Where the world will get clean water, and what it will do with its wastewater, are crucial issues for the future. Fortunately, the combination of an arid landscape, a small country and a powerful high tech sector have made Israel a great place to work on the solution. As we visited the northern Galilee, I talked water with my fellow Fulbrighter, writer and environmental economics scholar Sarah Hilzinger.
The setting was auspicious. The Jordan is the source of much of Israel’s water, and after a blessedly rainy winter the headwaters were flowing fast. We even got to see real snow in the Golan. Hilzinger, meanwhile, talked about water that is not quite so pure. Israel recycles about 70-80% of its black water (sewage). The second-place country in these sweepstakes, Spain, comes in at 20%. Israeli researchers are working on even less expensive and more scalable methods than those they currently use. Indeed, one company seeks to turn wastewater treatment from a process that consumes energy to one that produces energy.
Other water technologies, like desalinization and drip irrigation, also emerge from Israel in advanced forms. Hilzinger works, among other things, on trade in these technologies between Israel and China.
For an encouraging look at the intersection between humanitarian and technical advances, check out some of Hilzinger’s writings here.