With the decline of the COVID-19 virus, the world has returned to focus on the most pressing existential threat — global warming and climate change, and their devastating effects on the world we live in. We believe that innovative technological solutions to the water crisis can be a central part of dealing with the climate crisis, for both adaptation and mitigation.
One of the main areas critically affected by climate change is the global rainfall cycle, resulting in less rain, more droughts and extreme rain events, bringing with them more destruction than blessings.
Hong Kong is no stranger to such tendencies. In fact, the Hong Kong Observatory says in its recently released annual outlook for 2023 that Hong Kong will be affected by heavy rain, and the annual mean temperature is expected to be above normal, with a high chance of reaching the warmest top-10 years on record.
The close connection between the water crisis and the climate crisis was noted in the COP 27 summary statement and will be a central theme of the UN Water Conference that will open on World Water Day, today, at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.
While many places in the world still have full access to clean tap water, in many others, this accessibility is limited or almost nonexistent. It is estimated that some 2.5 billion people (30 percent of the world’s population) live in water-scarce areas, a phenomenon that is expected to worsen in the coming decades as the powerful processes of climate change, global population growth, growing demand for industrial and agricultural products, and desertification intensify. Water scarcity is causing migration, wars and conflicts, placing hundreds of millions of people around the world at risk of displacement due to water scarcity over the coming years.
To overcome this phenomenon and anticipate a cure for this ailment, we must understand that this will entail formulating a comprehensive campaign that will require that all necessary steps be integrated, such as: Guide and educate on water conservation; increase water-use efficiency; accrue international, public and private funding; rehabilitate polluted water sources; encourage investments and research and development, and first and foremost, learn how to practice good water management on a local, national, regional and global scale.
We must explore new approaches toward investing in water and sanitation-related infrastructure facilities and services, while ensuring each person’s right to safe drinking water. It is important that emphasis be placed on the availability and sharing of information about the amount, quality, distribution and access to water, as well as of the risks and use of that water.
In this regard, Israel can make a significant contribution to the world as a country with one of the most advanced water systems in the world and with an abundance of R&D and innovative technologies in many fields. One example is the treatment and recycling of sewage: Israel leads the world in this field, with 95 percent of its wastewater being treated from which almost 90 percent is used in agriculture.
Another field in which Israel leads the world is the prevention of water loss in urban systems. While in Israel only a few percent of the water is lost in urban supply systems, in other countries around the world, this rate can reach percentages in the dozens. The paradox is that these are often arid and water-scarce countries for which the absence of available water represents a significant burden. In Israel, a comprehensive variety of technologies and methods has been developed to prevent water loss in supply systems, and detect leaks through remote sensors.
If this were the status quo the world over, it would be possible to greatly reduce and prevent environmental pollution and the destruction of natural systems, all the while allowing treated and purified water to flow back into nature and agriculture. It would be possible to simultaneously reduce large-scale emission of greenhouse gases, build agricultural resilience against climate change, allow more water in nature for natural systems — which naturally absorb greenhouse gases — to better function and to prevent unnecessary destruction of ecological systems as the result of pollution or water scarcity.
Seawater desalination, the use of brackish water in agriculture, drip irrigation, the development of agricultural varieties that consume less water, and the extraction of water from air — all are fields that are developed in Israel.
We in Israel are able and willing to share our accumulated know-how and best practices with Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, and fellow nations around the world, so that together, we will assure that every individual across the globe will be able to enjoy the essential human right to safe and clean water.
Water is life.
The author is the Consul General of the State of Israel in Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS