Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Israel’s New Desalination Plants Offset More Than Just Drought

Via Future Directions International, a look at Israel’s water security and desalination program:

In early April this year, the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water announced plans to build two new desalination plants. This year is Israel’s fifth year of drought and the introduction of two new desalination plants is a good example of its tenacious efforts to improve national water security.

Despite the continuing drought, Israel is, in fact, preparing to deal with a number of issues of which water is a critical component. The population of Israel population continues to increase and there are fears that, by 2040, population pressure will result in a stressful set of circumstances for the Israeli National Water Carrier.

Water security also has a part to play in Israel’s foreign policy, in particular, its regional policy. Commentators have long argued that water sharing has acted as a confidence-building measure between Israelis, Palestinians and the Kingdom of Jordan. Israel regularly supplies water to people in the West Bank and has arranged a water-sharing agreement with the Palestinians and the Jordanians.

Furthermore, the presence of huge offshore natural gas deposits could have given policymakers the confidence to establish the new desalination plants. Back in 2012 and 2013, when the discovery of natural gas off Israel’s coast was first reported, both the Financial Times and The Times of Israel stated that natural gas has the power to ‘make Israel energy independent’, will lower the cost of electricity and will help power the needs of Israel’s public and private sectors. Desalination plants are necessary for securing Israeli water supplies and the importance of energy efficiency will continue to grow as the need for more desalination plants becomes apparent.

Comment

An increase in the number of desalination plants will allow Israel to offset the gap between national demand for water and the available supply. As previously stated, the demand is expected to rise as a result of population growth. The Water Authority’s Master Plan for Water Sector Development in the period 2010 to 2050 stated that by the ‘years 2015, 2025, and 2050 respectively, the construction of additional desalination facilities is expected to increase desalinated supplies.’

According to the Desalination Division of the Water Authority, there are plans to increase ‘desalinated water to 1.75 billion cubic metres by 2040.’ It is no coincidence that the year 2040 has been established as the date for completion of the upgrade to the national desalination system. Many suspect that, by 2040, Israel’s population pressure could potentially handicap the country’s economy and the ability of the environment to sustain a population estimated to be around 20 million by 2065 (it was approximately 800,000 in 1948). This author has written previously on the faults of the overpopulation premise. Humans have consistently provided technological breakthroughs that have ensured that population centres remain sustainable and productive. Israel’s population is increasing. Policymakers have identified the problem, however, and have made the necessary technological arrangements.

Regionally speaking, an increase in the water supply is needed so that Israel can fulfil the water sharing commitments it has made with its neighbours; most notably, the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Jordanians. The Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians all share water and many argue that the growing water needs of all three parties could possibly improve regional co-operation, however limited that improvement may be.

Israel, having agreed to supply water to both Gaza and the West Bank, needs to ensure that its water supply is increasing so that it can maintain those agreements, while ensuring an adequate supply for its own people. Furthermore, Israel came to an agreement with Jordan in February 2015, to double its supply of water to the Kingdom. In 2017, it widened the deal it had made with Jordan, by brokering a water agreement, (and here) through the United States, with the Palestinians and Gaza. To ensure that water sharing can be used as a confidence-building measure, Israel will need to increase its water production.

Looking at the long term, Israel’s plans to increase its desalination capability are expected to remain consistent with the proposed targets set out by the Water Authority. The growth of the industry is expected to be linked with that of another industry: natural gas. Desalination plants are very expensive (each facility costs around $530 million), however, Israel’s gas fields have the potential to provide the country with the billions of shekels needed to invest in desalination. Recently, Egypt agreed to a US$15 billion ($19 billion) natural gas deal, an agreement that would see Egypt buy Israeli gas under two ten-year agreements. On top of using the gas to power and finance its desalination plants, an internationally palatable move as climate concerns rise, Israel will probably sell much of its gas abroad. Although there are still problems related to a number of bureaucratic issues, the industry’s profit potential is a positive outcome for the Israeli desalination industry.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 at 7:28 am and is filed under Israel.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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