Let There Be Water | Seth M. Siegel

Summary of: Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World
By: Seth M. Siegel


In the face of arid environments and scarce rainfall, ‘Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World’ by Seth M. Siegel explores how Israel transformed its water management strategies to become self-sufficient and even generate a surplus. Key insights include the cultural attitude of water mindfulness, innovation in irrigation techniques, sewage treatment, desalination, and water diplomacy. This book summary illuminates how Israel turned necessity into opportunity by embracing technology, efficient water practices, and global partnerships.

Israel’s Water Mindfulness

Israel, a desert nation with 60% coverage of the desert, provides a fascinating lesson in wise water usage. Israel has enough surplus water to export to its neighboring countries. Israel’s success starts with its appreciation of the need to respect water. The mindful use of water in Israel is taught in schools where students learn strategies to minimize water usage. Jewish prayers for rain are recited three times a day as it has been for centuries. Water is featured on the country’s currency and stamps.

The country’s greatest water resources are located in the far north, along the borders with Lebanon and Syria. However, the heavily populated areas of Tel Aviv and the southern Negev desert were water deficient, which led to the development of the National Water Carrier project. Completed in 1964, the project represented a giant leap in achieving water self-sufficiency. Israel’s water mindfulness has been a crucial aspect of managing water shortages and provided the foundations for the nation’s long-term plan for self-sufficiency in water usage.

Revolutionizing Agriculture with Drip Irrigation and Sewage Water Treatment

Jewish water engineer Simcha Blass’s discovery of a small leak in an irrigation pipe led to the invention of drip irrigation, which revolutionized agricultural water use in Israel and worldwide. Before Blass’s discovery, flood irrigation was the accepted method of watering crops. However, drip irrigation saves water while doubling crop output, allowing more food to be produced while making more water available for household use and raising living standards overall. Israeli scientists also pioneered the treatment and reuse of sewage water. Using sand aquifer treatment, sewage can be used to supply a third of the water needed for agriculture. Over 85 percent of Israel’s sewage water is reused, saving over one hundred billion gallons of water every year.

Salt Water Solution

Since Israel’s inception in 1948, water scarcity has plagued the country. Scientists spent years attempting to desalinate seawater, with little success. However, in 1966, reverse osmosis was introduced by a Jewish-American chemical engineer called Sidney Loeb. It is a technique where water is pushed through a membrane that causes pure water to move one way while salt molecules move in the opposite direction. This technology was the practical desalination solution that Israel had desperately needed. Today, desalination has proved integral in shaping Israel’s water profile and has enabled the country to withstand the driest weather conditions while facilitating fair water distribution and peaceful relations with neighboring countries.

Israel’s Success in Water Conservation

Israeli water science is an excellent example of success, with water conservation techniques like desalination and drip irrigation. The country’s domestic success has contributed to the establishment of a thriving global export industry. One such Israeli firm, Bermad, has introduced a water metering device that controls water usage, preventing even a drop from getting wasted. Bermad has sold its solution in 80 countries and employs over 600 people. In addition to exporting their expertise, Israeli water technology companies also provide support to their neighboring countries like Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority to provide clean, safe, and potable water, as well as to train them in new solutions.

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