The world is in a water crisis, one that will grow more severe in the coming decade. Water shortages will soon lead to increasing political instability, displacement of populations, and, more likely than not, political unrest and war.
Though this water crisis overlaps with the more widely-discussed problem of climate change, it is different in many ways. It is more acute and more concrete, in that it focuses on a single resource without which humanity cannot live. Its causes are less controversial. Its dimensions are more easily measured. And its catastrophic effects are playing out more clearly and more quickly.
It is also a problem that can be decisively solved without anything remotely resembling the economic restructuring and political acrobatics required to address climate change. Fully effective solutions to the water crisis have already been found. They only need to be implemented.
The world’s water problem is being caused by multiple simultaneous factors: Reduced rainfall, increased population, and the rapid development of impoverished societies have all come together to deplete the amount of water available to humankind. None of these causes are going away. Solutions will come only from changing the way we find and use water.
To make sure supply stays ahead of demand, we need to talk about where we get water, how we use it, and what happens to it afterwards. We need methods for procuring usable water, not just from lakes and rivers and rain, but also from the sea and our own waste. We need farming methods that use much less water, and better ways to prevent leakage and contamination. We need policies that encourage all of these things without undercutting economic growth and our way of life. If we had to start today, it would take decades to come up with the answers.
But we don’t have to start today. All these solutions have been in the works for more than half a century.
The country that has dedicated the greatest resources, innovation, and cultural attention to the problem of water scarcity is Israel. Founded on a dry strip of land smaller than New Hampshire, saddled with absorbing millions of immigrants, Israel has been worrying about water for a very long time. Today, it leads the way in solving problems of water supply, spearheading efforts to deal with water leakage, farming efficiency, recycling waste, desalination, pricing policy, and education. This has resulted in a water revolution unlike anywhere else on earth; a revolution not just of technology, but of thought, policy, and culture. For this reason, Israelis will be at the heart of any effort to solve the global water crisis.
In fact, as a new book shows, they already are.
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