Israel Helps California Deal with Water Shortages

11 July, 2015

Israel knows how to deal with drought. The small Middle Eastern country has experienced dry weather conditions and water shortages for many years. The American state of California is in the fourth year of a drought. So a Jewish group proposed a conference to show Californians what Israelis can offer in terms of technology, knowledge and support.

Barry Broad is head of the Sacramento Jewish Federation. He says the idea for the meeting was a product of Sacramento's Sister City relationship with the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

"We thought given California's water situation -- we're in a very serious drought -- and Israel's advanced technology in this area...this would be the perfect Sister City event to plan. Bringing experts from Israel to tell us what are the things we can learn from Israel's longer and more extensive history dealing with life in a permanently arid climate."

In California, hundreds of thousands of people pay a flat rate for their water. In other words, they pay the same amount, whether they use a lot of water or very little.

File - Farmer Gino Celli climbs out of a irrigation canal that is covered in dried salt on a field he farms near Stockton, Calif., May 2015.
File - Farmer Gino Celli climbs out of a irrigation canal that is covered in dried salt on a field he farms near Stockton, Calif., May 2015.

Israel treats water differently. Eilon Adar is director of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev desert. He says water is considered a national resource, like oil or natural gas. The Israel Water Authority sets the price of water. Mr. Adar says that the more water someone uses, the more they must pay.

"In my country, when I buy a unit of water to my house, I pay for the water as a commodity; I pay for the transmission, and I pay for the treatment of the water released later on from my house. And this, I think, is the key for success."

Israel has five desalination plants in operation. They remove salt from sea water so it can be drunk and used to cook and clean clothes. More than half of the water for homes, farms and businesses comes from this desalination process.

A desalination plant will soon begin operating near the city of San Diego, California. California Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 25 percent reduction in the use of water. And in November, voters approved a plan for the government to raise money to help solve the state's water problems.

Mr. Adar says the biggest barrier to solving California's long-term water problem may have more to do with politics than technology. He says large cities in the southern part of the state demand fresh water from the northern part.

Darryl Steinberg is the former president of the California Senate. He says cities throughout the state have to stop fighting each other for water.

"Truth is, we don't have room for division here. It's one state. There's less water. There's more people, and we're going to have to be much more aggressive and come together in a much more effective way over time, if we're going to deal with this. And I'm confident we can."

Mr. Adar says farmers, property owners and water companies must work together to save water. He says Israel will use its advanced technology, information and experience to help any country that asks.

I'm Marsha James

Jan Sluizer reported on this story from Sacramento, California. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

drought – n. a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain

resource – n. something that a country has and can use to increase its wealth

advanced – adj. having or using new and modern methods

extensive – adj. large in size or amount; very full or complete

arid – adj. very dry; having very little rain or water

unit – n. a single thing, person or group that is a part of something larger

transmission – n. movement

key – adj. important to

desalination – n. the process of removing salt from (something, such as water)

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