Roundup: Desalinated water helps Israel cope with driest winter in years

by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The winter in Israel this year has been the driest in recent years. But water in the tap continues to flow thanks to the desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea.

"We are in a very big deficit in rainfall this year," said Amos Porat, director of the climate division of the Israel Meteorological Service, adding the winter has only seen less than half the regular amount of precipitation.

Edo Bar-Zeev, a professor of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research in Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said that water is defined as "a strategic resource" in Israel and Israelis are aware that actions must be made to secure this key resource.

Being a largely arid country, Israel has the highest birth rate in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). When the population grows, so does the demand for water.

The Israeli government has been deploying major resources to increase its capacity of desalinating water since 2000.

So far, five desalination plants have been built around the country, some of which are considered the largest ones in the world in terms of daily processing capacity. The country also has plans for two more plants.

Today, the water-insecure country now draws and desalinates 75 percent of its drinking water from the Mediterranean Sea.

"Israel is highly dependent on desalination and is heading towards complete dependency," said Bar-Zeev. According to him, by the year 2030, all of Israel's drinking water will be water that has been desalinated.

It also shares its water with Palestine and Jordan. In 2021, Israel and Jordan signed an agreement under which Jordan would receive annually 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water, which is about 20 percent of Jordan's water needs.

Before large-scale desalination was adopted in the country, the government had to urge citizens to limit their water consumption during droughts. But that has become a distant memory.

In 2018, Israel even announced a plan to pour desalinated water into the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake that once pumped out nearly all of Israel's drinkable water, to save the historic lake from changing climates.

"Still, there is a very high awareness amongst Israelis that water is very important," said Bar-Zeev. "It is deeply engraved in their DNA."

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