Then-President of Israel Reuven Rivlin during a visit to an Israeli desalination plant in 2018. (Photo/Marck Neyman via Wikicommons)
Then-President of Israel Reuven Rivlin during a visit to an Israeli desalination plant in 2018. (Photo/Marck Neyman via Wikicommons)

Israel has water expertise aplenty to offer California, says S.F.-based consul

Citing Israel’s extraordinary success in meeting its agricultural and household water needs, Marco Sermoneta told a recent gathering of water industry professionals that his country has much to offer other regions facing the dire problem of water scarcity.

“Global crises require global solutions,” said Israel’s San Francisco–based consul general, “so we must look far and wide for new innovations and new partnerships.”

Marco Sermonetta
Marco Sermoneta

Sermoneta, who has been on the job since August, was speaking at the Association of California Water Agencies fall conference and exhibition, held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Indian Wells, near Palm Desert.

The event featured more than 40 programs, workshops and roundtable conversations examining topics such as water management, affordable drinking water and water supply. ACWA is a statewide coalition of public water agencies.

On Nov. 30, in his keynote speech, Sermoneta said that when it comes to water, thedifficulties facing Israel and California are similar: limited freshwater resources, an arid climate, limited rainfall and droughts. Approximately 60% of the land in Israel is considered arid, the consul general explained.

“The water situation in Israel 20 years ago resembles, in many ways, the situation in California,” he said.

Sermoneta called for building upon a 2014 memorandum of understanding that boosted economic and research cooperation between Israel and California in a number of areas, including water conservation. The pact was signed by then–Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Gov. Jerry Brown at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

“Strengthening this MOU would lead to further collaborations that could meet our water goals,” Sermoneta said. “We must renew support for this agreement and devote energy to pursuing it.”

Israel and California, he added, should work closer together as partners and allies to make the challenges facing each area more surmountable.

“We are proud to join California in shared collective solutions in order to continue fighting against climate change and water scarcity,” Sermoneta said.

At the start of his 20-minute speech, the consul general noted that his appearance in Indian Wells coincided with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the partition plan in Mandatory Palestine. In addition, his speech fell on Ben-Gurion Day, when Israelis pay tribute to their founding father and first prime minister.

The water situation in Israel 20 years ago resembles, in many ways, the situation in California.

After congratulating the U.S. on its 1-0 World Cup win over Iran the day before, Sermoneta said he had come to share “the unique story of the State of Israel through the perspective of its water revolution, which is an integral part of Israel’s centuries-long history.”

Today, Israel’s per-capita water consumption is one of the lowest among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of 37 countries that account for three-fourths of world trade.

As explained in the book, “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” — a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller — Israel is uniquely efficient with its water usage.

Through strategies such as drip irrigation and recycled wastewater, Israel is reportedly able to produce 20% more water than needed for both agricultural and household use.

The success is owed, in part, to Netafim, Sermoneta said, calling the Israeli company “a world leader in the field” of drip-irrigation technology, and to Watergen, an Israeli company that makes water from air by harnessing condensation in the atmosphere.

Today, drip irrigation helps grow 75% of Israel’s crops.

Sermoneta, who serves the Pacific Northwest region from Israel’s consulate in San Francisco, highlighted the important role public awareness campaigns have played in transforming his country’s water consumption habits.

“From kindergarteners to senior citizens,” the diplomat said, “Israelis learn from a very young age that water must be conserved.”

Ryan Torok

Ryan Torok is an L.A.-based freelance reporter and former Jewish Journal staff writer.