Terry Spragg Comments on Water, Peace and the Middle East

Terry Spragg, inventor of the Spraggbag, sent me an e-mail responding to my previous posting on Water, Peace and the Middle East. I thought it worth sharing.


Dear Gabriel,


Using waterbag technology to transport Turkish water to Israel and Palestine can eliminate many of the political and economic issues raised in your recent editorial, and by Dr. Shuval, in your comments on the excellent NEW YORK TIMES editorial, “Water for Peace” (July 13, 2009) written by Stanley Weiss.


(Your readers can visit YouTube and insert the words, “Spragg Bag” in the selection box to see a video of television news coverage of a demonstration of this technology, or link to www.waterbag.com for photos and more information.  For more a more detailed analysis of the economic and political possibilities that will result from a successful waterbag operation in the Middle East, your readers may want to read the selections from the novel, WATER, WAR AND PEACE, that appear on this website.)


“Spragg Bag” technology can be visualized as a modular fabric pipeline that can easily and inexpensively move large quantities of water through the ocean in an environmentally safe manner, using large waterbags connected together in long waterbag trains with the world’s strongest zipper.  Waterbag economics are easy to calculate.  Waterbag technology is easy to demonstrate.  It is the politics of waterbag technology that is the most difficult issue that needs to be addressed.


As Prime Minister Netanyahu has correctly analyzed, Peace will not come to the Middle East without the development of a viable Palestinian economy.


A viable Palestinian economy cannot be developed without a reliable and economic water supply.


Transporting Turkish water to Israel and Palestine using waterbag technology is the least expensive and most politically viable way to develop a new water supply for the region.


This is an easy and inexpensive theory to demonstrate and calculate.


Dr. Shuval’s $0.50/m3 cost for desalinated water produced at the Ashkelon plant does not include capital costs, which would almost double this $0.50/m3 cost for desalinated water.  An email from Saul Arlosoroff (Director of Mekorot and Chairman of its Finance/Economic Committee) to David Brooks (Friends of the Earth, Canada) confirms this statement.  The Ashkelon plant received special financing considerations and natural gas concessions which are not available for the development of the new desalination plants currently under construction and being proposed in Israel.


Using Dr. Shuval’s economics, waterbag technology could deliver water from Turkey to Israel and Palestine in the $0.30/m3 to $0.40/m3 range.


Israel would prefer not to rely on Turkey as a source for some of its water supply.  All nations would like to be water independent.  However, military and trade relations between Turkey and Israel remain strong (setting aside the brief discussion between Erdogan and Peres at the recent World Water Forum in Israel).


Israel transports most of its energy from sources outside its boundaries using the seas.  Water transports using the seas should be no different.  The United States seems to be willing to protect Israel’s energy supplies.   Protecting Israel’s water supplies should be no different.


Israel proposes to build desalination plants to produce water for the Palestinians.  If the Palestinians are expected to rely on Israel for the development of a new water supply it would seem that Israel should be comfortable in relying on an outside source for a portion of its water supply. 


Waterbags delivered directly to the Palestinians can avoid this dependency issue.  The United States should commit to defending both these water supply transport systems in the name of national security.


Israel can use shipments of Turkish water directly to the Palestinians as a test case for Israel’s analysis of the economic and technical reliability of waterbag technology before it makes a commitment to purchase Turkish water.


The Palestinian concern that by accepting water from another source before it resolves its dispute with Israel over control of the West Bank and Gaza aquifers can be put to rest by using waterbag technology.  Israel should agree that transporting Turkish water to Palestine is only a test case to prove the economic and technical reliability of waterbag technology for both parties.  The acceptance of Turkish water by the Palestinians should have no relationship to the current dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the water in the West Bank and Gaza aquifers.


As the drought in the Middle East continues this argument should gain more acceptance by both parties.


Past failures of waterbag technology can easily be overcome by implementing a demonstration voyage of “Spragg Bag” technology between Turkey and Israel.  This demonstration voyage plan has been presented by Gershon Baskin (co-founder [1988] of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information [IPCRI], and a representative of Spragg & Associates) to various Israeli, Turkish, Palestinian, Jordanian and American government and business representatives.  If the political leaders in the region will publically announce their support for a demonstration of “Spragg Bag” technology in the Middle East to the media, then a demonstration of this technology should be able to be implemented with ZERO COST to the region’s governments.


Stanley Weiss is 100% correct in calling for the United States to take a leadership role in helping to develop a secure water supply for the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Water is becoming the most critical national security issue facing the nations of the Middle East, and therefore a critical national security issue for the United States.


The insidious nature of drought in the Middle East poses a major challenge for America’s security interests throughout the region.  American political and business leaders must be wise enough to anticipate these events.


As the drought in the Middle East continues, and recognizing that water may become the most explosive issue to be faced between the Israelis and the Palestinians, perhaps the Business Executives for National Security, lead by Stanley Weiss, will be able to take an active leadership role in gaining America’s political and technical support for demonstrating how water can be transported as a tool for helping to bring “Water for Peace” in the Middle East.


Terry also sent me a number of documents related to his comments. These include:

·         a letter from Israeli President, Shimon Peres to Terry;

·         a letter from research engineer, Cliff Goudey, of the MIT Sea Grant College Program to Terry regarding the control and stability of navigating such large bags across oceans;

·         a number of press clipping on the possible transport of water from Turkey to Israel and the Palestinian Territories; and

·         an e-mail from IPCRI’s Gershon Baskin to Terry discussing his July 2008 meeting with the Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr. Shaddad Atilli.

7 Responses to “Terry Spragg Comments on Water, Peace and the Middle East”

  1. Hi,
    I Have written a few words on the subject on my blog at:

    The number of 55 cents or so, at the Ashkelon plant is the *total* cost the Israeli government buys the water. In the plant being built in Hadera, about 100 km north to Ashkelon, the price will be even lower.


  2. Gabriel Eckstein (IWLP blogger) says:

    Thanks for your comment Elad. The numbers definitely need to be placed into context – the cost of production versus the the cost charged to the buyer. If the Israel government is buying at 55 cents per cubic meter, I wonder what the actual cost of production is at the Ashkelon plant? Is it higher, or possibly lower than the price actually paid? What about at Hadera (you suggested that the price paid will be even lower)?

  3. Terry Spragg says:

    According to the documents I have in hand and have referred to above, Mr. Solomons economics related to the cost of water produced at the Ashkelon plant are wrong. Regardless of the selling price, the capital costs are not included in his equation. I would only accept documented evidence as to the TOTAL COST to desalinate water in Israel. Their costs for desalination have gone through wide swings. What are the cost of the membranes, the actual life versus the projected life, the cost of energy and length of the contracts, the terms of financing, etc. There are many questions that have been asked but the government has given no documents to back up the answers.

    I suggest you look at a picture of a waterbag (see http://www.waterbag.com) and then look at a photo of the inside of a desalination plant. Based on steel and cement, membranes, etc, versus fabric and a zipper, what looks like it would be the most inexpensive system to construct? And the cost of energy to operate a desal plant versus the cost of energy to move the same volume of water through the ocean using waterbags gives a clear advantage to waterbag technology.

    And this doesn’t even put a value on the environmental advantages of waterbag technology versus desalination plants, the cost of the expensive coastal property, etc.

    To enter this argument you must base your opinions on documentable facts.

    T. Spragg

  4. First of all I must say that the price of the water is not paid in dollars but in Israeli Shekels. The numbers we use are from about the time the contract was signed. Since then the dollar/Shekel exchange rate went up and down strongly.

    The cost of production must be less than what it sells for since I don’t know of any subsidy. The last numbers I have are from last year, the cost of the water at Hadera is about 7% less than the price in Ashkelon.

  5. Mr. Spragg,

    The Israeli government issued a public BOT tender. The BOT Project is for financing, design, construction, operation and transfer of the plant with guaranteed production capability of 100 mcm/year for a term of 25 years. After 25 years the plant will be transferred, at no additional cost, to the state of Israel. The initial price was set at 52.7 cent/m3. There are no hidden fees!

  6. As for documentation: I’m not a government official. I’m a private water resources engineer but I know the numbers. Take a look at the publication over at Desalination and see the facts:

  7. Terry Spragg says:

    Mr. Salomons,
    I appreciate your comments. As you know, desalination figures vary widely around the world depending on many factors. A 50 MGD plant is being proposed for California where the water to be produced will cost around $1,000 per acre foot, and a $250/acre foot subsidy is involved. I believe IDE is involved in this project. I don’t move from Shekels to Dollars very well, and as you point out the dollar/shekel exchange rate varies widely. An acre foot is equal to 1,233 m3.

    Throughout Mr. Arlosoroff’s email to Mr. Brooks that I have in front of me he quotes the “…unit of water “EX PLANT” is again 52 USC/C.M.” and “…The Ashkelon plant produces water for 52-55 USC/C.M. (EX PLANT)” (My caps added). I can only go by what the documents in front of me say. Since $0.52/m3 is well below all other costs for true sea water desalination I have seen around the world it would be very helpful for our argument to see a detailed cost breakdown of the figures from this BOT tender. Is the cost of land included? How is the financing arranged and at what rates? Facts can become fiction when it comes to desalination numbers as you well know. I have seen a recent bid for a desalination plant in Saudi Arabia that would produce water in the $0.90/m3 meter to $1.10/m3 range, and Saudi Arabia has a lot of cheap energy. I recall seeing a document that discussed a dispute between BP, and Egypian gas company and a Palestinian company over who had the rights to the gas to be used at the first Ashkelon plant and the contract cost for this gas. It was said that this gas price would not be duplicated in the future because of the special circumstances involved. Maybe you know about this issue. I don’t question your integrity or your professional experience. It is just that desalination numbers around the world are all over the map and there should be some way to arrive at a standard. In the end, I will put up the cost to transport water from Turkey to Israel and Palestine using waterbag technology against any desalination numbers. Again, look at photos of waterbags and desalination plants. What looks cheaper and easier to build? The tugs and the plumbing for the waterbag system are simple off-the-shelf technology. Thanks for your comments. What are your opinions on waterbag technology and economics? Terry Spragg