The Arava desert, a salty wasteland dotted with tufts of scrub, gets only about an inch of rain each year. And yet cows lazily low at dairy farms that collectively produce nearly 8 million gallons of milk annually. Orange bell peppers flourish in a long swath of greenhouses that skirts the Jordanian border. Kibbutzim with vineyards somehow manage to churn out shiraz and sauvignon blanc, unfazed by the desert sun.
The clusters of farms and wineries in the Arava are a testament to Israel’s acumen in water technology. One of the most parched places on Earth has found a way to beat water woes once so severe that Israel’s national mood rose and fell with the changing level of the Sea of Galilee, one of their most critical water sources.
That expertise helps explain why the University of Chicago sought out Israel’s Ben-Gurion University to help tackle one of the world’s most worrisome problems — water scarcity.