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Globally, water demand already exceeds supply in regions with more than 40% of the world’s population, which is likely to climb to 60% over the coming decade. This makes it impossible for water-scarce regions to grow enough food to feed their people. California is not alone in sucking its aquifers dry and wasting water.
Without innovation, the water-food-energy nexus will block global growth and drive conflict. The speedy deployment of smart technology solutions in conservation, water quality and infrastructure, aquifer remediation and agricultural technology could, however, support a sustainable water ecosystem.
California and Israel share a warm Mediterranean climate, the devotion of most of their water to agriculture, and record lows in rainfall. In Israel, in fact, January’s rainfall was the lowest in 150 years. Both have also over-exploited their freshwater resources at a time of rapid population growth.
One big difference: per-capita residential water use in Israel is one-third of California’s and represents only one-quarter of annual consumption. Israel produces 20% more water than it consumes through a portfolio of cost savings, conservation and smart water management technologies.
Currently, California is in a drought emergency while Israel is not. Why?
For example, 85% of wastewater in Israel is recycled toward agricultural use and recharging aquifers, while California recycles only 5% of its wastewater. California relies on snowpack for its water supply, while Israel has excess capacity in water production from desalination and reuse - capacity it is now exporting to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
In California, annual water-related energy consumption in the state accounts for 19% of electricity consumption, 32% of natural gas consumption, and 88 million gallons, or 333 million liters, of diesel fuel. Nation-wide, Americans use 520 megawatt-hours, or 13% of US electricity consumption, on water.
For California, scaling up proven solutions and improving them could set up the two regions to operate as a massive laboratory for resolving water scarcity throughout the world.
There are numerous strategies to explore and adapt. Among them:
Efficient use in agriculture through big data applications in irrigation, control, and new horticultures for water treatment in wetlands; enhanced distribution efficiency through IT applications; wastewater reuse through aquifer remediation; rainfall capture and storage; desalination and mixing sources; and agtech innovations in the form of low-water crops.
Let’s start with the UCLA leak that became a burst that wasted millions of gallons of precious and irreplaceable water. It was avoidable.
Here are simple ways California can still fast track drought crisis reduction. California needs to get smart about how it improves water utility, avoid non-revenue water (better known as leaks), and detect early network faults. Cloud based systems of water system management uses advance algorithms that harness utility raw-data (such as flow, pressure, and water quality) and enables water managers to better harness and conserve water resources. In Australia, where utilities often function under extreme drought conditions, Unitywater of Queensland recently saved an estimated 1 billion liters (more than 260 million gallons) of water equaling approximately $2 AU million in their first year of using smart water technology. This was on a trial basis covering only one third of their network. In addition, they reported a 66% reduction in the time-cycle to detect and repair network events. These are significant tangible gains in both water loss reduction and operational efficiency. California has been terrific in adapting drip irrigation technology from Israel. Prof. David Zilberman of University of California-Berkeley estimates that the 40% adoption of drip irrigation has led to cost avoidance and productivity gains that earned California over $1 billion annually. Expanding drip irrigation to alfafa, enabling filtration of California dairy herds waste to avoid groundwater contamination, and massive extension of subsurface drip irrigation to commodity crops in the Imperial and Central Valleys will move California swiftly towards drought mitigation. All of these solutions and more will be part of a technological portfolio crafted and proven via the innovation bridges that California-Israel innovation projects will help build, from the Far West to the Eastern Mediterranean and the rest of the world. Both the small nation and the big state will continue to advance the cause of helping to quench the thirst of an increasingly parched planet.
Glenn Yago is Senior Fellow at the Milken Institute and Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University Graduate School of Business; Amir Peleg is Founder and CEO of TaKaDU, a smart water technology innovator and winner of Global Technology Awards for breakthrough water technology. Both have been involved in implementation plans for the California-Israel Innovation agreement signed by Governor Brown and Prime Minister Netanyahu in March.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 1, 2014
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