21 Dec 2011

Water efficiency or propaganda?

This article from the Jerusalem Post compares water use patterns between Israel and Arizona/Nevada. On Israel's side, we hear:
As natural water sources in countries such as Israel continually decrease every year, they must learn to create sustainable and reliable supplies using new techniques, many of which Israel has already undertaken, according to Tenne [chairman of the Israeli Water Authority’s Water Desalination Administration].
Sharon Megdal (director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson Arizona) then added:
In Arizona, about 40% of the water used comes from groundwater, 3% from recycled water and the remainder from the Colorado River, whose basin Arizona shares with six other states, as well as Mexico and Native American reservations inside Arizona that have independent water authorities.

“They have sovereignty when it comes to water management, so we share water with a lot of different entities,” Megdal said.
Then Pat Mulroy (president of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies in America and general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority) weighed in:
"This is a place where innovation and technology, but most importantly diplomacy, is all-important. Our solutions are not ones we can find within our own boundary," she said. “What do you do the day that there’s nothing left in the Colorado River to exchange? That’s the challenge. How do we face a reservoir that has less than one year’s supply left in it?”

In Mulroy’s opinion, you work with your neighbors – to go so far as to invest in financing desalination plants in Mexico’s vast open space, and then sharing the end result.

“We seven, very different, disparate states have to agree,” she said, adding that “Mexico has to be a full participant.”
I don't quite agree with these comments. Israel has invaded countries to get water (Syria's Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee/Kinneret) and takes water from the West Bank that belongs to Palestinians. Arizona "shares" water with a lot of states, but its groundwater use is unsustainable (mining), its surface water comes from a stressed river, and most of that water goes to irrigation. Las Vegas? Where do I start? Let's just say that Pat Mulroy is just about the last person I'd call a diplomat (power-player is more correct), and her venture into Mexico has nothing to do with "working with neighbors" (remember they are paying $170 million for the Drop 2 reservoir on the Mexican border that's ONLY purpose is to prevent ANY excess water from accidentally making it to Mexico) and a lot more to do with regulatory arbitrage -- hoping that a little less environmental regulation will help her get a desalination plant in Mexico more easily than a US plant.

Bottom Line: Sounds like there was a lot of self-congratulation going on in Israel. I'd be happier to have the opinions of a few (involuntary) participants in these management "successes."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

While I certainly would agree with you that Jerusalem and Las Vegas have been Taking (borrowing is much too gentle a word) other people's water, Israel's extensive use of drip irrigation is still a valuable example for any water stressed region.

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