

Ambassador of Israel to Sri Lanka Daniel Carmon presenting a shipment to the Sri Lankan authorities. Photo via MFA
Ambassador of Israel to Sri Lanka Daniel Carmon presenting a shipment to the Sri Lankan authorities. Photo via MFA

Earlier this year, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) donated Israeli-made GalMobile water-purification vehicles to drought-stricken Papua New Guinea, where about 85 percent of the six million citizens lack access to electricity and tap water; and to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, where drinking water is in short supply.

The mobile water-treatment, storage and distribution systems connect to any water source and produce safe drinking water in less than 30 minutes, yielding approximately 8,000 cups of water per hour.

G.A.L. Water Technologies CEO Rami Aflalo and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in the GalMobile to be donated to Papua New Guinea. Photo: courtesy
G.A.L. Water Technologies CEO Rami Aflalo and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in the GalMobile to be donated to Papua New Guinea. Photo: courtesy

These weren’t isolated donations. The MFA has partnered with Caesarea-based G.A.L. Water Technologies to provide water-treatment products on a humanitarian basis to African nations for more than 20 years, and is involved in many other projects of sharing Israeli water technologies and strategies.

This summer, the MFA and its MASHAV-Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation hosted the first Israel-Kenya Steering Committee on Water Cooperation in Jerusalem.

First meeting of Israel-Kenya Steering Committee on Water Cooperation, Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of MASHAV
First meeting of Israel-Kenya Steering Committee on Water Cooperation, Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of MASHAV

The meeting was a follow-up to the Israel-Kenya agreement on water cooperation signed in 2009 and the Jerusalem Declaration on Water and Irrigation Collaboration signed between the two states in February.

Representatives from MASHAV, as well as MFA and Israeli specialists in water resources management, joined the Kenyan delegation to discuss the establishment of a water and irrigation training and demonstration center in the Nairobi area as well as the expansion of capacity-building and training activities.

Last year, 24 experts from 10 Latin American countries took part in a water resources management course in Israel cosponsored by MASHAV and the CINADCO-Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation. The delegation visited the Kishon River Authority to hear about the rehabilitation and cleanup project that is transforming the polluted waterway into a thriving nature reserve.