Israel meeting its water needs from desalination, recycling

Israel desalination plant
Israel desalination plant

Gosh, an entire country that gets it about water. Israel no longer worries about water shortages because it has four desalination plants and recycles wastewater for use by agriculture. You might think this would be a fine example for California to follow, right? However,NIMBYs, lawsuits, and ponderous regulatory agencies have so far blocked and delayed any possibility of desal on the California coast.

With four plants currently in operation, all built since 2005, and a fifth slated to go into service this year, Israel is meeting much of its water needs by purifying seawater from the Mediterranean. Some 80 percent of domestic water use in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water, according to Israeli officials.

The country treats and recycles more than 80 percent of its wastewater, using it primarily for agriculture, making it a world leader in that field.

Their desalination plants are privately funded, not subsidized, and have long term agreements to sell the water. Desal does have potential downsides. It uses large amounts of electricity and salt is dumped back into the ocean. It’s expensive, with unclear environmental consequences.


  1. Interesting, but I’d sure like to know a whole lot more details. The two main problems with desalinization are (1) it uses a lot of energy, and (2) what do you do with the salts you extract? (Average sea water is about 3.5% salt(s), but the Mediterranean is dramatically more salty than average.) More questions arise: if the plants are privately owned, do they effectively have a monopoly over the supply of water so that they can cover costs? How does this compete with Jordan River water? Where does the electricity to power the plants come from, and how much does it use? What are they doing with the salt they extract….dumping it on the ground, or back into the Med where it gets transported down to Gaza and Egypt? I agree that there are too many layers of bureaucracy in California, and nobody in the political establishment takes water issues seriously except in times of crisis (it’s been a recurring problem since at least Earl Warren’s tenure as governor), but that doesn’t mean that these questions shouldn’t be asked and that we get really good answers before we invest. The dead zones off the southern California coast, the channeling of the Mississippi and the annual hypoxia death cycle in the Gulf caused by nitrate run-off from the midwest at a minimum requires us to demand good answers to such questions

    • They dump the salt back into the water. Not sure where the power comes from. (And many sources of energy generation require water.) The article says end users pay whatever the going rate is, which probably leads to increasingly conservation. Water is way cheap in California and probably shouldn’t be.

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