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Mr. Yitzhak Kiriati
Israeli National Committee, ICID (ISCID)
Department of Agrotechnology, Water & Environment
The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute
29 Hamered Street, Tel-Aviv 68125

Tel : +972-3-5142848
Fax : +972-3-5142881
Email : kiriati@export.gov.il

Links of Interest
ICID Strategy for Implementing Sector Vision - Water for Food and Rural Development and Country Position Papers, 2000

ICID – Irrigation & Drainage in the World – A Global Review

Directory Contents..


1. Physiography

Israel lies on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea between latitudes 29o 20 N and 33o 15 N, and longitudes 34o 15 E and 35o 40 E. The country is about 420 km long form north to south, 19 km wide near Tel Aviv and 112 km wide near Beer-sheba. The north-western boundary follows the Mediterranean for a distance of 188 km; the country is bordered by Egypt in the south-west, Jordan and Syria in the east, and Lebanon in the north. To the extreme south lies the Gulf of Eilat, and in the south-east the boundary runs for 56 km along the middle of the Dead Sea. In the north-east the territory of Israel is bordered by the east banks of the upper course of the Jordan River and Lake Tiberias. The area of Israel is 20,770 km2.

The terrain of Israel shows considerable diversity in altitude within short distances. The land is divisible into three longitudinal strips running from north to south: the Coastal Plain, the Hilly Zone, and the Rift Valley. The topography is largely determined by the Great Rift which extends from northern Syria across the Red Sea and southwards. The Jordan Valley (including lake Tiberias) forms part of this rift; the rift crosses the boundary of Israel in the north-eastern corner of the country at an elevation of 400 m above mean sea-level (M.S.L) and descends to 800 m below mean sea-level to form the bottom of the Dead Sea. The water surface level of the Dead Sea is at -400 m below mean sea-level; this is the lowest place on earth. South of the Dead Sea, the rift forms the Ha&&146;arava Plain and further south it becomes the bed of the Gulf of Eilat in the Red Sea.

The average annual rainfall in the Coastal Plain varies from 600 mm in the north to 150 mm in the south. In the lower elevations of the Hilly Zone (150 m to 600 m above mean sea-level) the average annual rainfall varies from 700 mm in the north. The climatic conditions of Israel, especially the lack of rain during the long summer, make irrigation imperative for the development of intensive agriculture.

Israel&&146;s population increased from 0.87 million in 1948 to about 4.0 million in 1980 and 6.0 million in 1999. About 90% lives in urban areas and about 10% in rural areas. The population is concentrated to a considerable degree in and around the three cities of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv-Yaffo and Haifa. The rural population amounts to about 0.5 million of which the number of farming households is 25,000. The rural population has decreased from about 28% in the fifties to the current 9%.

The major part of the land in Israel is owned by the State and the Jewish National Fund.

Size of Holdings : The holdings allotted to a farming unit in the collective and cooperative settlements vary in size according to the soil and climatic conditions. The average holding is 7 ha.

The average annual turnover per unit is $100,000, raining between $300,000 in the Arava Valley and about $80,000 in the Western Galille.

2. Land Resources

Out of the total area of Israel 2,077,000 ha, the land area is 2,032,000 ha. The basic land use statistics are :

Arable land 652,000 ha
Forest & Grazing land 240,000 ha
Other land 1,140,000 ha

(Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Dept. of Soil Conservation and Drainage Israel).The area actually irrigated in 1995 was 230,000 ha or approximately 35 per cent of the arable land.

Soils. The major soil types in the Coastal Plain are sand dune, Pleistocene sand and sandstone. The soils in the north of the country are alluvial loamy and clayey, and in the Northern Negev, light rendzina, coastal dunes sand, sandstone and sandy loam, calcareous soils with loess deposits, loess and rocky 'hamada'.

3. Water Resources

Water Potential. The total average annual precipitation is estimated at about 10,000 MCM of which 70-80 per cent evaporates, and 5 per cent flows down the dry river beds and the few perennial rivers to discharge into the Mediterranean in the west, or into the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the east. Part of the remaining quantity that percolates into the ground is also lost due to underground drainage into the sea. The total average annual renewable potential amount to some 1,600 MCM, of which about 95% is already exploited and used for domestic consumption and irrigation. About 80% of the water potential lies in the northern parts and only 20% in the south, while most of the population and arable land are found in the central and southern regions, hence, large quantities of water have to be conveyed over 200 km to supply the water needs. Other sources include intermittent water runoff and reclaimed wastewater.

Major sources of water

Surface water - The Kinneret Basin. The Kinneret Basin which covers 2,730 km2 is situated in the north east of Israel. 70 per cent of the water reaching the Lake is the discharge of the Upper Jordan River; the remaining is the contribution of the tributaries flowing into the Kineret from the east and west sides.

Groundwater. Groundwater is available from two major aquifers: the Coastal Aquifer and Dolomite Aquifer. Surface runoff is sporadic and infrequent and observed only for a few days in a good rainy year. Despite the low occurrence, several regional and local schemes were established. The schemes divert storm flows from the rivers into surface reservoirs from where they are pumped into the supply system, or spread on spreading grounds and left to percolate into the underground aquifer (mainly along the coastal plain). At present, approximately 40 MCM are intercepted out of a potential of 135 MCM/year of storm water.

Reclaimed wastewater. The use of reclaimed and treated municipal wastewater is becoming an increasingly important source of water for agricultural and industrial purposes as the other conventional sources are far reaching a complete exploitation.

Artificially-Induced Rainfall - Cloud Seeding. Cloud seeding has been practiced in Israel for last 30 years on a countrywide basis. Originally, seeding with the aid of silver iodide began with the use of ground incinerators.

Desalination. During the last decades several small and medium desalination plants have been installed, for desalination of brackish and sea water, mostly for domestic water supply in the Arava Valley and the Gulf of Eilat.

Water Supply and Demand. Annual renewable water resources amount to about 1.7 billion cum, compared to an annual water demand of about 2000 MCM/year, of which about one half is used for agriculture and the remaining is used by the urban and industrial sectors. Currently, the urban sector consumes about 700 MCM and the annual increase is about 20 MCM per year, about 4 %. Israel population is projected to increase to about 8.5 million by the year 2020 and urban water consumption to about 1 billion cum.

The toal water production has increased by more than 70 per cent during the first decade, mainly due to the construction of the National Water Carrier. Water is supplied from all sources including: groundwater, storm water, treated effluents and desalinated water. Groundwater constitutes between 55-70 per cent of the total amount supplied according to climatic and hydrological conditions in each year.

Conjunctive use, scarcity and water use efficiency. To maintain a balanced supply, a mix of water from the various resources is supplied in order to avoid over exploitation of relatively cheap resources.

The traditional management of the supply or the &&147;top-down&&148; approach is being replaced by Demand Management, in which a greater public participation is introduced right from the planning stage, followed by implementation and operation.

Best technology and best practices are being applied to protect and minimize the pollution of water resources.

The Government through the relevant ministries provides grants and low interest loans for the improvement and expansion of water supply and wastewater treatment plants.

Table. Water Supply and Demand &&150; Israel 1997-2020 in MCM/year

Population (Million)
Water Sources
Surface Water
Treated Effluents

Urban Sector

Source: Israel Water Commission, 1998

Agricultural Production. Israel&&146;s agricultural sector is characterized by an intensive production systems, stemming from the need to overcome the scarcity of natural resources, particularly water and arable land. Despite a continuous decrease in the number of farmers, agriculture still plays a significant role in the national economy, contributing, in 1996, about 1.9 % of the GDP, 7% of exports and 3.1 % of the total work force (66,500). Agriculture is particularly important for the outlying areas where agriculture provides the sole means of livelihood for the population.

Israel produces 92 % of its own requirements, supplemented by imports of grains, oil seeds, meat, coffee and sugar. The monetary value of the import is offset by the large export of a wide range of agricultural products. Agricultural export amount to US $ 1.42 billion (7% of the total export), of which about $808 million (57%) is the export of fresh produce and about $610 million is processed food. The production of agricultural inputs stands at over $2 billion, of which 70% is exported.

Improved production systems have led to almost self sufficiency in food supply (92%) in monetary terms, while reducing the number of producers to 1:90 in 1996, as compared to 1:17 in 1950s.

4. Irrigation and Drainage Technology

Irrigation Water Use

The agricultural sector consumes about 1200 MCM/year (65%) and this amount will not changed, although the amount of fresh water will be drastically reduced, as shown below :

Fresh Water
Tertiary Effluents
Secondary Effluents
Brackish Water

This quantity has not changed significantly over the last 20 years, despite the significant increase in agricultural production. Agricultural output has increased over a period of 30 years almost five folds with hardly any increase in the amount of water used.

Irrigation and Drought Management. The National Carrier met in a single system, the requirements of the domestic, industrial and agricultural sectors. In drought years, the requirements of the urban sector are met to a certain extent, while the supply for irrigation is drastically reduced and legal and compensation measures are employed to ensure the water cut throughout, including self-supplied consumers.

Irrigation and Drainage Methods. Pressure irrigation systems have been generally adopted leading to the development of a wide range of irrigation systems. Sprinkler irrigation is still used to a lesser extent for the irrigation of crops which require irrigation of the entire area.

Micro-irrigation. Drip Irrigation. Line drippers, regulated fixed drippers and integrated drippers pre-cast onto the wall of the irrigation lines were developed, delivering between 1 litre and less to 20 litres per hour. Also low flow emitters that deliver 200 cc per hour and a uniform spread of moisture through the soilless media were also developed together with irrigation drippers suitable for use with effluents.

Fertigation. Approximately, 80% of the irrigated land uses the fertigation method, combining irrigation and fertilisation

Irrigation Water control

Computers and Automation. Computers were introduced to allow real-time operation of the irrigation systems.
Moisture Sensors. Soil and plant moisture sensors are also used to provide information on moisture, allowing automatic operation of the system when needed.

Irrigation Efficiency. Due to scarce water resources, there has been continuous endeavour to improve irrigation efficiencies and reduce unit application of water by improving the efficiency of irrigation methods and using advanced techniques for system management. The wide scale adoption of low volume irrigation systems (e.g., drip, micro-sprinklers) and automation has increased the average efficiency to 90% as compared to 64% for furrow irrigation.

Water Cost. The average water cost indicated by the National Water Co. - Mekorot which supply about 60% of the total consumption. is US C 31/cum. The cost includes: capital costs (41%), fixed costs (26%) and variable costs (33%). The marginal cost of water supplied to distant and elevated areas are much higher.

Water tariff. Water tariffs and water allocation are based on a quantitative allocation to groups of consumers, namely: towns, local councils, and water users associations. water prices for the various consumers are fixed by a parliamentary committee based on recommendation made by the Ministry of Finance and the Water Commission.

Israel and ICID

Israel joined ICID in 1950 as a founder member, and has since been actively associated with ICID activities at national as well as international level. The 13th IEC meeting was held in Jerusalem, in 1962. Israel has its membership in one ICID workbody. At present, Eng. G. Kohen is the Chairman of the Israeli National Committee of ICID (ISCID).

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