By Ran Yaakoby, ambassador of Israel to New Zealand
In the past year with the decline of the coronavirus, the world has returned its focus to the most pressing existential threats – global warming and climate change, and their devastating effects on the world we live in.
One of the main areas critically affected by climate change is the global rainfall cycle, resulting in extreme rain events, with either severe drought or excessive rainfall, bringing with them more destruction than blessings.
We believe that innovative technological solutions to the water crisis can be a central part of dealing with the climate crisis, for both adaptation and mitigation. Israel is helping to provide solutions to the water crisis around the world. Recently, following the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle, the embassy offered its assistance to New Zealand in the form of a series of advanced water technologies, including advanced emergency water management and water infrastructure development, which are now being reviewed.
The close connection between the water crisis and the climate crisis was noted in the COP 27 summary statement and was a central theme in the United Nations Water Conference that opened on the recent Water Day, March 22, at UN headquarters in New York.
Even as the powerful processes of climate change and global population growth continue to rise, growing demand for industrial and agricultural products will intensify. We must understand that this will entail formulating a comprehensive campaign that will require that all necessary steps be integrated together, such as: guide and educate on water conservation; increase water use efficiency; accrue international, public and private funding; rehabilitate polluted water sources; encourage investments and R&D; and, first and foremost, learn how to practice good water management on a local, national, regional and global scale.
We must explore new approaches to investing in water and sanitation-related infrastructure and services, while ensuring each person’s right to safe drinking water. It is important that emphasis be placed on the availability and sharing of information about the amount, quality, distribution and access to water, as well as of the risks and use of that water.
In this regard, Israel can make a significant contribution to the world at large and NZ in particular, as a country with one of the most advanced water systems in the world and with an abundance of R&D and innovative technologies in many fields.
One example is the treatment and recycling of sewage: Israel holds a world record in this field, with 95% of its wastewater being treated; from this, almost 90% is used in agriculture.
Another field in which Israel holds a world record is the prevention of water loss in urban systems. In Israel only a small percentage of water is lost in urban supply systems, while in other countries in the world, this rate can reach dozens of percent. The paradox is that these are often arid and water-scarce countries for whom the absence of available water represents a significant burden.
In Israel, a comprehensive variety of technologies and methods have been developed to prevent water loss in supply systems, detect leaks through remote sensors, and more.
If this was the status quo the world over, it would be possible to greatly reduce and prevent environmental pollution and the destruction of natural systems, all the while allowing treated and purified water to flow back into nature and agriculture.
It would be possible to simultaneously reduce large-scale emission of greenhouse gases, build agricultural resilience against climate chance, allow more water in nature for natural systems – which naturally absorb greenhouse gases – to better function, prevent unnecessary destruction of ecological systems as the result of pollution or water scarcity, and much more.
Seawater desalination, the use of brackish water in agriculture, drip irrigation, the development of agricultural varieties that consume less water, and even the extraction of water from air, are all fields that are developed in Israel.
We in Israel are able and willing to share our accumulated knowhow and best practices with fellow nations around the world so that together we will ensure that every individual across the globe is able to enjoy the essential human right to safe and clean water.
Water is life.