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Mekorot – Making Waves in Water Provision

By: Mickey Chesla

The Mekorot National Water Company continues to illustrate that Israel leads the world when it comes to desalination – with work well underway on the construction of Israel’s new water conduit. The “New National Carrier” will be connected to all national desalination plants, in an ambitious plan to increase levels of water reclamation to a massive 90%.

As well as revolutionizing Israel’s water infrastructure, Mekorot is also busy expanding its international activities at record speed – its unstoppable advances in technological innovation making this possible.

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Over the past decade, during a period of global climate change, many countries – Israel included – have encountered a serious water deficit. As a solution to the problem, Israel, in particular, has relied more and more on desalination – starting something of a revolution in this area, and attracting interest from the rest of the world.

The water conductance system currently under construction by Mekorot differs markedly from its predecessor. In the past Israel used to draw water from the North (Sea of Galilee) to the South (the rest of the country). Under the new system, The New National Carrier will transfer water from the West (from coastal desalination plants) to the East, and to the North, Center, and South according to demand. The New National Carrier has already been connected to desalination plants in Ashkelon, Hadera and Palmahim, and after the plants in Soreq and Ashdod are completed – they too will be connected.

Nowhere else in the world has there been such large-scale desalination preparation. In terms of numbers, the desalination plants that will be connected to The New National Carrier are expected to provide 300 million cubes of water annually, in addition to the 301 million cubes of water currently being provided by the existing plants.

Mekorot is building the Ashdod plant in record time, a plant which will, by the end of 2013, be able to provide 100 million cubic meters of water a year to the national system. As part of its complex preparations, Mekorot is also building plants which will be responsible for storing and distributing the water, as wells as reservoir covering systems which will ensure the water’s high quality for an extended period of time.

The company will oversee The New National Carrier operations from sophisticated control rooms located in the Central and Jordan Districts, and will operate according to BAT (best available technology). This type of high level supervision will allow the company to respond in real time to the ever-changing water consumption needs by households, industry and agriculture.

According to Mekorot’s five year plan, by the end of 2013 when all desalination plants are fully operational, 75% of the population’s drinking water will originate from desalinized water. The amount of water pumped from the Sea of Galilee and Aquifers will decrease drastically, allowing Mekorot to start a much needed rehabilitation process for these natural water sources.

The national system will also serve as an excellent example to other countries interested in building large-scale desalination plants.

Jerusalem and the Arava

The five year plan also includes connecting the New National Carrier with a fifth line to Jerusalem. This is in response to the estimated increase in demand for water in the city and its environs over the next few decades. In addition, Mekorot is undertaking the rehabilitation of the southern coast’s aquifer, which has been affected by excessive salinity, and is also building and expanding its waste water plants. Doing so will increase the scale of reclaimed water for irrigation which today stands at 75% – to 90% by 2016.

In order to solve the water problem in the Arava area, Mekorot’s five year plan includes building six new desalination plants which will provide households in the area with drinking water. These plants will increase the amount of water here by eight million cubic meters of water annually. The plants will be built near populated settlements: Sapir, Tzofar, Hatzebah, Ein-Yahav, Idan and Neot Hakikar.

In addition, for areas where water shortages are predicted have been identified, including Lod, Cochav Yair, Mey Shapirim Lanegev, and the Ein Boqeq area – the company intends to invest in water resource development – thus fulfilling all future water requirements.

Under the five year plan, Mekorot is looking at a 6 billion NIS (about $1.5 billion) investment between 2012 and 2016. The company also has immense potential to export business abroad – similar plants can be constructed anywhere in the world, with no shortage of countries ready to benefit from their water management solutions.

 

Exporter of Innovation and Knowledge

It comes as no surprise that Mekorot is rapidly expanding its activities outside of Israel, via its subsidiary company, Mekorot Development and Initiatives Ltd. In Limassol and Larnaca (Cyprus) for example, Mekorot intends to provide 50% of all drinking water, at an accumulated scope of 100 thousand cubic meters of desalinated water annually by 2013. The company is also involved in a tendering process in countries including Africa, Latin America, India and Eastern Europe.

In order to compete with large global water entities and win tenders, Mekorot puts extensive effort into research and utilizes innovative technologies in all activities. The Water Technologies Entrepreneurship Center (WaTech) was set up by the company in 2004 in order to identify innovative water technologies and help to bring them to the international market.

According to WaTech Director, Yossi Yaacobi, the WaTech “incubator” has listed a number of successes of its companies in the past year, including:

  • Aqwise completed a successful experiment involving the elimination of nitrates at one of Mekorot’s plants. As a result they received a conditioned approval from the Israel Health Ministry to export their technology.
  • Genaphora developed a kit which can automatically discover water parasites, a kit which is now at the validation stage with the EPA.
  • Rotec-Water developed a technology, which improves the relative reclamation of salt water from 75% to 85%. After a successful pilot, the technology is approaching implementation in one of Mekorot’s plants.
  • Desalitech, a promising start up backed by AquAgro, a cleantech venture capital fund, is in the midst of signing an agreement for experimentation in innovative desalination technologies. This will take place at Mekorot plants, on behalf of General Motors.

It’s also worth mentioning that WaTech has submitted requests for four licensed patents in the past year, and is looking forward to a bright future. “We plan to deepen our research capabilities and the amount of money invested.” says Yaacobi, adding “Our vision is to become a leading entity that encompasses academy, industry, and theoretical and practical research. We are determined to raise venture capital with international businesses, in order to provide an adequate solution to companies after their incubation period, allowing exceptional innovations to reach the market with full financial backup – we want be these companies’ anchor in their most critical stage.”

In order to operate desalination plants and water transfer on such a large scale, new technologies are needed, technologies which will make processes more efficient and lower overall costs. In other words, in order for Mekorot to operate large-scale plants and expand its activities internationally, the company must always be on the lookout for the most successful innovations, and that is key in maintaining its leadership status.

This type of approach is actively encouraged by Israel NewTech, of the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, which focuses on implementing technological innovations within the local market, as part of an overall goal of promoting innovative Israeli solutions around the world. WaTech is an important platform for implementation of promising technologies in the water arena in Israel. Additional such programs include one which implements innovative technologies in municipal water utilities, together with the Israeli Water Authority.

Mekorot – Company Information

  • Year of Establishment: 1937
  • Area of Activity: Israel’s national water company
  • Subsidiaries and areas of activity:
  • CEO – Shimon Ben Hamo
  • Chairman of the Board – Alex Wiznitzer
  • Employees – 2,200 (including subsidiaries)
  • International Activity: Central and Eastern Europe, Central and Eastern Asia, Africa and Oceania (islands of the central and southern Pacific Ocean) and South America.
  • Finance:
    • Annual Revenue: NIS 4.3 billion
    • Equity: NIS 5.3 billion
    • Consolidated Balance: NIS 13.4 billion
    • Credit Rating: AAA credit rating from S&P for 9 consecutive years
    • Five Year Plan till 2016: a 6 billion NIS (about $1.5 billion) investment


Desalination, Wastewater Reclamation, Water
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