Nevada aims for makeover as water technology hub
State looks to Israel to help implement new technologies capable of easing the impact of future droughts.
With the Western United States firmly in the grip of one of the most powerful El Niños on record, the rising water levels of reservoirs is buoying hopes that an end to the region's devastating drought may be near.
However, for Southern Nevada any relief – especially in the context of rising populations and inconsistent water supply – is only temporary. Southern Nevada doesn't just need good water conservation policies, it needs to completely transform its relationship with the precious resource.
In order to become what Nathan Allen, executive director of the Nevada Center of Excellence, calls a "water technology hub," Nevada is partnering with Israel and its deep expertise in maximizing water efficiency. The Mediterranean country is home to the world's most sophisticated water system.
“Israel and Nevada both, for a very long time, have been forced to reconcile what the economic value of water is,” Allen told the Las Vegas Sun. “We all realize that if we don’t have that water, our economy is really going to struggle.”
In an effort to explore and promote new relationships between Israel and Nevada, the state recently hosted a week-long Las Vegas Water Summit. The idea behind such conferences, which will also be held this year in Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., is to not only trade expertise, but to also lay the groundwork for beneficial water technologies throughout the U.S.
The author Seth Siegel, whose book “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” became a New York Times bestseller, was the keynote speaker at the summit. He estimates that by 2025, 60% of the world's land mass will experience water scarcity problems. In the U.S. alone, 40 of the 50 U.S. states will be in the throes of a water crisis.
Siegel says Israel's success with water management makes it an ideal partner for regions struggling to come up with solutions.
"It shares the same problems of climate and desertification as its neighbors, but it has mastered the management of water resources, such that it can endure periodic droughts while supporting a growing population," Siegel writes in an op-ed. He adds that for regions looking to go the distance, it will take more than just upgrades in irrigation, drilling, desalination and reclaimed water.
"It is also dependent on a sophisticated legal and regulatory structure, market mechanisms, robust public education, an obsession with fixing leaks and efforts to catch rainwater and reduce evaporation, among many other tools," he writes.
Southern Nevada is just one of many new partnerships Israel is fostering. Last October, the country announced a new Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership to leverage talent and innovation from two of the world's leading startup ecosystems in solving the water crisis. That was later followed by the ribbon-cutting on the new $1 billion Claude "Bud" Lewis Carslbad Desalination Plant in San Diego. Created by Israel-based IDE Technologies, the plant will soon begin producing 50 million gallons of clean water daily from the Pacific Ocean.
As Siegel notes, the model already exists for nations to avoid guessing in the dark and tackle the water crisis head on. "Israel has transformed water from a struggle with nature to an economic input," he writes. "You can get all you want if you plan and pay for it."
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