Texas, Nevada hope for increased water collaborations with Israel

Gov. Rick Perry at Tel Aviv conference: Israelis are "leading the way" with new technology in this field.

Project Interchange delegation meets with Rick Perry 370 (photo credit:  Courtesy AJC's Project Interchange)
Project Interchange delegation meets with Rick Perry 370
(photo credit: Courtesy AJC's Project Interchange)
As the leaders of sun-drenched and water-starved southwestern US regions, governors Rick Perry of Texas and Brian Sandoval of Nevada expressed eagerness on Tuesday to see Israeli water technologies expand in the Lone Star and Silver states.
“Water is an issue that will define our times. I grew up with a very special affinity to the importance of water,” Perry said of his upbringing in a rural dry-land cotton farm.
For his part, Sandoval described his childhood on a small Nevadan sheep farm, which was “so far out in the rural area that we didn’t have a municipal water supply” and relied on a well tinged with iron.
“I would be embarrassed to go to school because all my T-shirts were orange,” he said.
Perry and Sandoval were addressing audience members at an opening session of the Water Technology and Environmental Control (WATEC) Exhibition and Conference in Tel Aviv, organized annually by the Israel Trade Fairs Center and the Kenes exhibition company.
“It is fitting that this conference is held in Israel. Israel faces some special challenges in a lot of different ways, but certainly from the standpoint of water,” Perry said. “Texas faces many of the same challenges that Israel faces today. We must strive to use new technologies to conserve and expand the supplies of the fresh water.”
Explaining that Texas had recently passed a measure that would provide $2 billion for water projects across the state for the next 50 years, Perry stressed to Israel: “We follow you and admire you greatly.”
Whereas Israel reuses approximately 86 percent of its wastewater by treating it, the United States only reuses about 1% of its own effluent, the Texas governor explained.
“This country is leading the way,” Perry said. “From a Texas standpoint, what we’re involved with is only the beginning. We’re ready to embrace the new technologies that will come out of this conference.”
Not shy about his intentions, he told the Israeli water innovators in the audience that “Texas is a place where innovation can be put into action,” describing the favorable business climate they would find by expanding to the Lone Star State.
He asserted that countries around the globe continued to look to Israel as “a country that has grown out of a desert an amazingly powerful economy – in ways that look a lot like Texas.”
Traveling alongside Perry to WATEC were two separate delegations from his state – one from the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce and another sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.
Not to be outshone, Sandoval also told participants of the welcome partnerships they would find in Nevada.
He, too, arrived with a 50-member delegation of Nevadans eager to hear about the Israeli water industry – the first such Nevadan trade mission to Israel, he said.
“Governor Perry talks about competition.
He wins some, we win some,” Sandoval joked. “We are very proud of our water center of excellence. I humbly ask you to check Nevada out.”
Although the city of Las Vegas has made huge strides in terms of confronting water challenges, and features the new Nevada Center of Excellence for water management and data analytics, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is still facing huge challenges, Sandoval stressed. A leader in municipal water, the authority is eager to form partnerships with the global community. Israel’s national water corporation, Mekorot, already has a home in Reno, Nevada, the governor noted.
“You see the success story of what has come out of the desert here in such a short time,” Sandoval said, adding that Israel’s success gave him hope that he “can do something for [his] great state.”
Mark Ellison, a member of the private sector who works with the government and industry in Texas’s water arena, told The Jerusalem Post that with 1,000 people moving daily to the Lone Star state, the water supply was facing enormous pressure.
“We’re taking measures to put in place financing for water infrastructure expansion,” Ellison said. “The reason we’re here and working with Project Interchange is that we also need technology and management practices that are prevalent in the Israeli water sector.”
He stressed that he and the other members of his delegation hoped to see Israeli firms moving into the Texas market, bringing with them key irrigation, desalination and wastewater treatment technologies.
However, one challenge companies might face upon entering, he acknowledged, is that in Texas there are more than 43,000 municipal water systems that all function independently.
While this factor does represent a challenge, bodies like the Texas- Israel Chamber of Commerce help companies overcome such obstacles, Ellison explained.
“You have to start, you have to be on the ground,” he said.
While the Project Interchange delegation largely included water practitioners from public water utilities and regional authorities, the Texas- Israel Chamber of Commerce delegation included a range of corporate and academic leaders in the sector.
The sole purpose of their visit, explained the latter body’s CEO and president, Clare Freeman, is to learn more about water technology being innovated in Israel.
“The State of Texas has a water crisis to solve, and we believe strongly that the solution has been developed right here in Israel,” Freeman said. “Our mission is to be the primary driver of economic development between Texas and Israel. We feel this is a great business opportunity for Israeli water companies, and Texans will be the beneficiaries.”