| AWWA members among delegates exploring Israeli water recycling programs
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AWWA members among delegates exploring Israeli water recycling programs

Delegates touring the Sorek Desalination Plant in Plamachim, IsraelA United States delegation of 42 water reuse experts traveled to Israel in October 2022 to learn more about the country’s water recycling programs. The delegation included representatives from water utilities, research institutions, regulatory agencies, and government organizations, many of whom are members of the American Water Works Association.

As water professionals work to address the growing challenge of water scarcity, water reuse is increasingly being considered as a water resource management strategy by cities, states and provinces across the world. Israel is a global leader in adopting water recycling practices to manage its freshwater resources and recycles nearly 90% of all wastewater effluent to maintain a robust agricultural economy and industrial sector, among other uses. (Pictured above, delegates touring the Sorek Desalination Plant in Plamachim, Israel.)

The delegation’s tour was part of a larger collaboration between the U.S. and Israel on environmental issues, and an action item for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Water Reuse Action Plan (WRAP). The mission was a collaboration between the WateReuse Association, EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and several Israeli government ministries, including the Ministries of Environment, Economy and Industry, Agriculture, and Health.

John Kmiec"Israel has a strong commitment to using every drop of water at least twice, from desalination for potable use, through the wastewater process and reuse for agriculture," said John Kmiec, director for Tucson Water and a member of the U.S. delegation to Israel. “Their non-revenue water programs and commitment to meter accuracy make their water systems very efficient."

At Tucson Water, Kmiec oversees the utility’s strategy to maximize Colorado River water by implementing water reuse. Tucson Water was one of the first U.S. utilities to develop a system to recharge and store treated wastewater, then deliver it as reclaimed water for non-potable use. 

"There were many similarities between activities in Tucson and what is occurring in Israel," he said. "A strong focus on how to avoid water system losses is something that Israel is doing that I think many utilities in the southwest could definitely learn from."

Reuse piping at the Emek Hefer water reclamation plantAlthough there are parallels between the southwestern United States and Israel, there are also many differences between the two countries when it comes to water management. These include size (Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey both in square footage and population), centralized vs. decentralized regulatory oversight (Israel’s Water Authority oversees and enforces all collection and distribution of water supply), and their different approaches to water as a public resource (water is viewed as a public good in Israel and cannot be owned by any private individual or entity).

Despite the differences, exchanging information with other countries can help inspire and guide water professionals to a new future of water management by utilizing a water recycling approach among other conservation strategies. (Pictured above, reuse piping at the Emek Hefer water reclamation plant.)

"Conservation practices, as well as a strong non-revenue water program, will continue to be a key part of having a sustainable water system for the future, particularly in water stressed environments," said Kmiec. "Making every drop count and making every drop count more than once will be a key to long-term, sustainable water resource successes in the future."