Water, or rather the lack of it, is an issue that looks set to affect the lives of every person, rich or poor. The government and media quite rightly give high priority to the consequences of the devastating drought we are facing in South Africa and further afield.
Water scarcity is a universal problem. In a radio interview this week Clem Sunter spelt out the worldwide issues with particular reference to Southern California. However all concerned parties in our country, including the government, appear to be unaware of solutions that are being successfully implemented around the world, including in California. While commendable suggestions are made for domestic water savings, this, if even fully applied, won’t solve the long term and immediate problems in a situation where agriculture and industry are by far the greatest users of water.
The water sector giant IDE Technologies, an Israeli company, this month brought on-stream the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – a facility that will produce some 190 million litres of water daily for the residents of drought stricken Southern California.
The plant is able to generate potable water of the highest quality while creating some 2,500 jobs and generating about $350 million for the local economy providing San Diego County with a drought-proof water supply and the ability to meet the water needs of future generations.IDE is involved in another ten projects in the United States and operates hundreds of facilities around the world, as well as three of the four largest desalination plants in Israel.
With a growing population, South Africa, like other countries, should be focusing on the efficient use of water to produce food. Israel, with 60 percent of its country comprising desert, can serve as a model for countries everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities. Israel has not only solved its water problem; it also has an abundance of water and it can and does supply water to its neighbours – the Palestinians and Jordan – every day.
Under its 1994 peace treaty with the Kingdom of Jordan and the 1995 Oslo II Agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel provides water to each. To the extent that climate change, population growth, and prosperity create new water needs for the Palestinians and Jordan, Israel is in a position, and shows a total willingness, to give backup to its neighbours and help in these difficult times. This cooperation is extended to other continents where countries benefit from Israeli expertise and know-how.
Droughts have plagued the Middle East since biblical times. Israel’s long-term strategy is to bring the entire area to a point where it can withstand even long droughts. In South Africa we need to emulate the inspired vision of a nation and people that have long made water security a top priority by implementing programmes focusing on affordable sewerage and storm-water recycling, inventive irrigation techniques, and, importantly, desalination of sea and brackish water.
Apart from California Israel is helping countries and people as disparate as the Palestinians in the West Bank, Jordan, India, China and Russia. Many countries in Africa are working with Israeli scientists and engineers on their water challenges.
Thanks to Israel, Uganda is swiftly moving into a mode of water security—why not South Africa? We have the technological infrastructure; all we need is the political will to make it happen.
South Africa stands to benefit from advanced water technology by learning what Israel did to overcome daunting challenges and transform itself from a parched land into a water superpower.
Everyone concerned about the crisis can profit from reading a new book called Let There Be Water, by Seth Siegel that goes into detail about these new and successful water conservation and usage strategies.