The water crisis is huge, and naturally not an easy to solve puzzle or mathematical equation. Fortunately however, there are people who are not intimidated, but instead motivated by the immense challenge it represents. In the following, I will elucidate a few proposals to improve the situation, and then have a closer look at a great role model: Israel.
The Drinkable Book
Invented by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in cooperation with Water is Life, the Drinkable Book is a two-in-one solution: With its unique technology, the book enables its readers to purify drinking water. At the same time, it educates them by offering fundamental water and sanitation advice.
The SPaRC ( Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop) project not only aims to meliorate water efficiency, but also increase farmers’ incomes and generate cleaner energy. Farmers in hot and dry climate zones, like India, often pump ground water to irrigate crops. The good news is: solar-powered pumps are becoming more popular. The bad news: As the farmers view solar energy as free, over-irrigation can occur – intensifying water scarcity.
That’s where SPaRC takes action: The initiative addresses farmers who already use solar pumps, offering them a guaranteed buy-back of the excess energy generated by their solar pumps, encouraging them to pump only the amount of water they need. This way, incomes are generated, energy is generated and water is saved.
Fog CatchersMorocco – a place which many people had to leave due to a shortage of natural water resources (caused by a mixture of intense droughts and flash floods) – has now found a way to make use of a once despised phenomenon: fog.By catching the fog’s moisture with nets, clean water can be easily accessed.This again represents a solution to multiple problems: It not only provides access to clean water, it also provides instant access to it. Women no longer need to walk for hours to fetch water, which gives them the opportunity to attend school.
Israel’s revolutionary approach
The three solutions mentioned above can contribute a lot to an improvement of the situation. However, they represent solutions to specific problems. Let’s “zoom out” and view the bigger picture, let’s try to find a holistic solution approach – and for that, have a look at a country that’s been confronted with water scarcity since its day one: Israel.
Embedded in a not so peaceful environment, the country has been searching for ways to become water independent ever since.
Drip irrigation is a first step in that direction. By making water drip directly into the root zone, more than 40% of the water used for irrigation can be saved. In addition to that, the plants become much more productive. In numbers, this means: water efficiency and crop yields combined can save more than 70 percent of the water required for any given crop. And not only that: Drip irrigation also curbs contamination of groundwater sources.
Now, in addition to changing the way farmers irrigate, Israelis have also thought about what is being irrigated, favoring efficient crops which grow more food using less water. To increase water-efficiency, Israel has engaged a lot in seed-breeding. But they thought even bigger – and found out that many crops do not necessarily need fresh water, and instead can be watered with brackish water. This not only facilitates the sourcing, it also makes the fruits and vegetables taste sweeter and more flavorful.
That’s it on farming, let’s talk about efficient urban water management, which – surprise – Israel is pretty good at. Using GPS-guided robots which crawl through sewers, leaks can be detected and, with the help of a special putty, even repaired. Knowing that this system is very valuable, it is also protected really well. Highly sensitive water meters are able to discover irregular water use.
Obviously, Israel works really hard to save and protect its water. Yet, they have also ensured that they always have enough of it by constructing desalination plants, (which, by the way, are the largest reverse-osmosis desalination facilities worldwide) considering that around 97% percent of the earth’s water is in the oceans. These use the cost-effective reverse osmosis-technology.
Finally, the country recycles 95% of its highly purified sewage – 85% for agriculture and 10% to increase river flow and fight forest fires.
Last but not least, Israel has experimented with a price mechanism, letting consumers cover all costs for the human water cycle, which, because of subsidies, they don’t need to in other parts of the world. Through this smart pricing, the country’s inhabitants have experienced how expensive and valuable water really is. Now, children are taught early on in school that water is to be saved, appreciated and secured – they are educated to change consumption and lifestyles.
Simply put: Israel basically takes sustainability to another level. And why shouldn’t other countries, too?