The coronavirus pandemic, which has plagued our world for over a year now, has placed the issues of water scarcity and accessibility squarely on the global agenda. Indeed, both are important mechanisms for sanitation and hygiene, as well as for the reduction of the spread of coronavirus.
While many places in the world have full access to clean tap water, in many other places, this accessibility is limited and almost nonexistent. Even in Georgia, that has been blessed with numerous rivers, lakes, and streams – access to fresh, clean drinking water is not something that can be taken for granted.
Now, as we collectively mark World Water Day, it is worth paying mind to this issue of such great importance, considering the threat it poses to humanity and to all life on earth, as well as the added dimensions of climate change, desertification, and the increase in water pollution rates across the world.
The water crisis is characterized by three parallel processes. The first of these is the decline in water available for drinking, agriculture, and industry as the population and corresponding consumption rate continues to grow. Second is the ongoing decline in the quality of water, increasingly more of which becomes polluted or saline with the passing of time. The third is the availability of water: in many places in the world, water sources have moved farther away from population centers that are not connected to water systems.
It is estimated that some 2.5 billion people (36% of the world’s population) live in water-scarce areas, a phenomenon that is expected to worsen in coming decades as the powerful processes of climate change, global population growth, growing demand for industrial and agricultural products, and desertification all intensify. Water scarcity is causing migration, wars, and conflicts, and hundreds of millions of people around the world will be at risk of displacement due to water scarcity over the coming years.
To overcome this phenomenon and anticipate a cure for this ailment, we must understand that this is going to be a comprehensive campaign which will require that all necessary steps be integrated together – to guide and educate on water conservation; to increase water use efficiency and coordination on the topic; to accrue international, public, and private funding; to rehabilitate polluted water sources, and to encourage investment and R&D. We must explore new approaches towards investing in water and sanitation-related infrastructures and services while ensuring each person’s right to safe drinking water. It is important that emphasis be placed on the availability and sharing of information about the amount, quality, distribution, and access to water, as well as of the risks and use of that water.
In this regard, Israel can make a significant contribution to the world as a country with one of the most advanced water systems in the world and with an abundance of R&D and innovative technologies in many fields. One example of this is the treatment and recycling of sewage: Israel holds a world record in this field, with close to 90 percent of its wastewater being treated and used in agriculture. If this were the status quo the world over, it would be possible to greatly reduce greenhouse gases and prevent environmental pollution and the destruction of natural systems, all the while allowing treated and purified water to flow back into nature and agriculture. It would be possible to simultaneously reduce large-scale emission of greenhouse gases, build agricultural resilience against climate chance, allow more water to remain in nature – which efficiently absorb greenhouse gases – to better function, prevent unnecessary destruction of ecological systems as the result of pollution or water scarcity, and much more.
Another field in which Israel holds a world record is the prevention of water loss in urban systems. While in Israel a small percentage of water is lost in urban supply systems, in other countries in the world, this rate can reach dozens of percent. The paradox is that these are often arid and water-scarce countries for whom the absence of available water represents a significant burden. In Israel, a comprehensive variety of technologies and methods have been developed to prevent water loss in supply systems, detect leaks through remote sensors, and more, which if implemented throughout the world, would significantly contribute to the reduction of the consequences of climate crisis.
Seawater desalination, the use of brackish water in agriculture, drip irrigation, the development of agricultural varieties that consume less water, and even the extraction of water from air, are all fields that were developed in Israel. We would be happy to share the knowledge and experience that we have acquired with the entire world, particularly with those places, especially in need.
In Georgia, MASHAV (Israel’s International Development Cooperation Agency), together with the Guria region “Shalom Club” have initiated an effort so supply local schools with cheap, user-friendly Israeli-made systems designed to purify polluted water and make it drinkable. Israel has also provided numerous drip irrigation systems to Georgian farmers and agricultural institutes around the country. Later this month MASHAV (together with USAID) will distribute 60 drip irrigation kits to families in the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) village of Gamdlistskaro, Kaspi Municipality.
Water is the basis for life. Whoever yearns for life must now know how to use this precious resource wisely.
We in Israel are able and willing to lend a hand, together with our Georgian friends and partners and all other nations of the world, so that we and every individual across the globe can enjoy the basic right to water. Water is life.