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Israel delegation explores innovative solutions to water scarcity

In Israel, water scarcity is an engine that drives the adoption of innovative technologies. A water delegation hosted by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Israel-Colorado Innovation Fund and the Israeli Government recently traveled to Israel to tour water management systems and study new and historical techniques for supplying precious water in a landscape that is more than 60 percent desert.

Barb Martin, AWWA director of engineering and technical services and AWWA’s representative on the delegation, said the eight-day tour “provided participants with opportunities to engage while learning about key components of the Israeli water ecosystem and innovations that can potentially help solve their local water challenges and improve utility operations and sustainability.”

With a population of nearly 9 million and growing, Israel is a world leader in using desalination as a water supply source. The country also reuses 86 percent of wastewater effluent, primarily for agricultural applications.

The delegation (pictured at right), comprised of 18 representatives from water utilities, technology providers, academic institutions and related industry organizations, met with Israeli utilities, government agencies and technology providers in and around the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv. (Photo and video credit: Barb Martin)

“One of our visits was with IL-CERT, Israel’s Computer Emergency Response Team, where delegates learned from experts about cybersecurity monitoring and response in the water sector,” Martin said. “The head of the Water Security and Emergency Division of the Israel National Water Authority also demonstrated emergency response protocols to physical threats such as natural disasters or system failures, through the rapid deployment of potable water bladders, collection vessels and food.”

For an historical perspective, delegates explored the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Masada, which includes an ancient water supply network that collected rainwater in catchment areas and diverted it into cisterns.

“To prevent the porous sandstone from absorbing this precious resource, the cistern walls were plastered with an impermeable cement,” Martin said. “This is an ancient example of the innovation that eventually led to Israel becoming known as the ‘Startup Nation.’”

Delegates also learned about new techniques for collection system water quality monitoring, remote leak detection, controls, and treatment processes for water and wastewater. Yvonne Forrest, director, Houston WaterParticipant Yvonne Forrest (in video at left), a director at Houston Water, said she identified treatment technologies for wastewater that may have potential applications for her organization. “It was a benefit to build the relationships and talk to other people actually using the technology,” she said.

The delegates will reunite at AWWA’s 2019 Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE19), where the theme will be Innovating the Future of Water. They will join representatives from the Israeli government and technology providers in two internationally-themed sessions in which they will share their lessons learned about using innovation to solve utility challenges.

“Promoting international collaboration and the opportunity to learn from Israel, a leader in water technology and innovation, supports AWWA’s vision of A Better World Through Better Water,” Martin said.

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