from the May 2007 issue

"Water, water everywhere but..."

A number of years ago, the scarcity of water in the arid Middle East, nearly caused a war. Lebanon attempted to divert the waters of the Yarmuk River, one of the tributaries flowing into the Jordan River.

The current cumulative deficit in Israel's renewable water resources amounts to approximately 2 billion cubic meters, an amount equal to the annual consumption of watr of of the State. The deficit has also led to the qualitative deterioration of potable aquifer water resources that have, in part, become either of brackish quality or otherwise become polluted.

For nearly sixty years, Israel has been trying to solve the country's water shortage problem and has relied on technology. As a result Israel has emerged as a global leader in developing water purification, irrigation and desalination.

Israel has built the world's largest desalination plant. Israel Desalination Enterprises, at full production of 320,000 cubic meters a day, is expected to supply15% of the country's water needs. At $0.68 a cubic meter the price compares favorably with international costs of water.The company employs reverse osmosis technology developed at the Weizmann Institute.

The agricultural market is fairly mature but still growing steadily. Kibbutz Netafim which invented drip irrigation in 1965 does about $350m. in sales annually. Israeli companies active in drip irrigation have achieved about half of the estimated $1.5b. global market .

Mekorot Water Company Ltd. is a Government-owned company and, as Israel's national water company, is responsible for managing the country's water resources, developing new sources and ensuring regular delivery of water to all localities for all purposes. Mekorot is in charge of the wholesale supply of water to urban communities, industries and agricultural users. Mekorot produces and supplies about two-thirds of the total amount of water used in Israel. The remainder is provided through privately-owned facilities.

Technologies are being developed in the field as well as in the laboratory. Researchers at Ben Gurion University are looking at ways to use irrigation systems to cultivate fish, edible and tropical in the desert. Some time ago IHTIR visited a shrimp cultivation farm, all for export. The company employed subterranean water which was pure and mixed it with less pure water to provide an ideal, nearly disease free environment. Caviar is also being harvested and is enjoying strong demand.

At the Technion Institute of Technology Professor Desoretz is looking for ways to develop unique ports to prevent agricultural spouts from clogging.

Two of Israel's technological incubators are dedicated to developing a variety of water technologies. Magsens Ltd. in real time can monitor water passingthrough water pipes. Using magnetic fields, coupled with conductors it can check for varied chemical substances that may be dissolved in the water.

Veracon has developed a unique process for the rapid treatment of industrial effluents containing heavy metals. In factories it can reduce the amount of industrial heavy metals such as cadmium, copper and nickel flowing into our environment.

Israel will continue to experience a water shortfall but an ever greater percentage of water will be produced by technology.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report May 2007

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