Turkish water – economic, efficient and environmentally safe
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
The dry season has arrived together with the daily reports of the decline of the water level in the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). Every year at this time we are called to raise our awareness to the lack of water in the Holy Land. We should also not forget that the shortages experienced by Palestinians are far greater than those in Israel, as Israel continues to control almost all of the water resources. Palestinians still receive an unequal share of the joint water resources falling short of even the quantities set within the original Oslo agreement on water.
Israeli water experts have become “gurus” of desalination as the price of desalination continues to decline. There are emotion filled arguments amongst water experts on the real costs of desalination, ranging from about $0.50 per cubic meter (1000 liters) all the way up to almost $1.00. The advocates of desalination quote the cheaper price with the antagonists quoting the higher prices. But even with cheaper prices, desalination will have until now, insufficiently research negative environmental impacts including:
Salinity rise: The leftover concentrated salt water is injected back into the ocean, causing the local salinity to rise, which can create problems for some ocean creatures.
If the brine water is not re-pumped into the sea, the mountains of salts will have to be deposed of somewhere else, but where?
Chemical pollution: Chemicals must still be used to pre-treat the source water, and de-fouling chemicals must be used to clean and remove organisms from the reverse-osmosis system.
Energy use: Desalination is energy-intensive—much more so than pumping available fresh water—so more electricity is needed, causing more pollution from electric power plants.
There is no doubt that in addition to increasing the quantities of water available through desalination and reclamation of waste water that can be used in agriculture, there must also be aggressive programs aimed at conservation and more efficient use of water.
In the past there was also a proposal to import water from Turkey. The Turkish government invested a large amount of money in building a purification plant at the exit of the Manavgat River in southern Turkey along with a facility to load Manavgat water onto super-tankers that would transport the water to Israel and Palestine. But the cost of transporting that water by super-tanker proved to be much too expensive to make the project economically viable. After years of failure to find an economical means to transport the Turkish water, several months ago, Israel and Turkey announced the cancellation of the bilateral agreement to sell Israel 50 million cubic meters of water a year from the Manavgat. In the meantime, Turkey is privatizing the Manavgat plant with the hope that some of their investment can be recovered.
A new technology for transporting water in huge bags that float on the sea has been developed by Terry Spragg, a California entrepreneur, which can carry the Turkish water to Israel for less than the cost of desalination. In the past there were attempts to use the bag technology, but experiments conducted failed with the bags tearing or sea water penetrating the fresh water. The Spragg bags have been tried and tested and proven successful. The Spragg bags measure about the size of a jumbo jet and would each carry about 400 cubic meters of water (400,000 liters!). The bags can be connected in a long train of water and pulled by a tug boat.
There are significant advantages to this technology and because transporting the Turkish water is now economically viable, it is worthwhile creating a lobby in support of importing fresh water from Turkey. For one, the transporting of water from Turkey has no environmental problems associated with it.
The water brought from Turkey to Israel would be fed into the national water carrier, enabling Israel to lift that much less water from the Kinneret. Nearly 8% (!) of Israel’s electricity bill is from pumping water from the Kinneret, 213 meters below sea level, up to the national water carrier. Every drop of water delivered to the national water carrier in the coastal area saves a significant amount of energy cost needed to pump the water up from the Kinneret. Every drop of Turkish water delivered to the coast brings down the total cost of Israel’s water.
Less water pumped from the Kinneret can enable more water to be allowed to flow in the lower Jordan which will have a significant positive environmental impact on the polluted southern Jordan River and on the dying Dead Sea.
There are business interests in Jordan which are also interested in purchasing imported water from Turkey. Israel already ships 50 million cubic meters of Kinneret water from Israel to Jordan as part of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Jordanian purchases of Turkish water can be made by adding that water to the national water carrier and pumping additional water from the Kinneret (in the same quantity of the purchase) to Jordan. Once again, Israel will save money and energy by pumping less water from the Kinneret to the national water carrier. Jordan gains more water and Israel is able to reduce the costs of water by pumping less from the Kinneret for Israel’s needs and by using less energy, also reducing pollution.
The international community can also assist the Palestinians with Turkish water for Gaza. The Turks have indicated that they would be willing to sell water to the Palestinians at about 50% less than the cost of the water that would be sold to Israel. The Turkish water can be delivered directly to Gaza or alternatively can also be delivered to Israel and then shipped to Gaza through the already fully integrated Israeli-Palestinian water network. Additional water can be delivered to the Palestinians to the places where the need is the greatest - a decision that the Palestinians can make.
Most decisions in Israel concerning water are highly political. The issues are in fact much more economic than political, but politics and economics are easily intertwined and difficult to dissect. But at certain points in history the facts are so clear that they demand re-examination and decisions must be taken that are clearly beneficial for the country and the region. Economic and efficient transportation of water from Turkey makes more sense than investing hundreds of millions in desalination. I am not opposed to desalination – we must have varied sources of additional water, but it is time to take the Turkish option seriously and to advance this cheap, efficient and environmentally beneficial way of adding water to our dry pool.
Corrections and additions to the prospects of transporting water from Turkey
June 21, 2006
Quantities and economics
Terry Spragg, the inventor of the Spragg bags has already successfully demonstrated fresh water transports of two bags of 770,000 gallons, or a total of 1,540,000 gallons or 2,916 m3 in one water bag or 5,833 m3 in both water bags. We are confident that our optimum water bag size of 4,500,000 gallons (17,045 m3) can easily be built and connected to dozens of water bags this size to form a train of water bags.
A SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN article (February 2001) by Peter Gleick stated that Nordic water supply had some success towing a water bag containing 8,000,000 gallons, so building a 4,500,000 gallon water bag seems more than reasonable.
The Spragg water bags can be designed into any size to fit the particular delivery circumstances.
Readers who are more interested in this technology can view more information at: www.waterbag.com website in order to see pictures of what we are describing.
Regarding environmental issues: It is true that tug boats burning diesel fuel will also be adding carbon to the environment, but the negative environmental impact of the tug, operating out in the open sea, is miniscule compared to the environmental damage to the air by the operation of desalination plant on land close to population centers.
* Gershon Baskin is the Co-CEO of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. Baskin is also assisting Terry Spragg in advancing the importation of water from Turkey.