The promise of drip irrigation — Israel blog — Day 3


This post is the third in a series by Sustainability Matters CEO Kristen Victor. Read the previous posts here: Day 1, Day 2

Drip irrigation has been a significant part of Israel’s successful water resiliency strategy. Early this morning, seven delegates from California boarded our guided bus and headed southwest to the desert region of Negev for a day of education and enlightenment.

Our first visit was Kibbutz Netafim. The people of Netafim are farmers who build and sell their product to other farmers in an Ag2Ag business model. Netafim is a global leader in drip and micro irrigation solutions. They offer state-of-the-art products and crop management technology systems. Netafim has grown substantially over the past 30 years, with 16 manufacturing plants and 27 subsidiaries, the largest of which is in Fresno, California.


At Netafim, we learned some interesting facts on the landscape and agriculture irrigation strategies in Israel. For example, there is no flood irrigation here. Only a quarter of irrigation comes from sprinklers, while 75 percent is drip irrigation.

In California, the picture is much different. Most of our water is used in agriculture. While drip irrigation has been adopted for high-value crops such as almonds, it has not been adopted for commodity crops such as alfalfa or corn, which are the largest consumers of water. The flood and spray methods of irrigation make up 62 percent of the irrigation in California.

The facts in California agriculture present a number of solutions. First, alfalfa agriculture could be a key driver of potential water savings if we shift alfalfa to drip irrigation. Imperial Valley is .

Another concept is the “bullshit project,” using cow manure to create energy and agrifiber products. Finding alternative uses for manure could also help keep contaminants out of the waste stream.

There are opportunities in California to support small, local farmers by providing incentives for them to upgrade their infrastructure, and by providing incentives for the public to “buy local.”

Finally, integrated rodent management, a shift from high-value to staple crops, and a shift to subsurface drip irrigation in commodity crops are all opportunities we need to explore.


Our next stop after Netafim was Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where we visited the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at the Zuckerberg Institutes for Water Research with Professor Shalom. We discussed groundwater as a viable water suppl and shared project examples, strategies and solutions.


The Water Laboratory symposium has provided us access to people, information and sites where action-oriented strategies have played a leading role in Israel’s solution to water resiliency. The history of Israel is an important part of this story, especially considering key leaders such as David Ben Gurion whose focus and determination laid the foundation of what the country represents today.

Fittingly, our day ended at Ben-Gurion’s desert home, a perfect ending to the day spent in the Negev Desert, a great Zionist asset.


Read the next and final post in the series: Day 4

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