Utah politicians visit Israel, gather solutions to rescue Great Salt Lake

May 1, 2023

For five days in March, 15 Utah politicians visited Israel to gather solutions to reverse declines in the Great Salt Lake. The delegation heard from government officials, tech startup companies, and agriculture producers, all of whom explained the country’s remarkable shift from a nation of water scarcity to water surplus.

Since 1948, Israel has had to find its own water. The Sea of Galilee, at about one-fifth the volume of the Great Salt Lake, initially supplied about 30 percent of the country’s drinking water supply. Now, only 10 percent comes from the Sea of Galilee due to expanded desalination, which involves taking water from the Mediterranean Sea and extracting the salt to create drinking water. Currently, about 85 percent of Israel’s drinking water is desalinated.

Additionally, Israel reclaims 90 percent of its water through wastewater treatment and uses it for nearly all the country’s agriculture, a sector that dominates about 80 percent of all water use in the American West. Water tariffs are another way Israel maintains relatively low water consumption—priced at $2.12 per 264 gallons and increasing in cost after 924 gallons, a typical household pays about $150 a month and uses roughly 10,000 gallons of water during that time. In Utah, a typical household pays less than half that amount and uses about 3,000 more gallons per month.

Investments in startups that specialize in water technologies have allowed Israel to experiment with cutting-edge solutions to problems posed by water shortage. The government invests in companies through the Israel Innovation Authority, and holds no expectation that the startups succeed. “Apparently, there’s a big spread between the savings of water in Israel and in Utah,” said Barry Gluck, head of business development for water technology company Wasens. “But using the right technologies and employing them in the right places will certainly help reduce that.”

Quick hits

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Quote of the day

”This area is very important to our tribe, a lot of resources and really special areas for us going back millennia. There’s a lot of things to protect up there.”

—Leland Kinter, treasurer of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Sacramento Bee

Picture this

A mother bison helps her newborn walk for the first time

Each spring, playful and energetic bison calves or “red dogs” join the herd. Just minutes old, this newborn with its mom fights against a slight breeze to balance and hold itself up for the first time.

Photo by Taylor Albright

(featured image: Tel Aviv skyline from Jaffa, jbdodane via Flickr)