Southern California imports a lot of water. Water doesn’t magically arrive, it is pumped. Millions of gallons are pumped across thousands of miles, often over mountains and through deserts. Pumping requires energy and that energy accounts for 20% of the energy usage of the state of California.
Israel is on the same latitude as Southern California. It also requires water but unlike California it actually doesn’t pump it from a far, instead it uses desalinization plants. California also has desalinization plant but turning sea water into fresh water isn’t free, it requires a lot of energy. And yet, US is at number 17 for CO2 (15tons/pp) emissions per capita while Israel is 40th (8tons/pp)(1).
So how does Israel get water with an energy intensive way and still save energy? Well, first is solar power. Israel uses solar power to offset some of the energy. It also uses its natural gas reserves which are half as polluting as other forms of fossil fuels.
However, the true way it saves is not on big pieces but on little pieces. 25% of CO2 is produced by air-conditioners. Israel on the other hand uses much more efficient heat pumps. They produce good flow, they can be used as heaters and they are much more energy efficient.
Second Israel does not use dryers the way US does. It is a hot climate with around the same rain fall as Southern California. However, rarely will a home have a dryer compared to US. People simply put their clothes on a portable drying rack or outside and use “solar power” to dry their clothes.
Another way Israelis save on energy costs also has to do with water. In US we have large tanks that are heated all the time even though the hot water is used for a small fraction of a day. In Israel the water is stored in small tanks on a roof where it is heated by the sun. Next to the tank is a small solar panel just in case the tank isn’t hot enough. And at night, Israelis will turn on a small electric water heater which will heat just the water you need for your shower.
These are just some of the ways that Israel saves energy. Another way is much more structural. Israel also builds up (multistory buildings) with lots of schools and shops nearby. A dense population with amenities in walking distance will walk more, be healthier and live in smaller homes making heating and cooling more efficient. Having everything nearby means that people don’t have to have as many cars, especially with great public transportation. Israeli public transport is affordable and with hundreds of bus routes and lots of buses, Israelis never have to wait long for a bus and can get to almost any point in about the same time as they would by car. There are also lots of bike lanes, making biking safe and ubiquitous.
Unlike Americans, most Israelis don’t seem to mind having a small home or living in a multi-story building along with kids or grandparents longer than Americans often do. This of course can only happen with healthy family relationships which leads to happier and more fulfilled people while also saving energy on building supplies as well as heating and cooling.
In the end, even though Israel is located in a hot climate, through simple actions they have not had to deplete the natural sources of water while also not exacerbating climate change through excessive use of CO2. US could learn a lot from Israel.