Quenching the World’s Thirst For More Water
Despite being in one of the world’s most arid regions, Israel’s consistently growing water consumption has been satisfied over the decades by more efficient water management, the development of drip irrigation, the introduction of economically viable desalination and reclaiming wastewater. Israel not only meets the water needs of a population of more than 7 million, it is self-sufficient in food supplies and exports some $1.5 billion of agricultural produce each year, mainly premium quality fruit, vegetables and flowers to Western Europe. This despite the fact that the northern half of the country has an annual average rainfall of 500 mm., while the southern region receives only 200mm annually, and there is no rain at all between May and October.
The government owned Mekorot Water company has pioneered more efficient water management systems to overcome regional and seasonal imbalances. These methods include rain harvesting by which clouds are sprayed with iodine to increase precipitation, the national conduit to bring surplus rain to the arid south and flood reservoirs to prevent rainwater from escaping into the sea.
In its water planning endeavors Tahal Group has ably assisted Mekorot. Tahal is Israel’s largest engineering firm and a specialist in consultancy, planning, management, construction and operation of water and wastewater projects. With annual sales of $60 million, Tahal has overseen projects on every continent.
The best-known Israeli innovation in the water supply sector is drip irrigation. Developed by Israeli kibbutz farmers in southern Israel in the 1950’s this revolutionary idea is based on the simple principle of maximizing the effectiveness of limited resources by dripping water onto designated spots through plastic piping. Kibbutz Hatzerim established Netafim, Israel’s leading micro-irrigation company, which in 2005 had sales of $350 million. According to BusinessWeek, Israeli firms control about half of the global market in drip irrigation, which is worth up to $1.5 billion annually.
Other leading companies in this sector include Plastro with annual sales of $90 million based on Kibbutz Gevat in northern Israel and NaanDan, with annual sales of $80 million, also a kibbutz company, which produce and market a wide range of drip and sprinkler systems and related pipes and fittings. Like Netafim these products range from the simplest solutions for gardens and small family farms through to sophisticated computerized systems for vast farm or even entire regions. Companies like Netafim, NaanDan and Plastro also take on projects on a turnkey basis and provide advice, planning and after sales instruction and service, while Galcon, based at Kibbutz Kfar Blum in northern Israel, has adapted advanced computer technology to irrigation needs to provide a series of irrigation controllers for agricultural and garden use.
Reclaiming sewage water has also been another major method of meeting Israel’s fast increasing water consumption. Each year at the Shafdan sewage treatment plant alone near Tel Aviv some 130 million cubic meters of water is reclaimed from sewage, and many more major Israeli cities are now already operating or building similar installations. Mekorot is responsible for treating 32% of the wastewater in Israel – about 160 million cubic meters out of 500 million cubic meters.
Rimon Consultancy and Management Services, part of the Gaon Agro-Industries Group, is a leading company for planning and managing wastewater reclamation projects, while Ritmo Engineering Consulting also has extensive experience in this sector. Tambour Ecology also specializes in water reclamation and purification projects. In addition to planning and managing entire projects, the company offers compact purification facilities including mobile, water tank and bio-circle purification systems. Another company in this sector, A.L.D. Environmental Protection, a partnership between Elco Holdings and Lesico Construction, is also a leader in wastewater treatment solutions and has the capabilities to build and operate cost-effective, efficient and safe plants. Hetz Ecology has also developed innovative recycling systems and solutions. Elif Technologies has developed advanced recycling systems based on Electro-Catalytic Methods (ECM) and Multi-Stage Activated Biological Process (MSABP).
TreaTec21 Industries has developed two advanced water purification systems: an advanced electro-flocculation system for wastewater filtration and an electro-flocculation system for wastewater settling treatment. Bio-Dalia Technologies has developed a method for bio-degrading contaminant in wastewater.
In recent years desalination has emerged as Israel’s major hope of keeping up with demand for water and the country has become a world leader in transforming salt water into drinking water. In the past 20 years Mekorot has built and operated small desalination plants, which serve the south of the country. Some 29 small plants generate 25 million cubic meters of water per year, mainly from brackish water. A first large plant for desalination of seawater was recently completed on the Mediterranean coast, and is now producing 115 million cubic meters a year of potable water. Using the reverse osmosis process, this plant is generating water for about 60 cents per cubic meter. In the near future a string of desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast will produce 400 million cubic meters per year.
Israel’s first major desalination plant is employing the Reverse Osmosis process developed by Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE) Technologies, whose sophisticated water solutions include the design, installation and maintenance of desalination plants. IDE has installed more than 350 desalination units worldwide including Low Temperature Thermal Distillation as well as Reverse Osmosis. These plants are especially advantageous when built besides a power plant so that excess waste heat can be utilized, and IDE has also won contracts to supply major desalination plants in Spain and India.
Israeli companies also provide a diverse range of equipment, services and solutions to enhance these systems including filters and valves, piping and fittings, and softeners, monitoring, measurement, anti-leakage and security systems. These include Bermad Technologies based on Kibbutz Evron in northern Israel has been producing leading edge water valves for over 40 years. The company develops, produces and provides automatic control valves for water pressure and flow regulation, reservoir level control, and pipeline and pump water hammer control. Bermad also supplies manual and self-cleaning filtration equipment, water meters, and have a complete range of water and sewer air release valves.
In developing these technologies dozens of Israeli companies have taken care to nurture methods, which preserve the environment, while providing the purest water quality. In pioneering sewage recycling, the country’s firms have also developed innovative methods of sewage treatment. These methods include engineering and upgrading of existing plants, municipal sludge treatment, on-site compact sewage systems, and the biological treatment of solid waste, industrial effluents, medical waste and biologically contaminated materials.
Comprehensive Catalog of Israeli Companies