Israeli Innovative Water Solutions
Way, Way Ahead
Just a lustrum ago, Israel had water problems. It was beginning to run dry, with a growing population adding water consumption to a limited capacity water infrastructure. Thanks to decisive investments, water is today guaranteed for all Israel and even some neighbors.
by James Galfund
"Big changes in behavior can be triggered simply by changing features of people’s environment".
In 2012, a representative of Israel's Water Authority told a visitor from the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds, "Israel is drying." Four years later, it's time for another look.
The first stop is the National Water Carrier, arguably Israel's most iconic undertaking. The National Water Carrier falls under the domain of Mekorot, Israel's water consortium. Ashley Davidson, manager of the company's visitor center, explains that the project, which began in the late 1950s, stretches the country's length, from the Sea of Galilee to the Negev. Nearly 60 years later, it remains, according to Davidson, Israel's "biggest and most complex infrastructure project," noting that the National Water Carrier "was instrumental in making the desert bloom."
But there was a problem. As Israel's population grew, Davidson says the amount of water needed for drinking rose exponentially. Consequently, increasing amounts of Israel's scarce water resources had to be diverted from agriculture to Israel's citizens' growing needs.
That's where Israel's well-established reputation for innovative solutions came into play. With the Mediterranean Sea as the country's western border, desalination became the obvious answer. Today, says Davidson, "Eighty- ve percent of Israel s drinking water comes from the sea." Taking into account anticipated population growth, he projects desalination will ensure clean drinking water "for the next ten years," adding the complex filtration process produces water "ten times cleaner than what the Health Ministry requires." The success of desalination gave birth to another extensive infrastructure project, dubbed the New National Water Carrier. The updated carrier distributes water from different desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast to locales throughout the country.
As for agricultural needs, Davidson says Mekorot has that covered too. Seventy percent of Israel's wastewater is recycled and used for agriculture, particularly in the arid Negev.
This Israeli innovation, as well as other ideas, are shared with the world.
EVERY DROP COUNTS
Oded Distel, who heads Israel New Tech for the Ministry of Economy and Industry, is all about water. Distel professes that he "fell in love with the sector," calling it "one of the most important sectors for the future. Israel's approach to water is different because, in Israel, water is really appreciated. We learn from childhood that every drop counts."
Distel ticks o Israel's myriad accomplishments: water independence producing 20 percent more water than the nation consumes—a surplus allowing Israel to export water to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan and a knowledge base that benefits them throughout the world.
Oded Distel emphasizes the problem of dwindling water resources is "a major headache everywhere. It's not only a Third World issue; it's everybody's issue." As a case in point, Distel cites a recent visit to California, where his ministry hosted the Israel-California Water Conference. The idea was to explore partnerships and initiatives to help position California as a sustainable water solution leader. Looking forward, Distel projects an air of confidence. He feels Israel's water situation is "perfect," to the point where "even in a dry year, there is no problem with water usage being cut."
He gives much credit to Israel's focus on desalination, calling it a "revolution." Israel's water supply "is no longer dependent on nature. If there were a catastrophe, Israel's population would still have water to drink and use domestically."
Another success story has been water recycling. Distel believes that without a proactive approach to reusing wastewater, Israel's agriculture sector "could not have survived."
Oded Distel maintains that the current global business model regarding water "is not functioning efficiently," stressing the word "can't avoid reforms any longer." He has visited every continent, save Antarctica, to share his expertise. A problem he highlights as critically important is water leakage, which, he says, averages 25 percent around the globe and up to 50 percent in some countries. But someone in Israel came up with a solution.
THE FUTURE OF WATER UTILITIES
"Amazing" is how Shani Feldman, sales operations manager for Israeli company TaKaDu, describes the number of water countries lose to leakage. Feldman emphasizes countries need to tackle the problem by being "proactive rather than reactive."
The idea behind TaKaDu, explains Feldman, "is to use analytics to save water." Launched in 2009, founder Amir Peleg realized early on how TaKaDu could leverage the potential of the "Internet of Things" to address global water issues.
Peleg recalls going to water trade shows and being "surprised to see how, among all the pipes and valves, the software was hardly seen. Surely," he thought, "it had a part to play in the lack of efficiency. I started to think about how data analytics, together with cloud computing, could help power a smart water revolution."
Today, TaKaDu helps 20 utility companies in 9 countries manage water resources through software utilizing statistical algorithms to provide real-time detection and insights into any type of water event. "All factors" are programmed into TaKaDu's software, Feldman says, "allowing event management in one centralized system."
She lists potential trouble spots TaKaDu's algorithms can detect: identifying leaks before they turn into substantial bursts changes and trends in water pressure, usage patterns, supply interruptions, water quality issues identifying water theft, and automatic early warning of operational problems such as open valves and zone breaches.
TaKaDu's software's predictive analytics establishes a baseline Feldman classifies as "normal behavior" within each network. The better the program understands standard patterns of water flow, the more accurately it senses aberrations. Once activated by an alert, the software goes through a series of checks, enabling utilities to respond effectively.
Feldman calls the software "the future of water utilities."
WAY, WAY AHEAD
Water carriers, desalination, recycling, and advanced analytics, this Israeli outside-the-box approach to maximizing scarce water resources had dramatically changed the outlook from four years ago, when the statement was "Israel is drying.