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By Kris Polly
This month’s Washington State cover story highlights a virtuous cycle that all irrigation districts would do well to emulate. On-farm efficiencies and changes in land use have put Yakima Valley’s Selah-Moxee Irrigation District (SMID) in possession of significant amounts of surplus water. SMID has banked the water with the state’s Department of Ecology, sold and leased some of it, and used the proceeds to carry out major system upgrades, thus saving more water. In our interview, SMID Manager Nathan Draper tells us more about the benefits of this cycle.
The rest of this issue is dedicated to Water Strategies’ December 2022 Israel Water and Education Trade Tour and some of the water leaders we met through it. First, we feature the thoughts of some of our tour participants on what they saw and learned. There’s also a map of the full itinerary of our very busy 9 days in Israel.
Then, we turn to Israel’s innovative agricultural industry. To start, we interview Yossi Ingber, a resident of Kibbutz Magal, one of the sites we visited, about his long career with the pioneering drip irrigation company Netafim.Next, we turn to another kibbutz-based company, beneficial insect producer BioBee Sde Eliyahu. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Shachar Carmi explains the concept behind the business and tells us about some of the creatures BioBee produces and sells.
The Central and Northern Arava Research and Development Center supports producers in the Arava Desert region of Israel with research into crops, growing methods, and water use. The center’s director, Aylon Gadiel, tells us more about the agricultural feats achieved in the area—including the use of saline groundwater mixes to grow tomatoes, melons, and even bananas.
Kibbutz Lotan is another agricultural community based in the Arava region. We speak with Mike Kaplin, the director and founder of Lotan’s Center for Creative Ecology, and Mark Naveh, the center’s program director, about sustainable farming and living in this challenging climate.
The Jewish National Fund is a 120-year-old nongovernmental organization that works on land reclamation and reforestation, particularly in the Negev Desert in southern Israel. We speak with Gil Siaki, the head of the afforestation division in the organization’s southern region, about how simple structures like earthen embankments can capitalize on the desert’s occasional rains to support trees and wildlife.
Finally, we turn to Kibbutz Hatzerim, the original home of Netafim, and learn about its impressive jojoba-growing operation. Netafim Senior Advisor Naty Barak tells us about Kibbutz Hatzerim’s innovative growing, irrigation, and harvesting methods.
There is much to learn from Israeli agriculture, but two things stand out. The first is its technological innovation. Many devices and practices we use in the United States today—drip irrigation perhaps foremost among them—were invented in small agricultural communities in Israel. The second is the refusal to be dissuaded by difficult conditions. The Arava and Negev Deserts are arid and forbidding, but Israeli tenacity has turned them into export powerhouses. There is much to learn from these examples, and I hope this issue helps you do just that.
Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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