Wetskills Israel 2013

The kick-off in Israel:

Dutch and Israeli Students Offer Solutions to Water Issues in Israel

The Wetskills Israel 2013 Competition has Started at Technion


The Grand Water Research Institute (GWRI) at Technion together with the Wetskills organization from the Netherlands started a special competition on Sunday (December 1) for postgraduate students from Israel and the Netherlands, during which students will be required to offer solutions to challenges and problems regarding water issues in Israel.

Attending this ten day workshop are 16 postgraduate students in water-related disciplines; about half of them are from Dutch universities while the other half are from universities in Israel. Four Israeli water organizations kicked off the workshop by presenting issues to the students that they will be dealing with. Students will receive support from water experts from Technion and from outside the Technion, and will have access to broad databases available at the information center of the Technion’s Grand Water Research Institute (GWRI).

“This program was designed to encourage international cooperation on water issues, during which students from different countries have an opportunity to sit together and challenge various water issues,” said Johan Oost, Manager of the Wetskills Water Challenges Program who is leading the program in Israel together with Professor Avi Shaviv, Director of GRWI.

“The Workshop has been running for about a decade and has already been held in China, Indonesia, Romania, Egypt, the Netherlands, Oman, Marocco, South Africa and Mozambique. This is the first time it is being held in Israel. The goal is to challenge young water experts on issues from the field, and encourage them to think creatively.”

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the unique characteristics of each country, students visit unique cultural attractions in addition to sites with specific water related projects that are relevant to the project. Last week, Dutch students visited Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. A tour was held with their Israeli counterparts at the Eshcol site, the “Chera” Lookout Point and other sites around Lake Kinneret (Sea of ​​Galilee).

Professor Oded Shmueli, the Executive Vice President for Research at the Technion, welcomed participants at the start of the workshop and said that, “Global challenges on water issues are both cross national and cross cultural. Collaboration has become the essence of scientific research. Nowadays, a researcher cannot undertake research on his/her own. This joint workshop for Dutch and Israeli students is a wonderful opportunity to make ​​future connections.”

Professor Avi Shaviv, Director of GRWI at the Technion, briefed students on the water problems facing Israel and its neighbouring countries in the Middle East. He said that because Israel has been dealing with water issues from day one, a thriving water industry developed in the country that allows for maximum utilization of water and seeks alternative solutions to the shortage of rain water. Israel’s achievements in efficient use of water and the implementation of alternative sources constitute it as the most significant authority on water technologies and knowledge in the world.

Student’s work will be presented next week during the water seminar of the Wittenberg Council in Tel Aviv; and will include hearings on water cooperation between Dutch and Israeli companies. It is expected that the Dutch Prime Minister and other Ministers will attend within the framework of a visit to Israel to discuss and strengthen Israeli-Dutch cooperation in water issues, energy, agricultural technology and food production.

The judges’ panel will consist of Israeli and Dutch professionals that will discuss and grade the student’s work during the event, and will select the winning project based on criteria that include innovation and creativity, practicality and feasibility, economic viability, social relevance and the ”Pitch and Poster” of their solution.

The students are divided into four working groups; each group is given a different challenge to deal with:

  1. Mekorot Israel National Water Company – The company asked students to find a solution to reduce single-celled parasitic pathogens of the Cryptosporidium and Giardia type in drainage basin of the lake. The Sea of ​​Galilee (Lake Kinneret) is the primary source of fresh water in Israel and is an important water source and at the same time is also a popular tourist and fishing destination. In the drainage basin of the lake there is a lot of activity which may lead to the release of parasites to waterways and from there they could reach the lake. The problem is that some water sources that feed into the lake are coming from outside of Israel’s borders, and there are issues concerning the monitoring of pollutants spilling into them. Cryptosporidium and Giardia parasites cause disease in the digestive system and small children are especially susceptible to them. This group’s mission is to reduce the presence of these parasites to a minimum and to come up with advanced water monitoring methods for detecting these parasite types.
  2. Water Corporation of Shefar’am area – The Association, established in 2009, treats water and sewage systems belonging to the city of Shefa-Amr and other nearby villages. The Association provides services to over 160,000 residents. Due to the lack of potable water and the high cost for agriculture, most villagers who were traditionally engaged in growing vegetables stopped to work their agricultural lands. Reduced agricultural yields affected the livelihoods of locals and damaged the social-economic fabric of the region. The Association has asked students to find ways to restore the farmers to their fields and offer them alternative crop options which can be irrigated by reclaimed water (treated wastewater). Students will need to rely on one of the wastewater treatment facilities located in the area (Karmiel or Acre) and propose the design of a pipe system capable of transporting treated wastewater from the treatment facilities to the farmers’ fields. In addition, the group will also need to come up with guidelines and find ways by which to disseminate this information to convince local farmers to prepare the area for farming based on treated wastewater, and prevent potential future environmental impacts which may arise from transporting recycled water.
  3. Anonymous Company (which has asked not to be mentioned) – The amount of vapour in the air equals the amount of water found in rivers and streams. Due to the growing shortage of water in the world, students have been asked to face the challenge of utilizing dew and moisture from the air as a source of water. The members of the group are expected to come up with an extraction method of water vapour from the atmosphere either by “milking” of fog or by passively collecting dew without investing energy, or by actively cooling surfaces. Students will need to select a region of the country with high humidity levels and which enjoy a greater number of potential days covered with dew in order to increase the economic viability of the system that they will design. This area will serve as a case study of possible applications around the world, particularly in areas that lack available water resources.
  4. Jewish National Fund (JNF) (in Hebrew Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) – Over the past few years the JNF replaced a variety of trees planted in Israeli forests from a variety of pine to natural wooded varieties of the region. Pine trees develop and grow rapidly compared with natural tree species which grow much slower. The JNF wants to encourage the growth of natural forest species stimulated through assisted irrigation. The JNF has challenged a student group to develop more efficient irrigation methods that will lead to increased forest growth. Students have been provided with an experimental forest plot for this assignment.

“The joint Wetskills Water Challenge, held for the first time in Israel, is an important leverage for collaborative interaction with research institutes in the Netherlands,” said Professor Avi Shaviv, Director of the GWRI at the Technion. “This is a great opportunity for us to encourage young people to engage in water issues in Israel. The Grand Water Research Institute at the Technion took it upon itself to organize the workshop on very short notice as we believe that it is of high importance that it will be held here at Technion.”

The workshop is funded by member companies, and supported by the Yanai Fund for Exact Sciences. Participating students also paid a participation fee.