Liz Clark: Utah can learn from Israel’s innovative water technology

In Utah, water touches every sector of the economy and keeps Utah’s natural sites vibrant. From agriculture to hi-tech, skiing to hiking the state’s many amazing national parks, water affects every part of Utah’s economic growth and natural beauty.

Utah runs on water, so what happens when the water runs out?

Utah faces a daunting challenge. It is both one of the driest and fastest growing states in the nation, and it must find ways to provide water for a population that is projected to nearly double by 2060, while also maintaining thriving industry and healthy rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers. The current demand for water is not sustainable, and Utah needs to find new approaches that stretch limited water resources and improve water efficiency, technology, infrastructure, and policy.

Through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s work with the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative, much work has been done to showcase Israel’s incredible water story and what the U.S. can learn from it. It’s incredible how Israel, one of the driest places in the world, has thrived despite its water challenges. To showcase this innovative technology and best practices and further build U.S.-Israel partnerships, this week officials and water companies from Israel will attend the BusinessH2O Water Innovation Summit in Salt Lake City. This global summit brings Utah and Israel together to address new approaches to water management and support economic growth in some of the driest places in the world.

When Utah looks for lessons in water management and conservation, Israel is at the top of the list. Not only do Utah and Israel share similar desert environments and hyper-saline lakes, they face similar issues of water scarcity. In contrast to Utah, Israel has overcome severe water shortages to become a leader in water management and technology development. By prioritizing water issues and treating water as a national strategic asset, Israel has developed innovative solutions for water conservation and its economy has prospered as its technology has spread around the world.

Israel reclaims 90% of its water compared to 1% in the U.S., and over 80% of its drinking water comes from the Mediterranean Sea. It has pioneered major advances in water technology including water desalination and drip irrigation. In a country that is over 60% desert and where the population promises to grow 25% by 2024 —which mirror Utah’s own population growth — Israel is a world leader in solutions to challenges created by water scarcity. Utah can apply these lessons to navigate a world of water shortages while still attracting new business, maintaining high standards of living, and finding new opportunities for economic growth.

Israel’s lessons in water have a lot to offer not only Utah but the entire U.S. — the U.S. administration has a great deal of interest in learning from Israel on the technology and policy front, and is already making important movements in water conservation and policy as it looks to Israel for inspiration. Collaboration between the U.S. and Israeli government and companies can be an effective approach to drive solutions to water problems around the world.

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be announcing the National Water Reuse Action Plan that was developed with company input, part of a larger effort by the administration to better coordinate and focus resources on the nation’s water resource concerns. Immediately following the announcement, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Dave Ross will participate in the BusinessH2O conference to discuss the action plan with Israeli actors in the water sector as well as Israel’s experience with its own national water plans.

Clearly, Israel’s water story is a success story. How Israel got to a place to pioneer such technology is a model for places like Utah. While there is a growing awareness in Utah of a dwindling global water supply, there is a long way to go before Utahns consider water to be as precious a resources as oil. Israel can inspire efforts in Utah to move public perception, enact public policy that improves water conservation, and implement technology that saves water. Utah has a tremendous opportunity to build its water conservation efforts while also strengthening its relationship with Israel by collaborating on projects and initiatives with Israel and learning from the world’s water leader.

Liz Clark | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Liz Clark is manager of the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., and helps coordinate the Chamber’s BusinessH2O Water Initiative. She was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah.