Friday, July 31, 2015

Review of "Let There Be Water" by Seth M. Siegel - Israel's Solution For A Water-Starved World

I was pleased when author Seth M. Siegel reached out to me to make me aware of his new book, "Let There Be Water."  He had become aware of my involvement with a previous book about the Israeli economy, "Start-Up Nation," and felt that I would appreciate knowing about the water-related aspects of the most innovative economy in the world.

 Blog Review of "Start-Up Nation"

Mr. Siegel's book is a fascinating history of the ways in which Israeli has approached the challenge of turning an arid land into one that now is able to not only feed its citizens, but can now export surplus water and agricultural crops to global customers.  There has been no single solution to the challenge of finding and carefully controlling the use of water throughout the nation, but an interlocking array of policies and technical innovations that have worked in concert to produce the kinds of results that make Israel a world leader in water usage.

The book does an excellent job of examining the history of Israel's approach to water usage - going back to the days when the first generation of Zionists began to settle in the Levant while it was still under the British Mandate, and prior to gaining independence in 1948.  The author gives credit to visionary political leaders and innovative scientists and business leaders whose efforts have shaped to policies and infrastructure that define Israel's best practices in water management.

Mr. Siegel posits that there are more than a dozen factors that explain the overall success of Israel in taming the desert and managing its water.

"Consider what Israel does in pursuit of clean, safe, available-anytime water:

  • Pumps and purifies natural water from its aquifers, wells, rivers, and the Sea of Galilee.
  • Desalinates seawater.
  • Drills deep wells to get brackish water.
  • Develops seeds that thrive with salty water.
  • Treats nearly all of its sewage to a high level of purity and reuses it on crops.
  • Captures and reuses rainwater.
  • Discourages landscaping of parks or homes that consume fresh water.
  • Seeds rain clouds to enhance rainfall.
  • Demands all appliances (especially toilets) be hyper-water efficient.
  • Replaces infrastructure before leaks begin and promptly fixes leaks when they appear.
  • Educates school children as to the value of water conservation.
  • Prices water to en encourage efficiency.
  • Gives financial incentives for technologies that save water.
  • Experiments with ideas to reduce evaporation.
  • Transformed its agriculture to grow water-efficient crops.
  • Uses drip irrigation for most of its agriculture.(pp. 254-255)
In addition to these tactics and policies, one overarching consideration is that early in the history of Israel, the decision was made to treat all water as property of the national government, allowing uniform enactment and enforcement of policies that would benefit the nation as a whole, rather than individual cities or regions.  In contradistinction, water management in the U.S. is the purview of hundreds of authorities at city, county, state and federal levels.  As a consequence, implementing any of these innovations that Israel has pioneered would require a level of cooperation that simply does not exist at the present time.

This is a book that has made me personally more aware of my own water usage.  It should be required reading for anyone in the 40 of 50 U.S. states that face the prospect of severe water shortages in the next few years.  I plan to mail it to a friend of mine who works for the San Diego County Water Authority.



1 comment:

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