Water technology is a burgeoning field with impressive profits in Israel. Their arid climate has led the modern country to seek creative solutions to this ancient dilemma. Between the years 2007-2013 the export of Israeli water technology grew 170%, reaching $2 billion. In 2012, it was reported by the Export Institute that Israel had 280 water technologies companies, 150 of which were exporters. The 20 largest companies had $1 billion in exports in 2012.Those figures are continued to grow as more countries are being faced with water shortages, even in developed countries.
Israel’s climate is semi-arid, severely limiting the natural water sources which have even been the cause of armed conflict with Israel’s hostile neighbors. The aquifers are drying up and this led to a water crisis that came to a head about six years ago when measure were put in place to limit use of water, for personal as well as agricultural use. Technological solutions have led to these measures being suspended. The success is due to artificial water production, more efficient and economic use of water, and recycling for use in agriculture.
Desalination was first begun in 1973, when Mekorot built facilities that operated by reverse osmosis. This was focused on the areas of the country not served by the National Water Carrier, like the Dead Sea and Eilat. In 2008, the government decided to establish five large desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast, with the goal of artificially producing 505 million cubic meters of water a year by 2013. This goal was met and desalination is expected to increase to 750 million cubic meters a year by 2020. Desalinated water accounts for around 80% of total domestic water use in Israeli cities.
It should be noted that desalination is a worthwhile endeavor since Granite Hacarmel Investments, part of the Azrieli Group, earned a profit of 100 million shekels ($28.5 million) by selling the Palmahim facility shortly after it was built. The recent drought in California created an opportunity for IDE Technologies, an Israeli company, which is designing a desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif., 35 miles north of San Diego. The new plant will provide 300, 000 Californians with 50 million gallons per day of drinking-quality water.
In most developed countries, only about 10% of the water usage is domestic. Typically, 80% goes towards agriculture and food production. The most cost-effective solution for agricultural water supply is recycling, what is commonly known as ‘grey-water’. Israel recycles about 80% of its water, making it by far the world leader in that field.
Israeli-invented drip irrigation helped achieve 70%-80% of water efficiency in agriculture, giving them the highest ratio in the world of crop yield per water unit. Netafim is the global leader in drip- and micro-irrigation solutions and water-saving technologies. Founded in Israel in 1965, Netafim today provides equipment and services in over 110 countries that enable farmers to produce more with less water. The company was the 2013 Stockholm Industry Water Award laureate.
The Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute (IEICI) CEO Ofer Sachs, spoke to Y-Net and said that he anticipates even more growth in the field.
“The scope of the global water market is some $700 billion, ” he explains. “Most global investments in the water industry are channeled towards building and upgrading infrastructures in Latin American countries, the Far East countries and Africa.”
According to Sachs, “Israel’s water industry is considered one of the future growth engines of Israeli exports. We are talking about an inexhaustible reservoir of exporting products, services, knowledge and technology from Israel. This is a market which combines the traditional industry that employs tens of thousands of workers in production facilities and advanced high-tech technologies, and innovative startup companies which are increasingly turning to this developing field.”
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