Your business: Water – a growth industry for a stressed resource

Israel is a small nation surrounded by saltwater seas and deserts. Freshwater development is a consequence for their survival.

Transportable desalination system 370 (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Transportable desalination system 370
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Mark Twain advised investors: “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” A wise man might advise investors today to buy freshwater technology companies; we’re using it faster than Heaven can replenish it.
Other than buying your own river, here are some ways to invest in an industry under increasing pressure to privatize.
National Geographic claims a clean-water crisis. Seventy percent of the earth is covered by water; 2.5% is freshwater for drinking, cooking, bathing and agriculture. Glaciers and snowfields trap 1.5% of that small amount, leaving about 1% for the world’s 6.8 billion people. Water delivery systems are aging and crumbling. Detroit Michigan’s mayor is proposing selling off the entire Water Department because the city cannot afford all the necessary repairs and improvements.
According to the UN, nearly two billion people live in water-scarce areas and more than half in water-stressed regions. One clean-water advocacy NGO estimates 3.4 million people die each year from dirty-water-related diseases: “Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours,” and “more people have a mobile phone than a toilet.”
Enter the private sector. Corporate executives argue they can do a better job than government. Private industry more effectively preserves diminishing freshwater resources, efficiently distributes freshwater and ensures heightened security for drinking-water collectors and water-treatment systems.
Mike Taylor from Honeywell says the water utility industry over time is one of the best-performing sectors in the financial markets. According to Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, “We will run out of safe, clean water before we run out of oil.” Water is a commodity with a market value for which people are willing to pay, spurring research and development in freshwater technology.
Israel is a small nation surrounded by saltwater seas and deserts. The neighborhood spawns an industry of necessity. Freshwater development is a consequence for their survival.
Sharing this knowledge with countries suffering clean-water stress opens new markets and is a humanitarian good deed. Israeli companies are world leaders in water conservation, desalination and sustainability. Investors, conglomerates and venture-capital funds are taking note of the accomplishments.
Emefcy Ltd. of Caesarea, founded in 2008, focuses on cost-effective wastewater treatment technologies for municipal and industrial plants and agriculture. Its SABRE product significantly reduces the energy consumption and excess sludge in harvesting renewable wastewater. Emefcy’s EBR system produces green electricity as EBR treats wastewater using microbial fuel-cell technology. Emefcy was named a Global Cleantech 100 in 2013 and in January 2014 was highlighted in Forbes as one of the start-ups to watch.
Their investors include GE Ventures and nearly a half-dozen clean-tech venture-capital funds.
Water-Gen is developer of breakthrough technology in high-efficiency air-drying systems. Fast Company ranks Water-Gen 21st in their World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2014. The company produces drinking water from air and solutions for purifying water sources. Water- Gen is pursuing strategic partnerships with consumer electronics manufacturers and industrial companies.
Israel 21c, a website highlighting Israel innovations, recently reported how Israel’s Paulee Clean Tec received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to produce the next-generation toilet for third-world countries. It was hailed at the World Toilet Summit in South Africa in 2012 “for its revolutionary toilet that needs no water and leaves no waste.”
WaterWays Solutions Ltd. is bringing clean-water technologies and business solutions “to off grid and rural areas.” Their products are easy to use and maintain, while consuming little energy. Two other companies work on soil stabilization to the infrastructure.
IDE Technologies of Kadima, Israel, focuses on desalination and industrial water-treatment plants. IDE does not compare to the multinational conglomerates GE and Dow Chemical in this field, but it can boast orders in Asia ($75 million order), India, the US ($650m. contract), Australia and Israel. IDE’s PROGREEN desalination plant delivers affordable clean water without using chemicals and reduces energy consumption. They have worked in more than 400 plants spanning 40 countries for four decades. These are but a few of the companies challenging the ditty, “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.”
Israel’s national agenda is clean-water development at reasonable prices delivered effectively and efficiently to people facing drought and threats to public health. Many brokers and venture-captital funds can advise on investment in this popping industry with a lot of capacity. We use way too much freshwater beyond the need for sustainability. Like in the Dr. Seuss book, A Fish Out of Water, we dare not feed ourselves a lot. “Never more than a spot! Or something may happen. You never know what.” Out of water means chaos and rot.
Harold Goldmeier is the managing partner of Goldmeier Investments LLC and an instructor of business and social policy at the American Jewish University, Aardvark Israel Gap Year Program, Tel Aviv.