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THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand/AP
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canada and Israel Partner for Water Conservation, Purification

September 04, 2008 06:55 AM
by Cara McDonough
Manitoba will teach Israel, which is struggling from increased water demand and a four-year drought, about water conservation methods in exchange for help with purification.

A Mutual Education Plan

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Manitoba, known as the “land of 100,000 lakes,” has also earned a reputation for having some of the best water conservation standards in the world, while Israel has been suffering from a drought and increased demand for water in recent years.

The plan for collaboration between the two regions originated after an 11-man Israeli delegation, led by Jewish National Fund head Efi Stenzler and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, spoke at the first ever Manitoba–Israel Water Symposium in August.

“I’m trying to create a situation where people think of the Manitoba–Israel partnership as natural,” said Manitoba Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick when announcing plans for the event, according to The Canadian Jewish News.

Following the symposium, Melnick announced that she would send Manitoba’s experts to teach Israel about conservation and, in return, Israeli experts would teach Manitobans about purifying polluted water.

Furthermore, Melnick has allotted $250,000 a year in scholarships that are to bring Manitoban students to Israel to study water engineering and purification. “These important new scholarships will support scholarly development in a range of areas including nanotechnology, water conservation and water reuse,” Melnick said to The Jerusalem Post.

Background: Israel’s water problem

A growing population and rising incomes, combined with a four-year drought, have produced a demand for fresh water in Israel that cannot be met by current supply, The New York Times reported in August.

As the Times reports, Israel has long been considered at the forefront of water efficiency and purification techniques in agriculture—modern drip irrigation was invented in the country—but irrigation technology is of little help when the water is not there to begin with.

The Daily Telegraph reported in late August that the waters of the Sea of Galilee, the freshwater lake which supplies much of Israel with drinking and irrigation water, were at their lowest level on record, due to drought and demand from both homeowners and farmers.

“We just don’t have enough water,” said Roni Kedar, an Israeli farmer who grows grapes, apples, flowers and berries, to The New York Times. “It’s frustrating because you work hard to make it grow. The point is to be big and efficient enough to survive. But right now it’s hard.”

Related Topic: Water purification techniques; drought in East Africa

Finding clean water is a daily concern for more than a billion people around the world, but new advances in water purification systems may help fix the global water sanitation problem, findingDulcinea reported in July.

The most successful tools are not necessarily the most complex; one of the most popular purification tools is a simple clay filter, currently being used in Cameroon and Ghana. The filter was first produced in 1998 for hurricane victims in Central America, and 10,000 were distributed to victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2007.

Israel isn’t alone in experiencing such a long and hard-hitting drought. In East Africa, high food prices due to drought and failed harvests are a significant factor in the current food crisis.

Oxfam International reports that 14 million are at risk of starvation in the region, where acute malnutrition cases are at their highest level since the last period of drought, which hit in 2000.

Reference: Manitoba’s water conservation efforts

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