When it comes to water, Israel is up against some serious challenges. The country is nearly two-thirds desert, and even those places where water exists, such as Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Hermon River, are overtaxed, which could lead to a breakdown of what is known as Israel’s “water economy.” Needless to say, water is at the center of many disputes in the region with Israel and its neighboring countries.
Israel has accomplished a great deal in the areas of desalination and reuse (or “reclamation”) of this precious resource. The country reuses more than 80 percent of its wastewater for irrigation—the highest percentage in the world by far (the United States, for the record, reuses about 1 percent). But the company Mekorot is aiming even higher. Desalination, though long known as a vexingly expensive prospect, is now cheaper, cleaner, and more energy efficient, and it may offer one solution to Israel’s, and perhaps the world’s, water crisis.
In the past decade, Israel has opened four major desalination plants, and as of this writing, a fifth one is about to go into operation. Together, they will produce a total of more than 130 billion gallons of potable water a year, with a goal of 200 billion gallons by 2020. These advances are so transformative that many are calling this a water revolution.