Can a water crisis lead to a wash of opportunity?

“It’s not impossible that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water,” said Seth Siegel, businessman, water activist and bestselling author, to the attendees of the 2016 ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference.
It seems that we are hearing daily reports of growing water shortages all around the world, whether it is drought in California or flooding in Ireland. Siegel shared some unique and forward-thinking lessons from Israel with delegates at ONE. He penned the book “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” after becoming fascinated with and worried about the world’s water issues. Today, Siegel makes it his mission to encourage governments to act and media to report on this issue.

What's causing water scarcity issues?

The world is facing enormous water scarcity problems, and by 2025, 60 percent of the world’s landmass and 7.5 billion people could experience water scarcity. Why could this happen?
  • Climate change: As the Earth’s temperature rises, more water is required to irrigate our land.
  • Population growth: We face a world population of 9 billion by 2050.
  • Affluence versus poverty: 1.3 billion people will rise out of poverty into the middle class, resulting in a demand for more food.

"Let There Be Water: Israel's Solution for a Water-Starved World"

What if the world does not have enough water to grow our food and feed our increasingly burgeoning population? Siegel offers Israel as a model for water technology. One of the most arid places on Earth, Israel is made up of 60 percent desert and the remaining land is semi-arid. Not only is it one of the driest regions of the world, but it is also one of the world’s fastest growing populations as well as one of the fastest growing economies globally. So why is Israel not choking on its own sand? Siegel discovered that Israel has an abundance of water! Not only does it irrigate its own land, but it also provides 50 percent of its water to Gaza and to Jordan. Surprisingly, Israel also has a global agricultural export industry.
Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, previously told delegates at ONE that things happen by choice, not chance. This is true of Israel. In the 1930s, the country made choices on what kind of society they wanted to have and remarkably, and most importantly for today, they decided they required adequate water supply for their population and aspired to make the desert bloom.

Three technologies that made Israel more water sufficient

Siegel describes the three technologies Israel adopted to make them water sufficient:
  1. Ninety percent of Israel’s fresh water is used for agriculture. To ensure success in this sector, they chose to breed seeds that can thrive in drought conditions and on salty water.
  2. Thanks to the genius of Simcha Blass, who discovered drip irrigation, Israel adopted this technology to revolutionize its agriculture sector. They also revolutionized the treatment of their sewage plants, whereby they treat waste, separate it and pump it into desert farms. Now Israel has thousands of acres blooming in the desert! You could easily mistake it for Ireland, it’s so green.
  3. The third technology we should all look to Israel for is water desalination, or converting saltwater into freshwater.

Water scarcity challenges

Eight of the states in the USA are now in drought. By 2025, there are estimates that 40 of the 50 states will experience this same scarcity. If we do not tackle water scarcity now, we could face the following challenges:
  • Water refugees
  • An increase in food prices
  • Governmental breakdown
  • War
  • Humanitarian crises
Let’s act now!

Seth Siegel, businessman, water activist and bestselling author was a presenter at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference. Audio recordings of most talks from ONE will be made available on the Alltech Idea Lab by mid-June 2016. For access, click on the button below.


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