In a world where freshwater resources are becoming increasingly limited, Israel – a country that is two-thirds arid – has become a leader in developing state-of-the-art desalination technology.
However, less-developed nations find that installing desalination facilities is extremely costly, as they use enormous amounts of electricity and are location-sensitive. But thanks to a recent Israeli discovery, the desalination system may become much more affordable in areas like Africa and the Middle East.
Researchers from the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and central Arava R&D, have found a way to utilize solar energy at a fraction of the cost which can be custom-engineered for the desalination process, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The new innovation uses solar energy panels to power the pumps of a desalination unit that generates clean water for crops.
More importantly, the technology utilizes unique nanofiltration membranes that enable farmers to decide which minerals should be retained from the water to feed various types of crops, a method which requires much less energy.
The new system is currently being tested in the Arava Valley, south of the Dead Sea, where the basin is very dry. The results thus far show that farmers can use up to 25% less water and fertilizer than what has usually been needed in that area.
According to Andrea Ghermandi of the Zuckerberg Institute, who is one of the system’s creators, the current environment is forcing agricultural systems to become more economical.
"The growing global demand for food and competition for resources among economic sectors compel future agricultural systems to be more efficient in the use of natural resources such as land and water," Ghermandi said.
Rami Messalem, who was also part of the developing team, explained that, "The breakthrough here was to make the system more economical and we’ve done this using nanofiltration cleverly. Our system is compatible with electricity but is based on the premise that it can be used in poor countries, in places where you don’t have an electricity source – as a standalone system."
Reprinted with permission from the Tazpit News Agency