by r2pi project

Chaya Levin, Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research

Today, 40% of the global population is affected by water scarcity, and this figure is expected to rise to 60% within a decade. In the face of this looming reality, Israel has emerged as a leader, pioneering the way toward a sustainable water system. Israel has a growing population and is subject to minimal rainfall and high heat. Yet, the country has managed to produce 20% more water than it consumes annually.

R2Pi’s case study on the Israeli water system aimed to identify the factors that have enabled Israel’s success in this sector. Our findings indicate that the Israeli government’s policies and partnership with the private sector have significantly contributed to the creation of Israel’s sustainable water practices.

In Israel, all water sources are legally owned by the public. Additionally, careful measurement, monitoring and reporting of water usage are mandated by law.

In 2007, the country faced extreme drought. In response to this national emergency, policy-makers took an even more active role. The government consolidated over 115 separate water authorities to create the centralized Water Authority, which utilized pricing, new taxes and rationing laws to decrease consumption of water. In addition, the Water Authority launched an awareness media campaign, which instilled an ethos of responsibility within the Israeli population, encouraging citizens to use water sparingly for the general benefit.

Since 2008, the Water Authority has focused on improving management and leak detection, which has reduced the amount of water lost through leaks, pipes and valves from 15% to 7%. The Water Authority’s activities led to an 82% increase in the recycling of water in just a seven year period.

The Israeli government has also partnered with the private sector to inculcate a culture of innovation. Israeli policy supports and incentivizes R&D as well as water-related investments. The government accelerates the implementation of large infrastructure projects by fast-tracking the approval process. Furthermore, governmental agencies like the New-Tech Department within the Ministry of Economy are devoted to the development of technology within the water and energy sectors.  

Today, there are over 300 Israeli technology companies in the water sector, 120 of which are less than seven years old, indicating exponential growth. Each company seeks solutions that will improve the water system, along all links in its value chain.

Israel’s academic sector plays a notable role in the country’s struggle with water scarcity. Various universities and research facilities, both publicly and privately funded, are currently at the forefront of water innovation. These institutions train a highly skilled workforce of engineers and scientists that continue to propel Israel forward. The Israeli government sponsors The Volcani Research Center, which has a significant focus on water-related research.

These factors have enabled Israel to recycle nearly 90% of its wastewater, the highest rate in the world. Israel’s per capita water consumption is a mere one-seventh of the per capita water consumption in the EU.

As the world continues to seek more sustainable water practices, we use Israeli policy as a guide. Though every country has its own unique composition, Israel’s water-related policies can be adapted by different regions in different capacities to help improve water systems throughout the globe.