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June 23, 2021

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How did ISRAEL turn the DESERT into an AGRICULTURAL POWER?

11 min read
Israel desert

Can you imagine a country that irrigates plants with salt water a country that has managed to transform an arid barren desert into lush fields of crops a country that despite being located in one of the driest and most arid places on earth has been able to obtain an almost unlimited supply of water well the truth.

it is not a mirage this place really exists a large part of its territory is located in the negev and judean deserts and it’s called israel we are talking about the only country on planet earth that today has a less desert area than it did 50 years ago in addition each year the country exports more than 2 billion us dollars worth of agricultural products.

mainly fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables and this is exactly what we’re going to be talking about in this video about how israel has been able to turn the desert itself into an orchard about how this country has overcome water scarcity by the way this video was made thanks to our patreon community.

this topic was chosen so it is especially dedicated to all of you who support us on patreon let’s get started a confidential u.s national intelligence council report released in 2012 and later partially declassified pointed to a future water crisis a huge global water crisis according to this report water consumption is above any sustainable parameter there are more and more of us.

we use more and more water we consume more meat have more gardens more swimming pools and consume more energy these are all things that believe me require a lot of water for example producing one kilo just one kilo of meat consumes 17 times more water than producing one kilo of corn thus the report agreed with other expert information.

20 of the world’s population more than 1.5 billion people will suffer greatly from this water crisis in the coming decades that’s 1.5 billion people who will have serious very serious problems in accessing a regular water supply we’re talking about a crisis that would threaten the entire global food supply and don’t think for a moment that it would be limited to punishing the poorest countries for example the san joaquin valley in california the heartland of california’s quality agriculture could disappear at least as we know it today and that’s that’s what has led us to a key question in this video are we all doomed to water scarcity well i think that the time has come to take a look at one of the most arid and barren places on the planet.

No less than 60 percent of israeli territory is covered by desert which explains why the relationship of these people with water is so close that it is constantly present whether in culture politics or even religion in fact one of the best known jewish prayers the shema warns that the punishment of not fulfilling god’s commandments would be specifically that the rain will stop falling despite this.

israel is a prosperous country a major agri-food exporter and has an abundant and guaranteed supply of water in fact it even supplies water to its neighbors so the question.

the big question we can ask ourselves is how on earth have they managed to overcome water scarcity what can other countries learn from israel are we facing a future with water or a future of thirst in this video we’re going to answer all these questions but first we have to start at the beginning we need to look at a little bit of history.

the arteries of israel in the late 1920s economists advising the british government which at the time controlled this territory stated that the immigration of more jews to palestine was not sustainable and it was not sustainable because according to their calculations the water resources were so limited that it was impossible to sustain more than 2 million people yes i know today there are more than 14 million you know expert forecasts the fact is that from that very moment the jewish organizations in the area understood that their future depended on increasing water resources he had to find water at all costs for the fields for the new settlers that might arrive and in order to be able to build a new israel .

there was a problem most of the country was desert arid and dry the available water resources were concentrated in the north but jews were settling mostly around the region’s new big city tel aviv located in the centre of the country so to resolve this conundrum following the publication of the british report in 1939 one of the country’s most renowned hydraulic engineers simcha blas a polish immigrant was commissioned to design a water plan it was nothing short of the plan that was to guarantee israel’s future.

No sooner said than done that is exactly what he did displaying all his ingenuity and daring mr blass designed a three-phase plan basically the plan that was implemented over decades has made israel’s demographic and economic takeoff possible you see the first phase consisted of extracting water by drilling deep bore holes sim char blast was convinced that under the subsoil of israel even in the areas as arid as the negev desert there was water so he set out to find it in order to supply new farms.

if successful such an operation would not be enough the country would have to use every last drop that was available that is they had to move the water from where it was relatively abundant to where it was needed for this precise reason the next two phases were centered on this idea the second phase aimed to pump the water from the jordan river the most important river in the region to the south east.

Even reaching the negev desert itself an uninhabited area where new settlers would be able to settle and grow their crops but by far the most significant part of the plan was the third phase the construction of the national aqueduct we’re talking about a huge diversion of more than 100 kilometers that was to transfer water from the north of the country particularly from the sea of galilee to the largest freshwater lake in the country to where it was needed.

Meanwhile also connecting the resources developed in the previous phase in other words what simcha blast proposed was a huge investment plan to create the arteries of israel that is a huge water system that would guarantee access to fresh water throughout the country and take note because if there was one thing that was clear.

it was that implementing this plan was urgent look at this [Music] on the day of the declaration of independence of the hebrew state 14th of may 1948 israel had 806 000 inhabitants within the following three years alone almost 700 000 more people arrived in the country obviously the vast majority of them came from europe naturally to suddenly care for so many people feed them and help them find a job to support themselves required lots.

Thus a lots of water thus water restrictions became more and more demanding and putting simcha blass’s plan in place was a matter of the utmost urgency the problem is that it took tons of money and we’re not exactly talking about the country that was rich at that time not to mention that the few resources available to the fledgling israeli government went largely to security and defense so the question was,

how to get it done well it was here that the then prime minister of israel ben gurion made one of the most controversial decisions in the history of israel a decision that could even end up leading to a civil conflict in the early 1950s ben gurion agreed to sign a reparations agreement with conrad adenauer’s federal republic of germany an agreement whereby the state of israel received an indemnity of three billion marks as compensation for nazi crimes and the theft and destruction of jewish property.

during the time of the third reich and it was tremendously unpopular except compensation for such a pain many israelis felt that their pain was being bought that one of the most tragic events in human history was being commodified by the way if you are interested in military history.

There were protests demonstrations violent clashes with security forces and in the end the nesit the israeli parliament approved the agreement by only two votes [Music] nevertheless the money was there the jordan river diversion was completed in 1955.

and over the next few years the country was turned upside down the national aqueduct involved building pipes canals and small reservoirs all over the country the main network itself had to be basically subterranean and be able to withstand any attack that might occur thousands and thousands of people worked on this immense project and the per capita expenditure was greater than that of the panama canal itself.

Finally in 1964 the national aqueduct became a reality water supply was finally guaranteed throughout the country without these immense works we can say that the enormous economic and demographic growth that israel has experienced would not have been possible however today israel has more than 9 million inhabitants and a modern economy so more needs to be done much more.

israel needs more water with the beginning of the 21st century problems with water supply were once again on the agenda and it was here that a whole new revolution was set in motion you see in 2006 the decision was made to transfer the management of the water system from the political level to the technocratic level that is the politicians were no longer in charge and the israel water authority was created an agency whose mission it is to manage the system in a professional manner and boy did they do it in 2008 this water authority made a very controversial decision everyone would have to pay the actual cost of providing water until then as in most countries in the world.

the price of water was subsidised by the government people understand that water is a treasure but they don’t understand why they have to pay for it they see rain and they think water is free and they are right the water is free but safe reliable always available water is not free and cannot be free building infrastructure is not free senior member of the israeli water authority.

The measure had two very clear objectives one had to promote saving water you know if you have to pay more you use less and on the other hand to increase the system’s revenues to be able to build more infrastructure and improve its maintenance.

This agency also took control of water distribution and wastewater management away from the municipalities in exchange it created a system of 55 municipal companies that had to operate under market criteria to manage the entire network the money collected would no longer go to municipal budgets but improving the system for example to prevent water leaks from pipes which in many cities accounts for a loss of more than 30 of all water in the case of israel,

that figure is well below 10 this way if a mayor wants to water the municipal parks he no longer has free water to do so and he has to pay the real price at the end of the day the measure was a complete and resounding success without having to limit supply public and private residential water consumption fell by almost 20 percent nationwide for example in parks and gardens many plants were replaced by species that were better adapted to the area and consumed less water and then in agriculture the same thing happened but that’s not all to boost water innovation the government set up plans to support investment in innovation.

By these new companies the idea was to turn israeli cities into veritable water laboratories companies compete for funds while innovations allow them to improve their bottom line.

So that’s exactly how the drought was beaten again during the early years of this 21st century but you know what we’re not done yet it is one thing to avoid drought it is quite another to have all the water you want and moreover to turn it into a big business and that’s exactly what israel has achieved listen up ingenuity is the key.

israel is a country known for three things the mossad the efficiency of its armed forces and also for innovation in fact it is known as the startup nation and in the case of water management which is a national priority it was to be no different especially in the field of agriculture which after all accounts for 55 of all water consumption in israel and yes it was precisely in this country that one of the great agricultural revolutions of recent decades took place drip irrigation a technique that saves up to 60 of water while improving crop yields.

A technique that consists of watering a plant drop by drop directly to the root and that in recent years has been improved with what is known as fertigation that is drip irrigation in which fertilizers are also included drop by drop and even with nutrition the latest in agricultural technology in this case drip irrigation supplies the plants with everything they need to grow so that even huge plantations can be developed on the very sand of the desert with nutrigation crops can grow anywhere desert stand can be used to hold the plant in place.

Nutrient water is administered by drip irrigation that takes care of the rest rafi and they are even now introducing tiny devices that are placed on the roots and detect when exactly the plants need to be watered well the fact is that all these technologies have been developed mainly by israeli companies but that’s not all there is to it either another field in which the israelis are particularly good is seeds both traditional and genetically modified seeds this has allowed them for example to reduce the water consumption of each plant and they have even developed seeds,

that could be irrigated with slightly salty water such as brackish water which is a type of water that is found in large quantities in the subsoil throughout the middle east but which was always thought to be useless yes that’s right in israel.

but wait there’s more along with the infrastructure linked to national aqueduct in recent years this country has developed a second infrastructure to distribute treated wastewater throughout the country so that no less than 85 percent of all wastewater is reused basically for agriculture and also to irrigate for example,

parks or golf courses believe me there is nothing like that in the rest of the world to top it off israel has also become one of the world leaders in desalination technology in fact one of the largest plants in the world in terms of volume and efficiency is located in the tel aviv area the sorek plant which is capable of processing more than 600 million liters of water per day.

And this is how israel has overcome the droughts that have plagued this region of the world for millennia israel a country located in dry arids terrain now has all the water it could ever need it even supplies water to palestine and jordan all this has been achieved through engineering and also very importantly the use of the pricing system but having reached this point it’s your turn what do you think of israel’s commitment to water supply do you think this is the way forward to avoid water crisis

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