'Global climate crisis and the global water crisis are two sides of the same coin'

The water sector is responsible for about 2 % of total greenhouse gas emissions


The global climate crisis and the global water crisis are two sides of the same coin. On the obverse side, the climate crisis is increasingly exacerbating the water crisis, while on the reverse one, water behaviours (the way we consume water, transport it and do not treat it properly as wastewater) accelerate the climate crisis and cause unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. 

According to current data, the water sector is responsible for about 2 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the world, roughly divided in half between emissions related to energy (specifically that used for pumping water, transporting it to consumers and then disposing of it as wastewater) and emissions resulting from untreated sewerage, mainly methane gas. (And as this gas is 84 more times potent over time than carbon dioxide, its effect on global warming is considerable). 

behar_levy Ambassador Gideon Behar, Ravid Levy

 As the climate crisis progresses, it creates a growing shortage of water. In other words, we need to separate the global climate crisis from the global water crisis. Israel is located in a dry region with little precipitation. In fact, about 60 per cent of its area is desert and the rest is semi-arid. Israel's main water sources are water from Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), groundwater, desalinated water and purified wastewater, which is used for agricultural purposes. 

From Israel’s necessity was born a circular water economy that demonstrates an innovative approach. Israel's circular water economy is characterized by four steps: seawater desalinization; desalinated water for urban needs; wastewater treatment; and agricultural water practices. 


Desalination of water in Israel, the vast majority of which comes from the Mediterranean Sea, produces about 600 million cubic meters per year. On the agenda is the desalination of an additional 300 million cubic meters annually until 2030. This strategic move will ultimately result in the majority of fresh water in Israel being comprised of desalinated seawater. 

Israel’s seawater desalination is done at several facilities spread along the Mediterranean coast, at relatively short distances from consumers. Today, about 600 million cubic meters/year, about 80 per cent of the country's potable water, is sourced by desalination, and shortly, desalinated water will be transported via the national carrier to the ​​Kinneret in northern Israel to help maintain the lake's water level and prevent the salting of its waters. 

The second station is the use of desalinated water for urban needs. About 92% of Israel's population lives in cities, and cities are its main consumers of water. The desalinated water is mixed with groundwater to improve its quality and undergoes processes that guarantee its health to consumers. 

At the end of its use, almost all water is transferred to wastewater treatment plants, the third station in Israel's circular water economy. Purification is done in wastewater facilities that are operated on an economic basis, usually with several cities or local authorities joining together to purify their sewage in one central facility. This improves processes, reduces costs and diminishes the danger of untreated wastewater leaking. 

A certain amount of the purified water is injected into the groundwater as part of a natural process that helps with purification. It is then pumped from the groundwater and transferred for use in agriculture. The rest of the purified water is transported in a separate pipeline directly for use in agriculture or nature. In this way, two benefits are achieved - purified water is restored for irrigation instead of using benign water and environmental pollution is prevented by reducing the discharge of effluents into streams and the sea. 

The sludge that is the byproduct of the process is used as fertilizer, while biogas is produced in the treatment process. Today there are interesting ideas on how to produce environmentally friendly energy substitutes, such as hydrogen, from the sludge. 

Use in agriculture is the fourth and final stop on the water's route. Almost 90% of all domestic wastewater is reused for irrigation, which is a world record. About half of Israel's crops use water that has undergone treatment and purification based on strict regulations designed to ensure that this water will not cause harm to health or the environment. The reused water is the basis for Israel's fresh food security, especially in the arid areas of the Western and Northern Negev desert. 

Lastly, it is also possible to add the use of brackish water produced by drilling in desert regions of the country. This water is suitable for certain field crops, some of which have been adapted to brackish water, and to raise fish in fish ponds in the desert. In other cases, the water undergoes desalination for use as drinking water in the area's communities. 

Drip irrigation was invented in Israel in the 60's and today most orchards and vegetables are nurtured with drip irrigation, which is about 50 per cent more economical in comparison to the world's most common irrigation method of flooding agricultural areas.  

Israel probably holds a world record in preventing water loss. In Israel, the price of water is uniform for all consumers according to their use, and this is the real price of water without subsidies. We believe that the Israeli water model provides one of the world's best models for dealing with the climate crisis.

Ambassador Gideon Behar, Israel's Special Envoy for Climate Change and Sustainability, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mr Ravid Levy, Senior Director, WaterEdge.Il – Israel's Water Innovation Community

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