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Israel Raises the Level on Water Technology

Israel continues to maintain its edge in global water technology as it opens another desalination plant this week.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 9/7/2007, 10:03 AM

The $10 million Palmachim desalination plant has begun pumping de-salinated water from the Mediterranean Sea for the consumption of 300,000 people in the coastal area. The plant is prepared to expand production capacity and includes its own power station.

Israel has become the worldwide leader in developing technologies to address the issue of severe water shortages, having faced the problem for decades within its own borders.

The government agreed two months ago to more than double its self-imposed national limits of production of desalinated water from 230 million cubic meters to 505 million cubic meters. A plant currently under construction in Hadera will add its muscle to the effort, and three more plants are expected to join the list within the next five years.

National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer commented during inaugural ceremonies at the plant’s opening that water technology remains a significant priority for the country. He also noted that the rest of the world is beginning to wake up to the need for making the most of what is rapidly becoming a diminishing resource.

“Increasing Israel’s water sources is a top priority and part of our strategic plan for the future,” said Ben-Eliezer. “The entire world has also become aware of the fact that as the climate continues to change, there is less rain that can be used for drinking and the need for fresh water will continue to increase.”

Members of Waterfront, an industry lobby comprised of private companies, academic institutions and Mekorot, the state-owned water company, have pooled their resources to reach a goal of $5 billion in water-related exports within the next three years.

According to a report by the Al Bawaba website, the Israeli water industry currently includes some 270 companies and organizations devoted to water research and development, employing some 8,000 people.

Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment figures showed that sales in desalination, drip irrigation and water purification technologies brought some $850 million to Israel’s coffers in 2006. Water industry sales are expected to top $1.1 billion by the end of 2007.

Israeli companies are eyeing what will clearly be a bonanza in the not-too-distant future: figures for the technology component of water industry sales show that the market share is growing by 14 percent annually, and accounts for at least 25 percent of the revenues.

At present, some 60 percent of Israel’s sewage water is recycled, with two other desalination plants operating in Ashkelon and Eilat. A fourth is under construction in Hadera.

The Ashkelon desalination plant, known as the largest such facility in the world, produces 100 million cubic meters per year using seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) technology. The Palmachim desalination plant, built by Via Maris Desalination, is expected to produce 30 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year, also using the SWRO technology.