Israel spearheading water-security technology


Akin to concerns in the Arab world about threats against strategic oil installations, Israel is taking precautions to safeguard one of its most cherished assets – water.

Lower than average rainfall this last winter means Israel is grappling with its fifth consecutive dry year, bringing Israel’s most important water reservoir – the Sea of Galilee – to its lowest level in 46 years.

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The current water crisis, paired with a continuous threat from surrounding countries, highlights Israel’s need to protect the existing facilities from accidents, natural disasters and terror attacks.

Terrorism is not the main risk in terms of effective occurrence, says Dominique Olivier, senior technical adviser at Veolia Water in France. However, it is still a threat that is being taken seriously worldwide.

“We can’t say whether the risk we’re facing with regards to terrorism today is high or not, ” Olivier says.

“We’ve greatly improved our consciousness of the necessity to be prepared, but it may be clear that some risks can’t be entirely covered. One of the characteristics of the installations we manage is that the networks are geographically expanded and it’s almost impossible to protect all the installations. Key installations such as water treatment plants are protected but we cannot ensure one hundred percent protection of all the systems. “

In Israel, water security has been a top priority for years.

“The Israeli position is that it’s a concrete threat, ” says Ori Yogev, chairman of the Whitewater water technology company. “We can combat conventional threats, but there is more of a threat from non-conventional terror, and water is a major factor in this. “

The threat is even bigger in the rest of the world because Israel is better prepared for these threats, he says.

The exact measures Israel is taking is a matter of security and those involved are reluctant to reveal details.

“We have some means to check the water and we’re checking it all the time,” Eli Ronen, chairman of the Israeli water company Mekorot told The Media Line.

“I’m not going to say anything about those means because it’s delicate and in matters of security it’s best not to talk about this issue.”

Mekorot has monitoring devices all the way through Israel’s National Water Carrier, supervising the quality of the water, says Aryeh Amsalem, another Mekorot official.

The pipe provides more than half the country’s drinking water.

“If the water is poisoned, we can identify this immediately; even if there’s a doubt the water’s been poisoned we can shut off the taps and stop the water flow, ” Amsalem says.

Israel’s water security technology goes to great lengths to avoid false alarms, which can cause huge damage and frighten the public.

The means employed for water security involve both prevention and detection. Besides physical barriers to water installations there are also sensors that detect obstacles near water reservoirs and can determine whether the threat is real or innocent, such as children playing or animals walking near the facilities.

“There is a very sophisticated monitoring system that can read data on physical protection and water quality and can determine whether there is a real event or not, ” Yogev says.

“The main focus on water security is online detection, frequently monitoring the quality of the water to determine whether it’s been contaminated by terrorism or by accident. “