The United States exports over $130 billion of agricultural products every year. Some states, such as California, produce over $20 billion on their own. However, California’s agricultural production could start to crumble if the water crisis grows worse.
California’s growing population and production of crops, like almonds—which use a lot of water—create a massive demand for water that the state cannot meet with natural resources alone.
For now, farmers are able to rely on groundwater to supplement their crops, but with California’s population reaching over 40 million, the usual water sources like the Colorado River Basin—which also supplies water to neighboring states—may soon run out. They need to come up with a plan soon, but a feasible solution seems impossible.
Working with our trusted friends and allies in Israel has shown us an alternative future. God has a plan for us to restore the deserts in Israel, and He has blessed the people of the Holy Land with ingenuity to create abundance from nothing.
California has a lot to learn from Israel—first and foremost, that meeting its demand for water sustainability is indeed possible.
Making Do in the Desert
Parts of California are desert, but the majority of its crops are grown in the Central Valley, where the climate and soil are apt for growing a wide variety of crops. More than half of Israel’s land is desert, and yet they manage to produce astounding amounts of produce.
Traditionally, California has been able to rely on a plethora of sources of water from major sources—like the Colorado River Basin, to snow that melts from the ice-capped mountains…and there’s hardly ever a shortage of rain in Northern California!
Israel has never had any such advantages.
Water has always been scarce in the Middle East, but the Israelis have become the masters of using it effectively. Whereas California struggles with meeting its growing demand for water by draining natural resources from itself and its neighbors, Israel has spent its entire existence in water-crisis mode and managed to thrive despite it.
What Can California and the United States Learn from Israel?
What legislation California has devised to address its water crisis has been ineffective, and difficult to enforce. Most proposals seem to involve water restrictions and regulations—tactics that were undoubtedly used by Israel in desperate times, but frugality did not help Israel get to the point where they are now. Like California, Israel has a growing population—unlike California, Israel has a surplus of water.
Israel’s secret to success: use what water is available, use it efficiently, and use it again.
Use What’s Available: Desalination
Thinking of the Pacific Ocean as a feasible source of water is no longer as crazy as it might sound. We just need to be sure to take the salt out first.
The concept of desalination has been of interest to mankind since biblical times. In fact, God helped Moses and His people along in their journey by using desalination:
“And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet…”—Exodus 15:24-25
The tree that God cast into the waters is far beyond anything humanity could ever invent, but we have created a different kind of plant that can process seawater—aptly named a desalination plant.
More than half of Israel’s drinking water comes from the ocean, processed by desalination plants. The Sorek Facility in Tel Aviv is the largest in the world. Recently, desalination plants have been pumping millions of gallons of water a day, and providing millions of gallons of fresh water sourcing from the Mediterranean Sea—to the point where Israel has a surplus!
Use it Efficiently: Drip Irrigation
One of Israel’s earliest gifts to the world was drip irrigation, which revolutionized farming in a harsh climate. Drip irrigation was invented by Israeli scientists and is now widely used around the world.
Drip irrigation helps use water more efficiently, by filling a bucket that releases a little bit of water to the roots of the plants at a slow enough rate that the plants can drink the water before it runs off into the ground. (Read more about Israel’s invention here.)
Use it Again: Water Recycling
Israel is by far the world leader in water recycling, reusing nearly 90% of its wastewater—putting it way ahead of Spain, in second place recycling roughly 20%, and the United States—recycling 1%.
Purified recycled wastewater is perfectly safe for humans to drink, however, most—if not all of it—ends up being used to water crops. (Read more about water conservation in Israel here.)
Looking to The Future
In the future, the ocean will still be available—we will be able to use it efficiently, and we will be able to use it again.
Israel has already shown us the potential of desalination, and such plants already exist in California… and California plans to create more.
The biggest challenge, unsurprisingly, is cost—desalination can get quite expensive! Not to mention, potentially harmful to the ocean environment. Most early desalination plants relied on burning fossil fuels in order to operate.
But today, wind and solar power provide feasible alternatives. Some plants can potentially harm marine life, but modern plants draw water slowly and carefully enough so that fish and other creatures can escape.
But desalination isn’t the only way we could use the ocean to water our crops.
Recently, Israeli scientists working in the Dead Sea discovered organisms that can live in fresh and saltwater simultaneously. This discovery can help scientists better understand salt tolerance in plants like wheat and corn—and if they can figure out how to make these crops more salt tolerant, they would be able to grow crops on a broader variety of land, and even desalinate the land the way God desalinated the waters for Moses!
In fact, My Olive Tree has already been working on a similar miracle in the Negev Desert, where it isn’t so much salt, as a sheer lack of water and nutrients that keeps most plants out… but we’ve been transforming the wasteland into a great place to put more plants in. Check out our story, and see how you can get involved!