News Feature | April 2, 2014

Desalination: A Major Success For Israel?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Despite persistent dry weather, Israel has backed off its efforts to promote conservation, instead placing its confidence in desalination. 

For those accustomed to the country's emphasis on saving water, the policy pivot is stark. 

"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 rainfall in some areas," McClatchy reported.

"The level of the Sea of Galilee, the country’s natural water reservoir, is no longer closely tracked in news reports nor the subject of anxious national discussion," the report said. 

Instead, the country is pinning its hopes on plants that desalinate seawater from the Mediterranean. Since 2005, Israel has built and begun operation of four facilities. A fifth will begin service this year. Around 80 percent of water used in homes in Israel is produced by desalination, the report said. 

“There’s no water problem because of the desalination,” Hila Gil, director of the desalination division in the Israel Water Authority, said in the report. “The problem is no longer on the agenda.”

Desalination backers say Israel's track record with this technology shows it can be useful in California, as well. Israeli experts have already begun deploying technology in the Golden State. 

"In an effort to conquer the scarcity of water in California, Israel’s IDE Technologies will be constructing (in Carlsbad, CA) what is the Western Hemisphere’s largest desalination plant," according to a commentary in U-T San Diego

The potential cost burden on ratepayers is a barrier to the construction and operation of more desalination plants worldwide.

For instance, in the state of Victoria, Australia, a desalination plant was recently constructed, but the effort is delayed and no water has been ordered as government officials look to lower their costs. 

"A refinancing of the desaliniation plant would save Victorian families $187 million on their water bills," The Age reported, citing the state's water minister Peter Walsh. 

“A full desalinated water order for 2014-15 would cost Melbourne families an extra $114 million and would be a waste of money given the healthy dam levels," he said in the report. 

For more, check out Water Online's Desalination Solution Center

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