From California to Africa, we are facing a global water shortage. But one tiny country, in the middle of a desert, has found remarkable solutions. Which country? And can we replicate its success? Businessman and New York Times bestselling author Seth Siegel explains.
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Is the world going into a water crisis? It certainly seems that way.
The U.S. government predicts that by 2025, 60 percent of the world’s landmass, and 40 of our 50 U.S. states will experience water shortages— some of them extreme.
The U.S. intelligence community sees worldwide water shortages as a major national security risk. Water scarcity helped trigger the Syrian civil war and has been a key reason why Africans have migrated in large numbers to Europe. More of this can be expected.
But there is cause for optimism. And it comes from a very unlikely place—a country in the middle of a desert.
That country is Israel.
Compelled by necessity and powered by remarkable technological innovations, Israel has become the world’s water superpower. By reusing waste water, by making desalination affordable, by rethinking irrigation, and by developing an array of sophisticated water conservation techniques, Israel not only has a sufficiency of water, but an abundance of it.
What Israel has done, other nations can do, too, including its Mideast neighbors. And while it’s a lot to hope for, cooperation on water issues could become the basis for cooperation on other issues as well.
For Israel, an obsession with water is not new. The word “water” appears 600 times in the Hebrew Bible. For over 2,000 years daily prayers for rain in the land of Israel have been a part of traditional Jewish ritual. For the founders of the modern State of Israel, water was not only a daily concern, but a paramount question of future survival. Vast quantities of water would be needed for the millions of immigrants who would make their way to the new country. Without plenty of water, economic growth would be impossible.
But where was the water going to come from? It was a daunting challenge, but one which Israel overcame.
Today, while other nations, even ones with far more natural water resources, struggle with water management, Israel has a surplus of useable water. The desert, as Israel’s founders dreamed, is blooming.
Not only does the country supply its own population with an array of fruits and vegetables, but it exports billions of dollars worth of produce to nations around the world.
So, how does a small country with little annual rainfall, with only one freshwater lake, and with no major rivers do this?
It begins with a nothing-wasted attitude that extends from the government to private industry to farming to consumers. Israel charges its citizens the market price for water—no subsidies. You can have as much water as you want, but you have to pay for it. And when you pay for something, you tend to be more careful with how you use it.
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