March 2014 article: In Nov. 2013, California Coastal Commission postponed granting a desalination permit to a Huntington Beach project pending more studies. Israel also provides water to Gaza and Jordan.
3/20/2014, "Israel no longer worried about its water supply, thanks to desalination plants," McClatchy, Joel Greenberg, Hadera, Israel
"Israel has gone through one of the driest winters in its history,
but despite the lean rainy season, the government has suspended a
longstanding campaign to conserve water.
The familiar public
messages during recent years of drought, often showing images of parched
earth, have disappeared from television despite weeks of balmy weather
with record low rainfalls in some areas.
The level of the Sea of
Galilee, the country’s natural water reservoir, is no longer closely
tracked in news reports or the subject of anxious national discussion.
The reason: Israel has in recent years achieved a quiet water revolution through desalination.
four plants currently in operation, all built since 2005, and a fifth
slated to go into service this year, Israel is meeting much of its water
needs by purifying seawater from the Mediterranean. Some 80 percent of
domestic water use in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water,
according to Israeli officials.
“There’s no water problem because
of the desalination,” said Hila Gil, director of the desalination
division in the Israel Water Authority. “The problem is no longer on the
The struggle over scarce water resources has fueled
conflict between Israel and its neighbors, but the country is now
finding itself increasingly self-sufficient after years of dependency on
rainfall and subterranean aquifers.
might also offer some important lessons, or at least contrast, for
states like California. Now gripped by drought, with the all-important
snowpack averaging only 26 percent of normal, California has struggled
with desalination efforts in the past.
At present, more than a
dozen desalination projects are at various stages of planning in the
state, and the California Department of Water Resources will be
announcing a new round of desalination grants in May. The grants are
very modest, though; the last round, for instance, offered just $45,000
to study the technology in southern San Luis Obispo County.
plants themselves, meanwhile, are costly and frequently controversial.
One big plant built two decades ago near Santa Barbara, in the final
years of an earlier drought, is now dormant. Officials estimate it would
cost $20 million or more to reactivate it.
A proposal for a 50
million-gallon-per-day facility at Huntington Beach in Southern
California would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. In
November (2013), the California Coastal Commission postponed granting the
project a permit pending more studies.
Each of Israel’s
plants cost between $300 million and $450 million to build. The plants
are privately owned and operated, under a contract with the government,
which buys the water from the plants.
The budget for water purchases
comes from water charges to consumers. The plants are not subsidized.
efforts to solve its water shortage haven’t ended with desalination.
The country treats and recycles more than 80 percent of its wastewater,
using it primarily for agriculture, making it a world leader in that
By easing its own water crunch, experts say, Israel could
free up more of the precious resource in a possible peace agreement with
At a water desalination plant on the sea near
the northern Israeli town of Hadera, water pumped in from the
Mediterranean is pushed through rows of multi-layered plastic membranes
and, through a process called reverse osmosis, emerges after 90 minutes
as tasty drinking water.
The company that runs the facility, IDE
Technologies, which is based in Israel, recently showed foreign visitors
around the plant, touting its performance along with another plant at
Soreq, near the southern Israeli coast, the largest reverse osmosis
desalination plant in the world. That plant produces 150 million cubic
meters of potable water a year.
IDE is also involved in building
seawater desalination plants abroad, including what is expected to be
the largest such plant in the Western Hemisphere at Carlsbad, Calif.,
able to provide 50 million of gallons of potable water a day.
Israeli plants, mostly located along the coast, operate at high energy
efficiency and are some of the most cost-efficient in the world, when
measured against similar plants in other countries, according to
official figures. Desalinated water at the Soreq plant is produced at
the price of 52 cents a cubic meter, according to terms of a government
tender, and while actual rates fluctuate according to energy costs,
currency exchange and the cost-of-living index, they remain
significantly lower than in other nations.
experts caution that desalination has its costs, among them high energy
consumption from power plants that emit greenhouse gases, use of scarce
land on Israel’s crowded seacoast, and emission of highly concentrated
saline water and chemicals into the ocean, with unclear environmental
“In Israel, environmental costs are not taken into
account when calculating the costs of desalinated water,” said Nurit
Kliot, a professor of environmental studies at Haifa University.
Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, a
regional environmental group, said desalination should be part of
integrated water policy that included conservation and use of solar
energy to power desalination plants.
“A level of desalination is
absolutely necessary because the population of this region has gone way
beyond the carrying capacity of natural water resources, but
desalination needs to be brought in not as the first option, but as the
last option,” Bromberg said.
“Water conservation is now out the window,” Bromberg noted, lamenting the suspension of the campaign to save water.
said the government needs to encourage efficient water use by reducing
water subsidies for farming and by regulating crops to avoid those that
require heavy irrigation, such as tropical fruits.
In addition, he
said, Israel is still at “an infant stage” when it comes to recycling
what is known as gray water from sinks, showers and baths for use in
toilets or gardens.
In peace negotiations with the Palestinians,
desalination could allow for more equitable sharing of natural water
resources in the West Bank, now largely controlled by Israel, according
“Increasing the pie through desalination allows the
natural water to be shared at low political cost for Israel and at a
high political gain for Abu Mazen,” he said, using the nickname of
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “Allowing more water to flow in
every Palestinian tap has immediate impact on the quality of life of all
Palestinians. This is relevant to the (peace) efforts of Secretary of
State (John) Kerry. We can move forward rapidly on water.”"
Caption for both images: "emerges after 90 minutes
as tasty drinking water.
QUIQUE KIERSZENBAUM — MCT" of multi-layered plastic membranes,
and through a process called reverse osmosis,
in Israel began in 1973."
1/24/2014, "Over and drought: Why the end of Israel's water shortage is a secret," Haaretz, Yuval Elizur
"Remember all the years of being told to
conserve 'every drop?' Well, times have changed: Today, Israel has so
much affordable water, it can offer to export it....The public learns about this success only incidentally....
is now a surplus of water in Israel, thanks largely to the opening of
several new desalination plants - and the development of natural-gas
fields that can power them cheaply....
in Israel began in 1973, when Mekorot built facilities that operated by
reverse osmosis; these supplied the Dead Sea, Eilat and communities not
served by the National Water Carrier. It was only 35 years later, in
2008, that the government decided to establish five large desalination
plants along the Mediterranean coast, with the aim of providing 505
million cubic meters of water a year by 2013 (a forecast met in full)
and 750 million cubic meters a year by 2020. However, since 2008, two
technological revolutions – both of which also have far-reaching
political implications - have radically altered the water situation in
first revolution is the immense decrease in the cost of desalination-
from $1 per cubic meter to 40 cents, and even less than that in
desalination plants built in Hadera, Palmahim, Ashkelon and at Sorek.
The savings will grow further thanks to the use of Israeli natural gas
instead of electricity to power the plants. The second revolution is the
success of the plants used to purify sewage water that were built
adjacent to Israel’s cities and towns. Thanks to efficient usage, this
water now irrigates most of the country’s field crops....
Israel is already sending large amounts of water to Gaza and Jordan.
Under Article 6 of the peace treaty with Jordan, the two countries are
obliged to cooperate in developing water sources."...