How Israel can help Egypt Avoid a Water Crisis of Biblical Proportions By Avi Jorisch
The following is by Avi Jorisch, author of the recently published book: Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World. It is an important insight and helpful way to understand the story of the Exodus for those preparing for the Jewish holiday of Passover.
An Open Letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Dear President Sisi:
Egypt’s annual water supply has dropped dramatically in the last 70 years. The United Nations predicts that by 2025, your country will approach a state of “absolute water crisis.” Egypt has 660 cubic meters of water per person, one of the lowest per capita shares in the world. This number is downfrom 2,500 cubic meters in 1947. And with the population expected to double in the next 50 years, the picture looks especially bleak.
You are headed towards what might be described as a disaster of biblical proportions.
The time has come to exercise bold leadership and reach out to Israel, which has achieved complete water independence through smart planning and innovative thinking. Since its founding in 1948, Israel has increased its population tenfold, its agricultural production sixteenfold, and its industrial production fiftyfold – all while reducing its net water consumption by 10 percent.
Israel, perhaps the world’s only water superpower, has the capability and interest to provide your country with massive assistance. Israel has a water surplus and unlike every other country in the world, produces the majority of its water from non-potable and man-made sources.
From time immemorial, the Nile River has been the main source of potable water for your people, and it provides two-thirds of your country’s water supply. Sadly, Egyptian water authorities are not using resources efficiently: Egypt recycles only a small percentage of agricultural drainage water and ground water, and you are hardly recycling any wastewater or desalinizing saltwater.
But this isn’t the only water challenge you are facing.
Ethiopia has started building the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa. You have repeatedly expressed your concern that this dam will affect your country’s share of Nile water, even though Ethiopia insists this won’t happen.
And just as troubling, 80 percent of your water is being consumed by agriculture, not human beings.
Just across the border to your east, Israel has met this challenge. The Startup Nation no longer relies on the weather or on its neighbors for its water needs. It achieved this independence by combining all available technologies to save as much water as possible — by desalinizing sea water, reusing treated sewage for agriculture, creating software that warns authorities about leaks, implementing drip-irrigation techniques, and accounting for every drop of water. Some of the techniques Israel uses today were developed at home, others abroad.
This year, Israel’s fifth desalinization plant will go online. Collectively, the desalinization plants provide about 600 million cubic meters of water annually. Much of the credit for the plants goes to IDE technologies, an Israeli desalinization company established in 1965, which has built 400 plants in 40 countries over the last four decades.