09/15/2011 03:12

Groups says conservation is more effective at job creation; Landau stresses importance of diversifying water-saving methods.
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Regional green group Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) attests that an increased focus on water conservation as opposed to streamlining efforts into expanding desalination facilities will be a more effective way to create green jobs and an exportable domestic market, according to an August report released earlier this week.

The report critiques some measures of the government’s response to the current water shortage, arguing that while increasing the desalination capacity is “sometimes necessary,” focusing on water-saving is overall a more effective strategy.

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Expanding desalination efforts as per current government plans would free up an additional 430 million cubic meters of water per year and would create approximately 1,260 green jobs per year (2.84 jobs per million cubic meter), with 25 percent of those jobs skilled, according to FoEME report calculations. Water conservation would meanwhile make available only 316 million cubic meters of water per year but would create approximately 5,200 green jobs (16.5 jobs per million cubic meter), 63% of which would be skilled work, the report said.

“Desalination is a highly capital intensive method of producing water with much lower job creation potential than demand side approaches,” wrote the authors – Yedidya Sinclair, Efrath Silver, Gidon Bromberg and Youval Arbel.

Building upon the 2011 Green Economy Initiative of the United Nations Environment Program, the report defines green water jobs as long and short-term “jobs that reduce water consumption and overall enhance the sustainable growth of the water sector, avoiding water exploitation and pollution or any other kind of environmental pollution, and in addition offer adequate wages and job security (social benefits) to employees.”

While acknowledging that increased desalination efforts could in fact fill in the gaps to solve Israel’s water problems by 2013, the report warned that desalination also generates air pollution from energy consumption and requires use of large chunks of coastal land, damaging the local marine environments.

Therefore, in addition to maintaining current desalination projects, the authors recommended what they saw as more environmentally friendly and labor intensive measures – like reducing water loss from leakages, conducting rooftop rainwater collection, changing the types of plants used in gardens, raising prices in the agricultural sector, using grey water for both irrigation and toilets and raising awareness about water conservation.

“The 2009 water crisis in Israel prompted the introduction of water saving policies to reduce demand.

These measures are to be applauded,” the report said. “However, it is far from clear whether they will become permanent features of Israel’s water economy, or whether they will be relaxed when more desalination capacity comes on line.”

Indeed, the report had significant praise for Israel’s accomplishments in many of these water conservation measures, which began being heavily instituted in 2009 amid the current water crisis – such as installing water-saving devices, reducing leakages and waste in water systems and allocating water for city parks, the authors wrote.

“These initiatives are promising and commendable steps but are not yet widespread or permanent,” the authors wrote.

Once a steady domestic market in water conservation and efficient water use is ensured, then steadier exports of the ideas and technologies can occur, according to the report.

One way in which skilled green job opportunities and innovation can arise in this sector would be to “replace water intensive flora with more indigenous, water efficient species” in community gardens, whose irrigation currently accounts for 20% of all domestic and municipal water consumption, the report said. This could achieve a 50% reduction in water needs for the gardens, while creating sophisticated work in the process, the authors added. Legalizing grey water or even going so far as to oblige homes to use grey water would similarly create many types of jobs across the board, according to the report.

While he had not yet seen the report, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau told The Jerusalem Post during an interview on Wednesday that although he feels expanding desalination efforts is still important, the government is also constantly diversifying its methods of water conservation.

“Obviously desalination is just one major thrust of providing water to our country and I would say to our region too,” Landau said. “Of course we’ll have to look into methods of conservation of water – desalination is not the only answer – and proper economic use of water should also be part of our developing subculture. We should provide those conditions in Israel for a modern country in which one could use as much water as he needs – that the country should be prepared to provide to the individual as much water as he needs, and he would pay the full price for it. At the same time, the individual should behave in a manner that he would use just the amount of water that a responsible person needs to have.”