Israel experience: Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation



Avner Vengosh, office 205 Old Chemistry. Contact: phone 681-8050; email:



This course aims to introduce Duke students to the complex environmental challenges facing Israel and neighboring countries in the Middle East and the innovated science and technology solutions that are emerging from Israel. The course provides a systematic introduction to the basic geography, geology, hydrology, and environmental issues in Israel, with a focus on emerging issues such as depletion and degradation of water resources, desertification, Dead Sea desiccation, and other environmental issues related to climatic changes that are also common to many countries in the Middle East.  As part of the course, the participating students will spend a week in Israel where they will be introduced to the environmental issues and will visit several research and technology sites, including desert agriculture, solar energy, seawater desalination, waste water treatment, thermal (fossil) water fish ponds, and electric car innovation.  The course is based on several pre-trip lectures at Duke that will prepare the students for a one-week visit to Israel (Spring break), followed by several post-trips meetings for further discussion. Students will be requested to present their experience and conclusion of the trip in a conference that will be held at Duke toward the end of the semester.

All travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by Duke University


Course details

  1. Basic concepts: Global water cycle, water scarcity, climate change and water resources, population growth and water resources, aquifer types, aquifer replenishment, water balance and aquifer depletion, water chemistry, water quality, salinization and contamination of water resources, urbanization, coastal development and sea water intrusion.
  2. Environmental issues in Israel and Middle East: Climatic change projections for Israel and Eastern Mediterranean, projected changes in hydrological regimes and water resources, quality of water resources, desertification in the Negev, desiccation of the Dead Sea, and fossil groundwater.
  3. Science and technology innovated solutions: desalination, waste water treatment and reuse for agriculture, solar energy, desert agriculture, water conservation, thermal water fish ponds.
  1. Sites in Israel 
  • Sites: Dead Sea, Sede Boqer, Negev, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
  • Solar energy: BrightSource development and manufacture (Dimona, Negev)
  • Dead Sea: past, present, and future. The environmental risks of lake desiccation and possible remediation;
  • The geology of the Maktesh Gadol
  • Desert agriculture (Sede Boqer and Mashabei Sade, Negev)
  • Thermal water and fishponds (Mashabei Sade, Negev)
  • Agriculture and unconventional (saline, wastewater) water resources (Revivim, Negev)
  • Electric car innovation (Better Place, Israel – Aviv area)
  • SHAFDAN – the world largest wastewater treatment (Tel Aviv area),
  • Hadera seawater desalination plant – the world largest desalination plant.
  • Netafim – drip irrigation and global water scarcity, Kibutz Hazerim
  • Mapal Green Energy Ltd (Ramat Shasharon)
  • Emerfcy Bioenergy System Ltd (Caesarea)