Israel’s new approach to the global water shortage is to share technology and forge long-term partnerships.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a puddle to jump in anywhere in a city that sees only small bursts of rain during the few winter months, but Tel Aviv is poised to welcome about 20,000 water experts, buyers and sellers at its annual WATEC water conference this week.
Representatives from far and wide are expected to visit Israel from November 17 to 19 to find much-needed solutions to the global water crisis, for now and for the future.
Featuring awe-inspiring new technologies like a drone plane that detects leaky pipes from the air and the tried and true drip irrigation techniques, this year’s conference will have a new focus.
Booky Oren, chairman of the conference and CEO of Miya, the Arison family water company, says that forging partnerships for the long-term is the new Israeli business response to the global water shortage.
Oren tells ISRAEL21c that Israel’s water industry is actively seeking international partnerships: “We understand that there is a lot of know-how in the global water sector – that there are a lot of solutions for providing water. But the major problem is identifying them and how to create market access.”
The Silicon Valley of water
Oren describes the strategy: “We’ve invited more than 100 international delegations from the global sphere and will promote Israel as a Silicon Valley of water, as a global hub.”
Some of the growing partnerships include strategic joint ventures between Israeli companies and partners from Brazil, China, the United States, Europe and Africa, says Oren. “The innovation exists here; we are creating real strategic value.”
WATEC conference organizers have invited some of the delegations from various continents to express their water needs. Countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador will be presenting their needs in a forum to be addressed by Israeli experts. Experts from California and Australia, and African water ministers from countries like Kenya and Tanzania, will participate in similar forums.
“Their needs will define their market. The solutions exist here,” says Oren who was past chairman of Mekorot, Israel’s national water carrier. “The only way Israel can create a real solution [to the global water need] is through creating this collaboration between its innovation hub here and market access there.”
In the past, water conferences in Israel followed the same format as they do all over the world, with a platform of buyers and sellers, speakers who address timely concerns, and seminars to help educate conference-goers in between their browsing of the booths.
Today, the water conference in Israel has evolved into a global platform for partnerships hinging on Israeli technology and innovation. And Israel’s conference and tool-kit are not just about innovation, but also about supplying solutions that work, Oren asserts.
A country without water resources
“It’s not a one-time buy. This is a new and evolving concept,” he says. “We’ve created this leadership position because we needed to supply water in the last eight years as our own population grew and raised its standard of living. The rain isn’t increasing, so we needed to produce more water,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
Oren recounts that Israel’s water industry has met the challenge by becoming a world leader in irrigation technology; strengthening its water management sphere; and specializing in the re-use of gray water and in desalination – Israel has the largest desalination plants in the world.
The idea behind WATEC is to share this Israeli innovation with the world, says Oren, whose company Miya will also have a booth at the show. Miya has taken on the task of streamlining water management in urban areas, on the premise that fixing leaky pipes could save significant amounts of water and energy.
And just recently, Aqwise, a company that ISRAEL21c was among the first to feature, received a number one position on the latest Deloitte Technology Fast 50 ranking of Israel’s fastest-growing technology companies, with a growth rate over five years of 4,709 percent.
Aqwise has developed a scalable wastewater treatment solution using plastic beads and a special aeration technology to increase the speed of waste breakdown, as well as a wastewater plant’s capacity for treatment.
The last WATEC event was in 2007, when attendance exceeded 19,000 visitors from 81 countries. About 20,000 people are expected this year, as well as 250 exhibitors.