Israelis, Palestinians tackle water shortage with tech

In London, researchers from the Mideast, Europea and the US gather to discuss the challenges of water scarcity and hygiene

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Wilton Park, South London, UK (courtesy)
Wilton Park, South London, UK (courtesy)

Israeli and Palestinian researchers came together last week with colleagues from around the world in the green and pastoral setting of South London’s Wilton Park to discuss the challenges of water scarcity.

The conference, a show of cross-border dialogue, focused on innovations that can benefit water-scarce communities. It was attended by around 70 experts, including many from Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and the UK. Other participants came from Bahrain, Morocco, and Oman, as well as the United States and other European nations.

Among the topics discussed at the conference were new water technologies and partnerships and their effects on regional stability, the financing of water innovation, and how water issues affect women.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion people find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people — they are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever. By 2025, the WWF says, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water scarcity.

“By cooperating with colleagues from the UK and the Middle East, we’re able to explore better management of municipal wastewater and contaminated groundwater,” Prof. Eilon Adar of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, who spoke at the conference, said in a statement. “This week at Wilton Park, we witnessed the huge potential for more partnerships such as this.”

The four-day event was held in association with the British Council, the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy and the UK Government’s Science and Innovation Network. Wilton Park is an executive agency of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office that specializes in convening and facilitating high level foreign policy dialogues.

Britain is encouraging increased scientific cooperation on water between British and Middle Eastern researchers. Most recently, the UK-funded STREAM program was launched, which will support joint water research by British, Israeli and Middle Eastern scientists.

Nader Khateeb, Palestinian director of EcoPeace Middle East, an organization that promotes environmental collaboration between Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis, said, “Ensuring reliable water supply and water quality is a universal duty all of us share; we owe it to ourselves and to the next generation.”

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