Global desertification is accelerating and water shortage is a worldwide problem. Amazingly, Israel is unique and has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems. These recapture 86 percent of drain water and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most water efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.
Israel has four main water sources: Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the highland aquifer (permeable rock that can carry water), the coastal aquifer and desalinated seawater
The KKL-JNF has constructed 230 reservoirs across Israel allowing potable (consumable) freshwater to be collected. 260 Million cubic meters of water are added annually to Israel’s water economy, which is supplied to the farmers in more arid areas. Effluent water is also collected at the reservoirs and purified instead of reaching and polluting Israel's streams and the sea.
These collect urban runoff street water which does gather toxic substance. They purify approximately 200 million cubic meters of rainwater annually to be used for irrigation. Three biofilter facilities have been constructed in Israel to date - in Kfar Saba, Ramla and Bat Yam.
Wetlands are nature’s wastewater treatment facilities. The KKL-JNF imitates natural wetlands by constructing artificial ones. In the 1950's the JNF of South Africa financed the draining of the Hula swamps. In the 1990's it became evident that the land could not be farmed due to peat soil which had developed. Consequently the area was re-flooded and turned into the Hula Nature Reserve which is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Constructed Wetlands Project in Hod Hasharon is one of the most important ecological projects being implemented in Israel today. Purified effluents from the Hod Hasharon and the Kfar Saba wastewater treatment facility undergo a special process in the constructed wetlands and are then conducted to the Yarkon Stream to actually improve its water quality.
The KKL-JNF has developed advanced techniques based on the agricultural methods the ancient residents of the Negev desert, the Nabateans, for harvesting floodwater and combating the processes of desertification. Limans are
earthen constructions in the desert, which utilise collected floodwater which has been dammed up in the gullies or deep channels formed by the water. The damming slows the flow of the accumulated runoff water, which then penetrates the soil. Small groves of trees can flourish in desert areas where the rainfall is less than 200 millimetres. The JNF has also established major forests in the desert including the Lahav and the Yatir forests.
In 1993, the Israeli Government established the River Rehabilitation Authority (RRA), in which a number of government agencies and non-governmental environmental organizations participate. Their major goals include coordinating efforts to clean up rivers, restore landscapes, rehabilitate riverine ecosystems, flora and fauna and develop recreation, tourism, environmental education and research in the rivers and their surroundings. In 1995 KKL-JNF assumed overall responsibility for the RRA.
This river is around eighty kilometers long and one of the longest waterways in the Negev Desert. Back in 1996, KKL-JNF constructed a system of giant reservoirs along the Besor River to capture winter floodwaters that flow down towards the local gully and to use them to recharge the groundwater. The reservoirs allow this floodwater to be used by the local farmers in their fields, while the dams erected in the riverbed halt the soil erosion caused by swift water flow.
The need for desalination in Israel becme evident with the population growth and climate change which caused an alteration in the precipitation levels: instead of falling steadily throughout the winter, rain now falls intermittently, mainly during a few fierce storms. Rather than being gradually absorbed into the aquifers (water penetrable rock), these torrential downpours flow swiftly to the sea. There are three deslination plants in Israel - the Ashkelon plant, a plant in Hadera, and Sorek, which is the largest. Desalinated water today constitutes around 50% of the country’s water economy, and is used mainly for drinking, providing 80% of Israel’s tap water. Israel now has a 21st century water resource that is no longer reliant upon rainfall.
Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation which has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly towards the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface. The goal is to place water directly into the root zone and minimize evaporation. Mr Simcha Blass and his son in 1959 invented this revolutionary method whereby a plastic emitter was used in the drip irrigation. Instead of releasing water through tiny holes which were easily blocked by tiny particles, water was released through larger and longer passageways, controlling the velocity to slow the flow of water inside the plastic emitter. Mr Blass and Kibbutz Hatzerim created the company called Netafim and together developed and patented the first usable surface drip- irrigation emitter. Drip irrigation is used extensively throughout Africa including South Africa.