12/16/2010 03:28

Envoy aiming to save water while creating ‘scientific cooperation between our countries;’ J’lem students win top prize in Stockholm.

Sweden’s new ambassador to Israel, Elinor Hammarskjöld, said on Wednesday that although her country has an abundance of clean water, it is still concerned about the world’s lack of it and wants to promote scientific cooperation in the field with Israel, which has a history of combating serious water shortages.

Hammarskjöld said she comes from a “family of diplomats” and that her grandfather’s brother was the late Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN secretary-general who died in a plane crash in 1961 and received the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. The ambassador, who took up residence here in October and plans to learn Hebrew, was speaking at a ceremony at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT).

She congratulated two 19-year-old JCT Torah & Science Yeshiva High School students – Gal Oren and Nerya Stroh – who simultaneously earned their matriculation certificates and B.Sc. degrees in computer sciences within a year of graduation. The two – as reported exclusively in The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday – were top winners of the 2010 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for a water-saving device they developed and a few months ago spent a week in Sweden.

They received their prize from Crown Princess Victoria at the ceremony in the country’s capital.

The two young inventors created a userfriendly computerized device that detects water leaks in apartments, buildings, factories or neighborhoods in real time and can even halt the water flow. Estimated to cost only NIS 100 per family, the Aquastop follows the average water balance of the consumer over a period of time. After this learning period, the system keeps measuring in real time the water consumption of the user.

If it identifies a great deviation from the average, the device alerts the user via SMS through a GSM modem to his cell phone or via Internet to his personal computer and gradually disconnects the water source to avoid wasting water. The project was supervised and directed by JCT engineer David Gelman and his assistant Yisrael Alishevits.

Hammarskjöld told the audience – which consisted of JCT president Prof. Noah Dana- Picard, other senior school officials and high school students – that “in the mountains of Sweden, one can still cup your hands and drink directly from the streams. At the same time, the neighboring Baltic Sea is sensitive to pollution due to ship traffic.”

Some countries have too much water, as the melting of ice at the polls has raised ocean water levels, threatening to sink whole geographical areas, while much of the rest of the world has too little to drink and use, the ambassador said.

The production of a single page of A4 paper, she was told, takes 20 liters to manufacture.

According to the UN, she said, more than 30% of the world’s water supplies is lost due to leaks and illegal tapping.

Thus she wished the high school pupils to devote themselves to developing new technologies and especially to that developed by Oren and Stroh to save precious water. Sweden’s water competition is meant to promote this and to increase its network of friends and contacts for scientific cooperation, the ambassador added.

“Israel is slightly ahead of Sweden in the rate of resources invested in research and development. Maybe some of you young people will be involved in development. I hope to do more to contribute to joint scientific cooperation between our countries.”

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, who is in charge of the planning and environment portfolios, revealed that the two teens will be invited to a meeting of the municipality’s environment committee along with officials of Hagihon, the city’s water company, to see if their device can be used to reduce the estimated 13 percent water supply loss due to leaks.

Former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, who formerly was chief rabbi of Oslo, Norway, said that God chose the Land of Israel for the Jews largely because it is short on water. Praying to God for rain is a major activity in the drought-struck land, he said, not only in today’s seventh-straight year of dry winters but also when Joseph left Canaan for Egypt and found himself in the king’s palace managing resources when it too was hit by a drought.

“Bordering on the wilderness, Israelis know well what it means to look for water and seek solutions for drought,” he said.