With all this coronavirus craziness going on, it’s easy to forget another kind of crisis facing humanity – the question of water supply.

Luckily, it hasn’t escaped everyone’s mind, as a new $21.4 million Israel-US consortium launched to develop water-energy technologies shows.

The Collaborative Water-Energy Research Center is set to be led by Northwestern University of Chicago and BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

It’s part of the US-Israel Energy Center program administered by the US-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation.

Working at the intersection of water and energy, the center will focus on researching, developing and commercializing technology in three areas: energy-efficient enhanced water supply, wastewater reuse and resource recovery, and energy-water systems.

The joint technology development efforts will culminate in pilot testing at water and wastewater facilities in both Israel and the United States.

Prof. Aaron Packman from Northwestern University co-directs the center together with Prof. Moshe Herzberg from Ben-Gurion University.

“Interestingly, urban wastewater contains more energy than the amount needed for its purification,” said Hertzberg.  “Our aim is to recover this energy, along with nutrients, and reuse the treated water.”

The binational consortium includes partners from research institutions, water utilities and private companies from both countries. The Israeli team includes, among others, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Mekorot – Israel National Water Company, while the US team includes Yale University, Argonne National Laboratory and others.