UN-DPI/NGO - NGO Led Briefing
Date: Thursday, 19 June 2014; Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Conference Room 4 (NLB), UN Headquarters New York
“Every Drop of Water Makes a Difference”
Highlights by Hande SUBASILAR,
Representative to the United Nations of The Light Millennium.
One of today’s greatest global challenges is access to clean water. Many years of drought in Israel, coupled with an increased demand from a rapidly growing population, have overexploited the country’s limited natural water resources. Major water bodies, including the Kinneret — Israel’s only freshwater lake — have dwindled to critically low levels, threatening irreversible contamination of the water supply and long-term ecological damage.
Among the many initiatives developed with numerous local and governmental partners are: the MYWAS (Multi-Year Water Allocation System), a national water management model that seeks to achieve the most efficient national water resource management and allocation; the Besor Restoration Project, a trans -boundary project aiming to lay the foundation for effective stream restoration for Israel’s largest dry river system and create an operational model for addressing the region’s highly polluted trans-boundary streams; numerous reservoirs which treat and store hundreds of millions of gallons of water, crucial for agricultural communities; and the Rainwater Harvesting School Program, which has installed rainwater harvesting systems in 27 schools with a 5-year educational program focused on water conservation and Israel’s water challenges.
The Middle East is a region of the world with perpetual droughts and extreme lack of bodies of water. For this reason it is imperative that water technology be developed and fostered, while working hand in hand with Israel’s neighbors. The environmental policy and technological advancements that Israel uses can be implemented in other countries on both a structural level and for day-to-day practice, and moreover can be used to help solve the global water crisis.
Israel uses desalination method to increase the capacity of fresh water
The expert panel mainly discussed sustainable water management, use of technology to reduce biodiversity loss and ensure environmental sustainability with access safe drinking water and basic sanitation for population.
The panel opened with the Moderator JNF Vice President Mr. Joseph Hess’s, remarks indicating that much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water and basic sanitation. He highlighted the importance of the United Nation’s Development goal of ensuring environmental sustainability. Then he invited the Director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona Ms. Sharon B. Megdal for her remarks.
Ms. Megdal pointed water management innovations and water scarce regions in her remarks. She emphasized concerns of the Water Resources Center as water quality, do we have enough water to meet the needs, surface water and groundwater and also water quantity. The challenges may differ but there are some solutions for those issues. One is clearly water reuse. They use standard treatment techniques then store the water treated and reuse it for agriculture. Desalination is another important opportunity for providing portable water needs for people. Harvesting rain water is not a new innovation but it is a useful practice for collecting water. For example it can be used for toilet flushing which does not need the highest quality of water. It can be done at the house hold level. Another kind of water is grey water which is treated waste water from showers or washing machines. This also can be used for agriculture. Another important part is conserving water. Issues of education, persuasion and education of youth are all extremely important influencing water use.
In conclusion Ms. Megdal talked about importance of interaction between collaborators and decision makers, experts and with the civil society in order to ensure that we can meet the human and environmental needs for water.
Israel is the world leader in the amount of waste water going to agriculture
Next, Mr. Clive Lipchin, Director of Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, emphasized the issue of water scarcity that Israel and the neighboring Middle Eastern countries have been facing. In accordance with physical water supply availability are 300 m³ capacities per year for Israel, 230 m³/cap/yr for Jordan, 95 m³/cap/yr for Palestinians, 1300 m³/cap/yr for Lebanon. Israel has been able to address this problem through the development of an efficient centralized water grid. Israel uses desalination method to increase the capacity of fresh water and also treated waste water for agricultural needs. Mr. Lipchin noted that Israel is the world leader in the amount of waste water going to agriculture and around 50 % of Israel’s water for agriculture is now coming from treated waste water. He also pointed out the challenges Israel facing firstly trans- bordering issue which is related to politics. And then one of the most important issues is the reality of the Dead Sea shrinking. The Dead Sea is both national and international resource of water getting smaller about one meter each year due to environmental problems. He indicated that to solve this problem requires cooperation.
Drip irrigation simply works by dripping water on the roots of plants.
After Mr. Lipchin, Mr. Seth M. Siegel, Co-founder of Beanstalk, Sixpoint Partners and Vringo, stated that the degree of the integration and comprehensiveness about Israel’s water solutions for its growing population. Adding Ms. Megdal’s and Mr. Lipchin’s remarks he focused on drip irrigation for agriculture. Drip irrigation simply works by dripping water on the roots of plants. Today 75% of all irrigated fields in Israel use it. This method saves water, improves yield, gentler on the soil and it addresses food security, water scarcity and gender issues, as well as lowers carbon footprint.
Mr. Siegel also mentioned that these achievements have been reached trough having strong legal structure and governance. Since 1955 all drilling is under government’s control. Every amount of water every amount of water has to be metered. After big water law of 1959 strong technocratic regulator came. Next step was to take off the water control from local municipalities by that local utilities are regulated to enhance water infrastructure spending, reduce leaks and encourage innovations.
After Mr. Siegel’s remarks the panel was concluded and the floor opened for Q & A.
Q. Representative of Lebanese Culture Union: Lebanon and Israel are neighbor countries. Despite of Israel, Lebanon has no water scarcity problem but we have major problem with the Hezbollah destroying Lebanon and the other countries around us. What can we do or who would help us to finish this problem in our region? We need peace to get Israel and Lebanon. Why can’t we share the water?
A. Mr. Siegel: If we could have regional peace, the altitude drop from the Litany River in to the Sea of Galilee area is so significant to produce electricity for southern Lebanon, northern Israel and all that water can be transferred to Palestinians and Jordan. This can be only possible if partners get together regionally instead of nationally.
Q. Representative of New York City Bar Association: Whether extended use of drip irrigation for agricultural purposes which would be expensive would nevertheless provide enough water for urban needs not just in Israel and surrounding countries but in developing countries too?
A. Ms. Megdal: The issues of efficiency in agriculture and the water use are very complex. When we talk about agricultural efficiencies we have to look at it from hydro economic point of view. It depends a lot on the water rights. Legal systems and governance is really important for finding solutions.
Q.Bircan Unver, Permanent Representative and Founder of the Light Millennium: I read time to time about Israel’s ongoing research and projects for the desalination from the Mediterranean Sea. Would you elaborate on the whole process, and it doesn’t seem as a regional or global project? In that context, especially in reference to the Post 2015 agenda, if desalination could be put into as a global agenda to resolve and discuss the water issue in a similar approach to the climate change? And also why not this process can be channel to get energy from the sea or ocean?
A. Mr. Lipchin: What Israel has been able to develop desalination. I think there are two opportunities that Israel has. The first one is, we have very efficient water governance system that allows for decisions to be made of rulling out such a law structure on national level. As second, Israel is a very small country with very efficient national water grid. That grid has existed for decades we did not have to recreate desalination system. Our distribution cost is really low. Desalination process is going to be largely used in the future years so the UN needs to put desalination as a global strategy.
Mr. Siegel: 80% of world’s population lives within 100 miles of sea shore. With easy pumping distance 80% of the world will be getting water by desalination.
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For more on the UN/NGO Briefings on the Lightmillennium.Org
Posted by Bircan Unver on July 25, 2014.