Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is planning to purify his city’s water using new technologies created by a collaboration between the University of Chicago and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The two schools, which have been working together for the last 18 months, have come up with a series of proposals that would look at ways to purify water at the molecular level, making clean, fresh drinking-water more plentiful and less expensive by 2020.

“Fresh water is a commodity, it’s known as a scarce resource,” said Emanuel during the Sunday press conference announcing the collaborative project. “You have to become a good steward of that commodity.”

The two schools, along with the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, have committed a million dollars in seed money over the next two years to support at least five separate projects, the first of which will start this coming fall.

Signing the water research collaborative plan (photo credit: Mark Neyman/Flash 90)

Signing the water research collaborative plan (photo credit: Mark Neyman/Flash 90)

The initiative has been spearheaded by Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, who said he has put the issue of water conservation and restoration as one of the key initiatives in a $7 million plan to overhaul Chicago’s infrastructure and create more than 18,000 new jobs.

The Chicago mayor plans to replace 900 miles of century-old water pipes, replace 670 miles of sewer pipes, and rebuild 1,000 catch basins and pumping stations for water on Lake Michigan.

Emanuel, whose parents are Israeli, told reporters that working with Israel is all part of his dream of making Chicago a leader in water conservation.

While noting the differences between the two partnered locations, with Chicago on the shoreline of one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, and Ben-Gurion University’s location in the Negev desert, the mission of the two is the same, emphasized Emanuel, “understanding the issue of water as a commodity.”

The signing ceremony was the last stop on the mayor’s visit in Israel, which included celebrating the bat mitzvah of his daughter. Emanuel also attended last week’s celebration of President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday party and took a food tour of Israel’s finest restaurants, which he said “is always a treat.”