There are options – but we need to act.
On July 28, the Knesset decided to establish a parliamentary inquiry committee to examine the reasons for the water crisis. It is vitally important to investigate and clarify the conduct of the parties involved. But at the same time, the solutions for recovering from the situation with which we are faced are known and they should be applied immediately.
Public relations and education are the order of the day. It is necessary to raise awareness, currently in short supply, about the need to save water resources. It is also necessary to change the conduct of the local authorities that use water resources, including increasing enforcement and the dealing with the decline in water.
Reuse of wastewater: currently 130 million cubic meters of wastewater of varying quality flow into the sea each year. This is unacceptable in a country suffering from a water shortage. Wastewater is the cheapest and most available water resource. The decision to allocate NIS 1 billion over five years to treat wastewater was correct, but the designated budget is enough for only one or two projects a year.
More money should be invested so that, within 2-3 years, enough sewage treatment plants will be added so that 130 million cubic meters of wastewater are added back to the water balance. This will be a significant addition for the agricultural sector and will also prevent environmental pollution and make more fresh water available for urban consumption.
It is also necessary to upgrade sewage treatment to the Inbar regulation standard, which will allow unrestricted use of treated wastewater. It should be noted that treated wastewater will be less saline within five years because of desalination, and the treated wastewater will be of a quality suitable for agriculture. Some sewage treatment plants have not been set up because of market failure (a low rate of return per project). In cases of market failure, parties that are able to invest step in and fund the project by returning the initial investment.
Treatment of contaminated wells: 150 wells have been closed in recent years due to contamination by household, industrial, and agricultural sewage. It is necessary to increase enforcement against polluters and at the same to rehabilitate polluted aquifers by building water treatment plants suitable for the types of contamination.
These projects are available, and treating aquifer water is cheaper than desalination. This will both purify aquifers from the contaminants and allow the aquifers to be refilled by rainwater over the coming years, which will allow for unrestricted pumping of water in the future.
Seawater desalination: there is no doubt that the government decision to build seawater desalination plants will significantly increase the water supply. This activity should be pursued and attempts to block implementation of the decision should be stopped, even if we are blessed with a few continuous years of good rains. It is necessary to continue to seek solutions for reducing the energy consumption needed to produce one cubic meter of desalinated water, including the use of renewable energy sources. It is also necessary to find more solutions for treating the brine produced by the desalination process.
Use of renewable energy sources: increase the use of turbines that exploit water pressure differentials to generate clean electricity. Electricity generated by this method reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 2,000 tons a year and avoids unnecessary air pollution.
I believe that if these methods are adopted, the water crisis will be solved and we can maintain a cleaner and greener environment.
Originally published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on August 4, 2008 © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008