In the US, cleantech has often focused on ways to develop alternative energies, like solar and wind, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that water may be an even bigger problem.
“Just look at what happened in Flint,” said Mark Donig, a member of the steering committee of the recently-formed Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership. “The lead in the water there is due to a longstanding infrastructure problem that is going to take years and billions of dollars to fix, and it’s a problem that is likely to repeat itself in many other places.
“As a developer of inexpensive and relatively inexpensive water technologies, Israel is a place the US must look to in order to ensure that farmers, industry, and citizens have access to clean, potable water.”
That’s not just Donig’s opinion. On Tuesday – which is World Water Day – the White House announced a series of projects and programs designed to “elevate a national dialogue on the state of our Nation’s water resources and infrastructure,” with support, investments, and resources provided for technologies that can improve water management, promote conservation, and “advance water sustainability on all fronts.”
Nearly all of the over 30 projects on the White House’s list of approved projects were born in the USA – except for the one approved for Los Angeles, which will establish a cleantech incubator where Israeli firms will develop solutions for California’s ongoing water crisis.
That project, announced Tuesday at a summit on water solutions, was proposed in December by the partnership, and “builds on California and Israel’s March 2014 Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on developing water and green technology solutions,” the White House said in a statement.
“Today, the partnership is announcing a new joint venture with the city of Los Angeles’ Cleantech Incubator (LACI) that will culminate in the introduction of 10 Israeli companies in water, energy, and agricultural technologies to the California market. These companies will help accelerate the shift to a greener economy, with a particular focus on benefiting drought-stricken populations across the state, including the nearly 123,000 farmers in California.”
According to Donig, “when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to California to sign the MoU with California Governor Jerry Brown, citizens of both Israel and the Golden State understood that it would signal a deepening of relations. But some of us also knew that to bring that agreement – which spelled out a framework for collaboration and coordination between on water, green energy, and agricultural technology – to life, we as private citizens had a role to play in building on the foundation that the two governments had put in place.”
The partnership was created to do just that. Established last October, the group seeks to bring innovative water tech to parched California, where, perhaps surprisingly, “about 10% of the water used is recycled, as opposed to Israel, where 86% of the water gets a second life,” said Donig.
Working with Donig, who is preparing for a career in energy law and international law, is Aaron Tartakovsky, co-founder and CEO of California-based Epic CleanTec.
“The White House progam is aimed at encouraging public-private collaboration to develop water solutions, and that is what the partnership is all about. We had a gala launch in Tel Aviv last October, and ran our own summit in December, where dozens of top cleantech and government officials from California and Israel came together to discuss water solutions,” he said.
“When the White House announced Tuesday’s summit in December, they solicited for ideas and we submitted ours – and they told us they thought it was a great one.”
Israel is the only foreign country named as a source for water tech in the White House announcement (only one other foreign firm, Japan’s Toray, is involved in the program).
As part of the program, Israeli start-ups (the selection process is still being hammered out, said Tartakovsky) will be invited to LACI, where they will be given specific problems to work on.
“It will be like a tech boot camp for them,” said Tartakovsky. “We will help them create ties with mentors, investors, and potential customers, as well as help them navigate the very jumbled California water business, where there are some 1,200 water districts and authorities – unlike the single Water Authority they are used to working with in Israel.”
Israeli tech is very important for California and the entire country, said Donig.
“Israel has had a great deal of experience in developing solutions for water recycling and reclamation, water-saving drip-irrigation technology, water conservation, and of course desalination – an Israeli company, IDE, is already helping to build one of the world’s biggest desalination plants in San Diego. California needs more of this tech, and the new program will bring to California some of the innovative Israeli start-ups that are developing solutions that we can implement here.”