Israel, India ink new pacts on water tech

One Israeli firm is responsible for the potable water at the Taj Mahal

A new Aqwise system in Mexico (Courtesy)
A new Aqwise system in Mexico (Courtesy)

India has been in a chronic water shortage for years, but this year things seem worse. Drought, a failing water infrastructure, and even politics are contributing to what many experts are calling the country’s worst water crisis in decades.

More than ever, India is turning to Israel for assistance in dealing with its water issues. Last week, a dozen companies and as many Israeli officials were in India for its annual Water Week, where agreements were signed on water research and implementations of solutions between Israel and India, including several deals with the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana.

Leading the list of Israeli companies at Water Week was Aqwise, an Israeli water tech firm that has already had significant experience in India. In fact, it’s because of Aqwise that visitors to the Taj Mahal – located in Agra, a city with about 2 million people – have potable water, said Elad Frenkel, CEO of Aqwise.

“We helped build a water treatment plant, designed to treat 160,000 m3 per day and supplying drinking water to the entire city. Aqwise’s share of the project is several millions of dollars. Aqwise was up against several global and well-known water technology companies and its technology was proven to be the most successful and cost effective one.”

To clean water, Aqwise attacks the elements that make it polluted – the chemicals, effluent, and other unwanted elements that make using water a hazard – with bacteria that thrive on those elements.

Aqwise’s AGAR (Attached Growth Airlift Reactor) MBBR (Moving Bed Biological Reactor) technology uses thousands of little polyethylene biofilm carriers – little hollow plastic balls in which bacteria live, clinging to the walls of the carriers – and sets them loose in a body of water, which is aerated to ensure maximum exposure for the balls. Water passes through the balls, and when it comes into contact with the biofilm, the bacteria, hungry from all that aeration activity, scarf down the “nutrients” they seek, while remaining safely on the carrier.

Launch enough of those carriers into the water, said Frenkel, and pretty soon you have clean water flowing through the pipes of a municipal water system, even in a city as big as Agra.

The main advantage of MBBR over other methods of cleaning up water (like chlorination, filtration, oxydation, etc.) is that it is cheap, and very easy to set up, said Frenkel.

“It also takes up little space, providing a perfect solution for clients in remote or isolated locations who require to treat and dispose of wastewater with minimal operator attention,” said Frenkel, adding that the system can be delivered and set up within days of ordering – making it among the easiest to implement water cleaning systems around.

Aqwise’s system has been recognized with dozens of awards and is in use in hundreds of places around the world. In Georgia, the city of Folkston was ordered by the US federal government to remove excess ammonia generated by industrial runoff into the city’s municipal water supply. In Spain, the town of Marines used Aqwise’s tech to comply with new European Union regulations on sewage discharge. In Nome, Norway, new regulations prompted the municipality to use Aqwise’s technology to upgrade a number of wastewater plants within its jurisdiction to meet stricter requirements for reduction of organic and phosphorus levels in effluents before discharge to surface water (rivers, lakes, fjords). And in Slovakia, the system was used at several sites in order to quickly and cheaply upgrade its water system in order to facilitate the country’s entry into the European Union.

But the Taj Mahal project has so far been Aqwise’s crowning achievement – with the system being used to ensure potable drinking water for the city’s two million residents and millions of other annual visitors, making it the biggest MBBR project in the world. With that Indian success under its belt, the company hopes to develop new projects in the country, in the context of the new agreements between Israel and India on implementing water technology, said Eyal Artzy, Aqwise VP Business Development.

“It is an honor that an Israeli technology is being chosen for such a large scale project, out of global well-based water treatment companies, and an even greater pride that a biological process is the one chosen,” said Leshem. “It is certainly clear that a global recognition for Israeli green technologies has grown over the last few years. The project is strategic for Aqwise in several ways – due to its extent and due to the fact that it is an important penetration to the Indian market, and to the drinking water field.”

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