Population growth will likely challenge Israel’s wastewater management policies.

Israel’s population is expected to grow from 9.5 million currently to 15 – 25 million in 2065, increasing water demand by 160 per cent. 

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said it will need to desalinate at much as 3.7 billion cubic meters (m3) annually by 2065, compared to 0.5 billion m3 in 2020. 

The study said that additional demand will be met by desalination which could require the construction of approximately 30 new desalination units since the impact of population growth on Israel’s water supply is likely to dwarf that of climate change.

The researchers say the population growth will likely challenge Israel’s wastewater management policies. The country currently treats its wastewater for irrigation, but by 2065, the population will produce more effluent than farmers can consume. 

Constructing new desalination plants will also bring national security concerns. The plants have been, and could be, targets of rocket attacks, which would disrupt the country’s supply of clean water. 

Desalination currently accounts for about half of Israel’s domestic water needs. It already has five desalination plants, which were all built within the span of 10 years. A sixth desalination plant is scheduled to open by 2025.

Israel is a small country with nearly all of its population living in close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.

The transition to desalinated water in Israel has been relatively feasible – in terms of access to saline water and transporting that water to population centres. If Israel struggles in the future to meet water demand through desalination, it will really serve as a bellwether (indicator) to these areas that face even greater institutional challenges to reliance on desalination.