Sunday, July 31, 2016

One of the Driest Countries on Earth Now Makes More Freshwater Than It Needs

Sorek Desaination Plant
Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water.

Drought and agricultural collapse across the Middle East have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water shortage is driving the entire region to desperate acts.

Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs.

The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.

Even with the remarkable results achieved through national campaigns to conserve and reuse water resources, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.

Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). The new Sorek plant added 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards) to that. All told, desalination plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way.

Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water — similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58).

Desalination works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning.

Pioneering work at Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research produced a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It is just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient.

Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants. The Sea of Galilee is fuller, Israel’s farms are thriving, and the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?

Israel supplies Palestinians with more water than required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords, but it is still far less than what they need. Israelis will offer help to their water-starved neighbors in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza at the upcoming Water Knows No Boundaries conference in 2018.

Another water cooperation path is Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal development, a joint venture between Israel and Jordan to build a large desalination plant on the Red Sea where they share a border. This 900 million dollar project will divide the water among Israelis, Jordanians and the Palestinians. The brine discharge from the plant will be piped 100 miles north through Jordan to replenish the Dead Sea. By 2020, these old foes will be drinking from the same tap.

Source: Ensia

Thursday, July 21, 2016

God’s Dew

Tal-Ya means “God’s dew” in Hebrew. It also means growing more food with fewer resources thanks to the Israeli company Tal-Ya Agriculture Solutions.

Tal-Ya Agriculture Solutions’ revolutionary product presents a dramatic opportunity for the agriculture industry worldwide. Tal-Ya manufactures a unique, patented polypropylene tray that covers the plant’s root system, funneling water and fertilizer directly to the root, while protecting the surrounding area from weeds and extreme temperatures.

Tal-Ya trays provide a number of benefits, which together create a “personal greenhouse” for each tree or plant, leading to accelerated growth and shorter farm-to-market time:
  • Lab and field trials proved that Tal-Ya trays allowed at least 50% reduction in water consumption and at least 30% reduction in fertilizer consumption.
  • The tray blocks the sunlight thus preventing the growth of weeds around the plant. Tal-Ya solution facilitates organic farming by eliminating the need for chemical herbicides, which results in cost savings as well as in growing healthier produce.
  • The UV-reflecting coating of the tray’s surface creates double benefit of protecting the tray from degradation and providing sunlight up into the leaves on the underside of the tree (leaves which do not usually receive sunlight), enabling photosynthesis to occur there and accelerating the growth of the plant.
  • The tray traps air underneath it, which provides insulation and temperature control, protecting the plant from extreme cold and hot temperatures.
  • Water is constantly evaporating from the earth.  The tray traps this moisture and channels it back to the root of the plant, creating ideal conditions for growth.
Investment in the Tal-Ya solution is typically returned within a season through water and fertilizer savings, as well as increased crop yield.

Tal-Ya trays are manufactured in Israel and sold to customers in the United States, China, Chile, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Israel.

Source: Tal-Ya Agriculture Solutions

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Beauty Will Save the World

Aquatic Flowers
When Dostoyevsky wrote “Beauty will save the world” he certainly was not talking about technologies that use living plants to clean up soil, air, and water contaminated with hazardous chemicals. Yet this is exactly how Israeli company Ayala Water & Ecology Ltd is bringing his words to life.

The growing problems around the world of massive water consumption and pollution, destruction of aquifers, extensive pavement hinder nature’s ability to preserve and protect itself.

Ayala pursues one simple goal: use natural energy-free tools to restore balance to the environment. This goal led to the development of the Natural Biological System™ (NBS), a sustainable natural technology for treating sewage and waste streams, rehabilitating affected water bodies and rebalancing watersheds.

The concept of NBS is based on the following guiding principles:
  • Every design is preceded by a thorough survey, learning the site’s unique conditions, generating a holistic understanding and approach to the problems.
  • The system is designed to function without mechanical or human intervention to the greatest extent possible. As a result, the systems' maintenance costs are very low.
  • Purification systems are designed to treat a whole range of contaminants simultaneously and to act as a powerful buffer, absorbing high fluctuations in sewage quality.
  • Sewage and soil are treated as close to their source as possible, with minimal use of pipe systems and pumps.
  • Local labor is used for system development and maintenance.
  • Local components such as plants and aggregates are used as much as possible.
  • The system is integrated into the landscape design, creating a powerful natural "green lung" that creates no nuisance and becomes a natural habitat called "Active landscape".
  • All of the on-site water resources (run-off, rainfall, marginal and waste streams) are included in the holistic design, dramatically expanding treatment and onsite reuse options.
This solution is a breakthrough for development in cities, significantly reducing the operating costs and budget associated with both the water and energy sectors. Cities benefiting from this approach are found in France, India, Israel, Mexico and Greece. All of the systems are designed to stand well within regulatory demands, and do so at a fraction of the operating costs and maintenance of conventional technologies.