During the 20th century, the world saw the greatest population boom in human history. The annual growth rate of the world’s population stands at 1.6 percent and the world population is expected to grow from 8 billion to 10 billion by the year 2100. The need to fix our ever-growing water shortage has never been more crucial.
One in six people on the planet currently lack access to clean drinking water. By 2025, it is estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population will suffer from water shortages, particularly devastating to children. As it now stands, 1.8 million children die every year due to water-borne illnesses. This number is expected to increase in upcoming years, unless we tackle this global water crisis head on.
Yet while most of the world suffers from the lack of clean water, there is one small country that overcame its water shortage and emerged as a net exporter of water. In many ways, the State of Israel is a microcosm of the rest of the world when it comes to water. Since achieving independence in 1948, the country’s population grew from 600,000 to over 8 million people. Despite 60 percent of Israel’s landmass consisting of desert and the country suffering from the worst drought in the Mediterranean in 900 years, Israel not only provides clean and drinkable water to its people but also exports surplus water to the neighboring Kingdom of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Israel not only has more than enough water for the purposes of daily consumption, but also to supply its multi-billion-dollar agricultural export economy.
Modern drip irrigation was developed in Israel by an engineer named Simcha Blass. In Israel, Blass found inspiration from a dripping faucet near a growing tree and applied his knowledge of micro tubing to create an improved drip method. Patented in 1959 in partnership with Kibbutz Hatzerim, the Blass Emitter became the first efficient method for drip irrigation. Drip irrigation has been instrumental in reversing the process of desertification, as well as ensuring almost no water is wasted in the process of growing crops.
How was Israel able to accomplish such a miracle? Israeli advances in water technology can also be attributed to the efforts of the Jewish National Fund and its efforts to implement key infrastructure projects as well as major investments in research and development, which transformed Israel from a country on the verge of a water crisis, to a global leader in water conservation and recycling.
JNF has led the way in making sure Israel stays at the forefront of water solutions. JNF’s efforts include the rehabilitation of 250 water reservoirs, which hold a total of 66 billion gallons of recycled water and flood runoff for agricultural use. These reservoirs provide more than half of the water used by Israel’s agricultural sector, as well as 4.4 million people a year. Israel reuses an astonishing 85 percent of its treated sewage for agriculture. By contrast, the United States only uses 5 percent of its wastewater for reuse. JNF has also played an instrumental role in cleaning Israeli rivers and streams.
Apart from being an international humanitarian issue, water safety is also an American interest. According to a 2012 report by the U.S. government’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, many countries in the next ten years that are considered important to the United States will experience water problems that will “risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important US policy objectives.” The report goes on to say that North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia will face major challenges coping with water problems, unless more effective management of water resources is implemented.
By making the desert bloom, Israel has become a world leader in water preservation and recycling. In a time when the world is expected to experience an unprecedented water crisis, countries must seek to emulate Israeli policies when it comes to water efficiency, as well as import Israeli technology. In doing so, Israel will succeed in quenching a thirsty world.