Israel’s national water company, Mekorot (who we’ve interviewed here), is expanding with projects across the globe. It will build and operate two desalination plants in Cyprus to supply almost half of the country’s drinking water. Also on the horizon is a $180 million deal to build a water filtering facility along the La Plata River near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mekorot Chairman Alex Wiznitzer said he hopes Mekorot’s water projects will be able to create contacts in nearby Arab countries. The United Nation’s has called the Middle East the world’s most water-stressed region. Water security is a vital regional issue.
Wiznitzer told Reuters: “The underdeveloped world doesn’t understand that water is the number one problem in the world. Not oil. Not gas. Not other resources. Water.”
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that by 2050 global water demand will increase by 55 percent. By marketing its expertise and technologies related to wastewater reuse, water security and desalination, Israel has developed a billion-dollar industry.
Mekorot plans to invest $1.5 billion over the next four years to reach its goal of reclaiming 90 percent of Israel’s wastewater. The company says it currently reuses 75 percent, mainly for irrigation, making it the world’s most efficient national water recycling system. Spain claims the distant second place with 12 percent.
Geoffrey D. Dabelko, the director of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP), a nonpartisan policy forum on environment, population, health, and security issues at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, believes that cooperation over limited water resources could potentially lead to peace in the Middle East. So far cooperative regional projects have been marginal and inconsistent. It looks like only time will tell if waning water resources in the Middle East will lead to increased cooperation or conflict.
Image of Nahalei Menashe water project reservoir in Caesarea, Israel, via RickP, Wikimedia Commons