Recently in Bulgarian mass media were presented news related to the additional domestic water supply source with desalinated water from the Black Sea. The possible risk of water shortage and difficulties to supply and cover the whole water demand in the country was one reason to start looking for another possibility for loading the empty dams. Unfortunately, with all the water sources, Bulgaria will rely on the time to explore additional options.
Confirmation for the need and emerging future water-secure strategy are the difficulties Bulgarian Government and responsible authorities faced this year in water supply for agriculture and domestic provisions. Consequently, responsible authorities are starting new programs and strategies to find other solutions and perspectives for an additional water source.
In that regard, bilateral online meeting was held last week between Bulgarian Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Petya Avramova, Deputy Minister Nikolay Nankov, Ilian Iliev and Ivan Ivanov from the management of Bulgarian Water and Sewerage Holding EAD, the Ambassador of Bulgaria to Israel HE Rumyana Bachvarova, the Ambassador of Israel to Bulgaria HE Yoram Elron, representatives of the State Water and Sewerage Authority of Israel, the Israeli Export Institute and the foreign ministries of both countries at which Israeli state water company "Mekorot" shared its experience in the field of water management and the possibilities for alternative drinking and domestic water supply.
During the meeting, the worries about climate change conditions and the Bulgarian needs for good practices and models for water supply infrastructure management have been communicated. Probably alternative water sources as desalinating and reclaimed water are expensive processes, but it is always valuable to work on the cost reduction like finding better technologies and fewer expenses involved, as we all know that more than 97% of Earth's water availability is salted. The good news is that the discussion is now opened point in future Bulgarian strategies, nevertheless, it is new for Europe.
Israel is a country from which our country can learn a lot because it is a benchmark for efficient water resources use through good organization and broad application of new technologies.
The regional Minister pointed out that Bulgaria has over 90,000 km of a water supply network, which is highly depreciated. Therefore, efforts are focused on its renovation to reduce water losses and improve the service with both funds from the national budget and European funding, loans from international financial institutions, and water operators' investments. In that process, Bulgarian Water and Sewerage Holding's task is to improve asset management, support the implementation of critical water and sewerage projects of local and regional importance and seek ways to solve climate change issues.
The alternation of torrential rains and floods with periods of prolonged droughts in recent years in Bulgaria is an incentive to seek new opportunities for drinking water supply for regions with limited resources through unknown technologies for the sector in Bulgaria, including seawater desalination. It is identified as a challenge to change people's consciousness regarding the water resource and increase the responsibility for its use.
Deputy Minister Nankov revealed that there are regions in Bulgaria where purified water is used for irrigation and due to poor governance in some districts, it is not enough for drinking and household needs.
Representatives of the Israeli State Water and Sewerage Authority commented on the need for integrated water resources management. One of their main goals is to protect them. That is why every child in school learns how to save water to have it in the future. 90% of the water resource in the country is processed and reused. In 2005, 2% of the resource was from desalinated seawater, and in 2018 – 39%. The plans are that by 2050 the amount of desalinated water used will reach 61% of the total water resource. During the meeting, the two largest and most modern systems were presented, which provide a large part of the water for drinking and irrigation needs in Israel.
Of particular importance is the monitoring and immediate elimination of leaks in the water supply system commented the representatives of the State Water and Sewerage Authority of Israel. Therefore, it has been modernized so that when they occur, they can be identified immediately. Water losses in the country are 3%, and only in some municipalities, they are between 5% and 7%.
According to the pricing policy in the water sector of Israel, all consumers pay the same price. However, it is different for different areas – drinking and household needs, agriculture, etc. With a monthly consumption of up to 3.5 cubic meters per person, it is one value, but when consumption exceeds that level, water price also increases.
The Regional Minister expressed the expectation that at the next meetings, the topics of water price formation, loss reduction, desalination would be discussed at an expert level, as well as that our country would be acquainted with Israeli educational programs aimed at raising awareness among children from the earliest age for the importance and protection of water resources.
The subject for regenerating water in Bulgaria for irrigational purposes is already acknowledged by the Agricultural University of Plovdiv in the H2020 SUWANU EUROPE project, focused on water reuse in Europe through the reuse of treated wastewater in agriculture. Israel's national water company MEKOROT Ltd in partnership with the Agricultural University of Plovdiv and 18 other European partners through the project SUWANU EUUROPE aims to promote the effective exchange of knowledge, experience, and skills among practitioners relevant actors on the use of reclaimed water in agriculture. The project's ultimate goal is to enhance acceptance and awareness to an alternative source of an increasingly scarce resource, water.