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Despite Israel's carcinogenic waterways, local companies lead the world in clean-water know-how, and 2007 is set to be a banner year for foreign sales of the blue-and-white technology.
Dozens of groups from across the globe are planning trips to Israel this year with an eye toward purchasing some of the environmentally friendly technology being developed by Israeli scientists. The industry brought approximately one billion dollars last year, but Avraham Israeli, head of Water and Environmental Technology at the Israel Export Institute, said Israel's slice of the international pie could be $10 billion.
"The rate of delegations visiting Israel at this point is like nothing we've ever seen before," he said. "Companies in Israel have been dealing with water shortages and environmental issues since the founding of the state. We have a lot to contribute to the international community and they are now beginning to recognize this."
Spain, Turkey, Poland, China and Australia have already scheduled visits, he said. Israeli said there were more inquiries than he could answer.
"The government has set the goal of expanding this industry because they know Israel has a lot to sell," said Israeli. The international community orders $400b. a year in new water technologies, he said, and Israel wants $10b. of that.
"We think it is realistic, because we are set to lead the world in this," said Israeli. "It is just a matter of opening our eyes and seizing on the opportunity."
He pointed to a delegation he hosted from Tarragona, Spain. While Spain has a thriving agricultural industry, it faces constant droughts, said Israeli.
The Spanish delegation wanted to learn how Israel used maximized its water resources. The visitors left with information about reverse osmosis, recycling water for various usages, and treating water with clean systems.
"The Spanish delegation was prepared for their visit with materials and other information, but they were still amazed by what they saw here," said Israeli.
Israel has developed a name for itself in these fields, he said Israeli, but has not capitalized on the same technologies here.
"So many companies come across the same problem. They are trying to sell their wares abroad. Let's say, solar energy. And then they get asked, does your country, does Israel use this technology? And the answer is no. And that sets us back," said Israeli.
He cited a solar plant recently built by an Israeli company in the Mohave Desert of California. It is currently the largest in the world, and the same Israeli company has plans to build another solar plant in the US and one is Spain.
"Yet Israel still does not have a single solar energy plant like that," said Israeli.
"I am not a politician... but I think it is clear that they are not pushing the environmental technology because that is not really the issue that is going to win them the next election," he said Israeli. "We are creating our own events and organizing to bring more attention to the industry here."
In October, Israel will host the fourth International Water Technologies and Environmental Control Exhibition and Conference.