Jewish National Fund Tackling Water Shortage Issue Head-On
Craig M. Goldstein
Jewish National Fund
+1 (212) 879-9305 ext. 225
+1 (212) 387-9588
Real, Short-Term Solutions to Extend Water Resources in an Ecologically-Friendly and Economical Manners
July 26, 2000 (New York, New York) - Jewish National Fund (JNF) announced today its unwavering commitment to addressing and solving the growing water crisis in Israel. The worst drought in recorded history is continuing its assault on Israel and the Middle East. Earlier this year, the organization pledged to reinforce its longtime support of Israel's water economy by an additional $120 million over the next ten years. This is on top of regular, large-scale commitments already planned across the country. This investment will expand drinking water resources, as well as recycle effluents for irrigation, which are currently lost in enormous quantities to the sea. This was recently announced in Israel by JNF-KKL World Chairman Yehiel Leket and Co-Chairman Shlomo Gravetz at a meeting with Agriculture Minister Haim Oron.
Israel's annual consumption rate of water has grown tremendously due to the extended drought and its natural population growth combined with an additional one million immigrants who have come to Israel over the last decade. Shortage of water is probably the most crucial environmental problem facing Israel today, and new solutions must be found and applied to address the dwindling water supply. This also has a direct impact on relations with neighboring Arab countries who are suffering from a similar reality while vying for the shared water resources this challenge while resources continue to decrease due to drought and overuse.
"JNF is bringing real solutions to the table," explained Ronald S. Lauder, president, Jewish National Fund. "For us it has always been about addressing the growing water crisis now - not proposing solutions that will only have an impact in the future, such as importing water from Turkey or water desalination. What we are investing in is expanding the use of recycled sewage and saline water for agriculture. Every gallon of recycled water we introduce into the agriculture sector frees another gallon of fresh water for Israel's growing cities and population."
Gravetz and Leket noted that because of the water crisis, now is the time to invest in infrastructure for recycling, which can add some 52 billion gallons of water to the agriculture sector, thereby freeing up a similar quantity of fresh water for urban consumption. This quantity of water translates to 13 percent of Israel's national water consumption for agriculture, households and industry. The program could cut the cost of recycled irrigation water by 50 percent.
They pointed out that JNF had stepped up its countrywide construction of reservoirs, dams, storage pools and various other water projects more than a decade ago. These more than 120 projects constituted an investment of over $110 million, have over 26 billion gallons of capacity and increased Israel's total water supply over 6 percent. These facilities include reservoirs and storage dams to capture floodwaters and runoff in the Negev, reservoirs to store recycled water for irrigation in the Arava and reservoirs to more fully utilize spring waters all over the country.
Also raised at the meeting was a proposal that JNF, the Ministry of Agriculture and the other agencies in the Israel establish and equally finance a $240 million national water fund for the conveyance of 66 billion gallons of treated water to storage facilities, so as not to lose this precious resource.
Jewish National Fund Leads Battle
According to a June 21 report in Israel's Business Arena - Globes, with the exception of the Jewish National Fund, Israel has not invested real money in water development for over twenty years, during which time Israel's population has doubled from three to six million.
Shaul Arlosoroff, chairman of the Israel Association of Water Engineers, was recently on an 11-city tour of the United States, on behalf of the Jewish National Fund. He has spent most of his life working to bring recycled water to Israel's strained water economy, and Israel is a world leader in this field. In a recent interview with the Detroit Jewish News, Arlosoroff says, "So far, JNF has saved Israel hundreds of millions of dollars through its water resource programs. Not only in the rain harvest and reuse programs, but also the money we have saved in not having to build large-scale desalination plants."
"JNF's existing work yields 26.4 billion gallons per year - twice what the government's new desalination plant will produce - for less, and the plant will not pay dividends for years," added Arlosoroff.
Funding from other Sources Demonstrates Mounting Concern
In addition to JNF's ongoing investment in and commitment to solving the water crisis, the organization is also a founding member of the International Arid Lands Consortium (IALC). Authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1990, the IALC is a partnership of organizations and institutions dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East by making the area more productive and habitable. This is accomplished through collaborative multinational research, education initiatives, and information sharing of issues of vital importance, such as water resource development. The combined resources of the American, Israeli and Jordanian partners could have dramatic effects in water resource management - especially in the Jordan Valley basin.
Earlier this month, the IALC was part of a ceremony at San Diego State University at which the university president and the administrator of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a memorandum of agreement outlining a three-year, $3.9 million program to promote the use of alternative water sources in Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestine Authority. JNF's expertise in recycled water programs will be a key component in the IALC's research contribution to this program.
"Other organizations have recognized the severity of the crisis and are starting to help with research," says Lauder. "Hadassah has also given $3 million in support of water reservoir development earlier this year. Hopefully, more and more organizations will get behind this critical issue."
Founded in 1901, Jewish National Fund is a nonprofit organization. JNF is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners - Jewish people everywhere. The organization has planted over 210 million trees, built over 100 dams and reservoirs, developed over 250,000 acres of land, and created more than 400 parks throughout Israel. For more information on JNF or to plant trees in Israel, call 800-542-TREE (8733) or visithttp://www.jnf.org.