Innovative technologies have enabled Israel to stretch its scarce water resources. But it is traditional skills in management, efficiency and improved infrastructure maintenance that have allowed Israel to optimize its limited water resources.
Regional and Seasonal Inequalities
With regional rain inequalities, Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, has placed major emphasis on transporting water from the wetter parts of the country to more arid regions. Israel’s north enjoys an average 600 mm. rain per year, while the northern Negev has just 200 mm annually and there is barely any precipitation at all in the southern Negev.
The National Water Carrier completed in the 1960’s alleviated these regional inequalities by transporting water from the Sea of Galilee (used as a giant reservoir to supply one third of Israel’s water needs) in the north to the parched south. Since its establishment over 40 years ago the National Water Carrier has conveyed nearly 20 billion cubic meters of water from north to south. Mekorot has built the biggest national supply system since the National Water Carrier, designed mainly to convey water from the large desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast to inland locations.
Seasonal inequalities are also a major problem. Israel has no rainfall whatsoever from May until October, while most of the country’s wet weather occurs between December and March. Thus Mekorot emphasizes optimal storage between winter and summer, carefully monitoring the level of the Sea of Galilee and the underground coastal aquifer, which supplies an additional third of Israel’s water. In recent years, dozens of new reservoirs have been built to store water from the winter rainfall during the long hot summers and lessen the amount of rainwater running off into the sea.
While Israel's water technology innovation was developed because of its location in an arid region, in the 21st century no country is immune from the need to protect water resources even countries like Canada and Norway, which have no scarcity. These countries understand that water systems consume enormous energy while wastewater pollutes the environment. Moreover, the food and beverage industry, pharmaceuticals, mining, heavy metals, and oil and gas exploration as well as fracking for natural gas, to name just a few sectors, handle massive volumes of water and can save enormously on their water and related energy costs through efficient management of water resources, recycling and desalination.
Israel has managed its limited water resources to meet the needs of a growing population
Planning and Management above All Else
Israel has been able to successfully manage its very limited water resources to meet the needs of a fast growing and increasingly affluent population has been a triumph of planning and organization. Mekorot supplies more than 1.5 cubic meters of water per year for urban, agricultural and industrial use. This amount comprises 85% of Israel’s drinking water and 70% of overall use.
The company operates 3,000 installations throughout the country for water supply, water quality, infrastructure, sewage purification, desalination and rain enhancement.
Mekorot’s state-of-the-art infrastructure comprises 630 pumping stations, over 1,200 wells, more than 3,050 pumps, over 12,000 kilometers of large-diameter pipes, 600 tanks and 1,000 pools and reservoirs.
In planning and maintaining this infrastructure, the Tahal Group, Israel’s largest engineering consultancy and project management firm, has ably assisted Mekorot. Established in 1952 by the Israeli government and privatized in the 1990’s, Tahal’s initial brief was to provide engineering solutions to Israel’s dearth of water. Since then the company, through its subsidiary Water Planning for Israel, has played a key role in the legendary blooming of the country’s desert. Mekorot carries out planning project worldwide and recently signed a deal to draw up a master plan for Azerbaijan and supply water monitoring equipment to the country.
PFrom the Drawing Board to the Field
Tahal, like Mekorot, believes in careful planning before implementation. In addition to its operations in Israel, Tahal has implemented water resource development projects throughout the world. Projects begin with feasibility studies and a comprehensive survey of a region’s needs and water potential. Tahal’s services include the design of regional and national water supply systems, prevention of water source pollution, conveyance and storage systems and the relationship of these needs to agricultural planning.
After design approval the company can manage project construction and operations. Tahal also plans and implements advanced technology projects including desalination, wastewater reclamation, treatment and purification.
Balasha-Jalon Infrastructure Systems (BJIS) is a leading specialist in planning, design and consultation of water and sewage works, water and sewage treatment and plants, canalization, drainage and irrigation works.
Enhancing the Flow
Good water management and distribution also depends on the quality and reliability of the infrastructure. Israel has many companies with the various pipes, valves, fittings and filters, which optimize flow. For example, Bermad Technologies, based on Kibbutz Evron in northern Israel has been producing leading edge water valves for over 40 years. The company develops, produces and provides automatic control valves for water pressure and flow regulation, reservoir level control, and pipeline and pump water hammer control. Bermad also supplies manual and self-cleaning filtration equipment, water meters, and have a complete range of water and sewer air release valves.
Bermad’s automatic hydraulic valves result in optimal pressure and flow and minimum infrastructure breakdowns. The valves are so effective that they are used as part of water infrastructures at ski-resorts where the mountainous topography and well below freezing temperatures pose enormous logistical challenges. Bermad’s valves were installed at the ski courses near Turin used in the 2006 Winter Olympics, so that snow machines have a reliable infrastructure for enhancing the slopes.
Another kibbutz company ARI Flow Control Accessories also develops and manufactures a range of leading edge valves. These include air release and check valves for applications in domestic and municipal water supply, sewage, industry, agriculture and landscaping. In addition to its standard valves custom designed and engineered valves are produced for specific projects.
Dorot Valves (based at Kibbutz Dorot) also produces a range of premium quality valves. These include air release and check valves, both standard and custom engineered.
Another Israeli company, which develops and manufactures valves is C-Valves, owned by the Modgal Group. C-Valves has developed a family of “linear flow linear control” valves, which enhances the flow of fluids. The company is now successfully marketing an entire family of linear flow valves, which includes regular on-off valves as well as flow control valves, pump valves, irrigation valves and reservoir valves and combined applications.
Hakokav Valves Industries Metal (1987) Ltd., a subsidiary of Gaon Agro Industries, manufactures intelligent valves for industry, water infrastructure, air-conditioners and fire systems. Currently, Hakohav is focusing on the development of a high-tech hydraulic valve.
Monitoring, Measurement & Leakage
Even in the most highly developed western countries basic inefficiencies such as leaking pipes result in enormous inefficiencies and wastefulness in water infrastructures. In a region short of water Israel can ill-afford such negligence and consequently the local water technology solutions industry has developed a wide range of products, systems and applications to monitor and measure water and identify leakages.
Infrastructure efficiency has also been optimized in recent years by the greater use of computers. The operation of Mekorot’s installations is based on sophisticated, computerized remote-controlled systems that ascertain reliability and high quality of water supply. Mekorot’s complex monitoring systems also generate savings in manpower, energy and water losses.