Israel Has the Answer, Says Author of New Book on Global Water Crisis (INTERVIEW)
Israel is the “answer to the world’s water problems,” says businessman and author Seth Siegel, who wants to share that insight with the world through his new book, Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water Starved World.
Siegel tells The Algemeiner that the concept for the book, released last month, came to him in May 2012, prompting a 14-month research process for the endeavor, which began the following January. After interviewing hundreds of Israeli experts in hydrology, sustainable development and other water-based fields, Siegel ultimately compiled a comprehensive narrative of Israel’s history, through the lens of one of the country’s scarcest natural resources.
What prompted Siegel to write the in-depth tale of how a parched, arid Middle Eastern nation became a country with a water surplus?
“I thought this was an issue that the average citizen should know about — that we have a coming global water crisis,” he said.
This crisis is discussed in the introduction to Siegel’s book, and is based on assessments in a document drawn up by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, a government policy think-tank of sorts within America’s intelligence community. According to Siegel, the document states that “by 2025, 60% of world’s land mass, and 40 of [the U.S.’s] 50 states will experience water shortage.”
“We are not ready,” he says. “The key thing that Israel has to offer is a focus on water.”
Siegel’s book explores the different methods through which the Jewish state obtained “water mastery,” through innovation, such as the use of treated sewage for water-intensive agriculture, and desalination, as well as a government policy that might seem altogether foreign to the U.S.: public ownership of water; government control of consumption patterns; and a centralized and depoliticized water authority. But it is these factors that together have made Israel the only country in the world to reverse the trend of desertification, and become a water powerhouse.
“It’s a $2.5 billion industry now for Israel,” he says, adding that it is “scarcely all Netafim,” the company based at Kibbutz Hatzerim, which developed the drip irrigation system famously exported around the globe. “There are over 300 Israeli companies involved now [in water tech]; they are doing business in about 150 countries throughout the world.”
Among those projects are ones right here in the U.S. In Carlsbad, California, just north of San Diego, Israeli firm IDE Technologies designed and is helping construct what will become the western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant. IDE has also designed desalination plants in India and China. On Wednesday, some 100 businesspeople, investors and policy makers gathered at Google’s Tel Aviv headquarters for the launch of a project called the Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership, aiming to provide a bridge for private and public ventures in water in climatically-similar California and Israel.
Siegel describes how Israeli relations with China have improved over the years through water-technology sharing, including a massive project in Shouguang, a city with a population of 1.3-million, where Israeli engineers will be helping the Chinese to retrofit the city’s leaky water infrastructure, with the possibility of utilizing that framework in other Chinese cities.
Providing a tidbit of history, Siegel describes how Israeli relations with Iran — whose leaders today openly seek the destruction of the Jewish state — budded around Israeli water innovation:
Israel has used water as a vehicle for opening doors all over the place, starting with Iran in 1962. The Iranian-Israeli relationship began over water. Iran had a severe earthquake that destroyed their system of wells and Israel came in, in an emergency way, and began drilling wells in a then-very modern way. Israel designed Iran’s national water infrastructure plan and their national irrigation plan. And in 1979, they were kicked out, obviously, with the revolution … Today Iran is one of the three or four most water inefficient countries in the world.
Given Israel’s startup nation credibility, Siegel also has some modern Israeli water-tech companies to look out for. Among them are Atlantium, which provides products to purify water with very low energy costs; Emefcy, which innovates approaches to wastewater treatment (treated wastewater is crucial to keeping Israeli agriculture afloat); and HydroSpin, which produces tiny turbines that create energy off the flow of water in underground pipes.