WATEC Israel 2011 - Creating bridges of water
November's WATEC conference introduces Israeli water technology innovation to delegates from myriad countries.
By Rivka Borochov
Every two years, water "pilgrims" come from all corners of the globe to learn about Israeli ingenuity in desalination, drip irrigation, gray-water recycling, water metering and management at the WATEC event in Tel Aviv.
Water consultant Booky Oren will chair this year's event to be held on November 15-17 at the sprawling Tel Aviv Fairgrounds and introduce all the networking and business opportunities that the world's water stakeholders can access while in Israel. Oren is the former CEO of Mekorot, Israel's national water carrier and a hotbed of innovation.
This will be the third WATEC conference and exposition since the Israeli government decided to promote water technologies to a global marketplace. You can find Israeli technology at work on Caribbean Islands, in Chinese desalination plants, in meters and valves across America and in greenhouses in far-flung regions of the world.
This year, about 150 international delegations are expected to swell the crowd to about 20,000 people seeking the Israeli know-how that is responsible for expanding the country's water-related exports to an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion over the last five years. "We began, first of all, to promote Israel and understood how when dealing with global challenges, we cannot achieve much without creating international partnerships," says Oren.
Innovation to implementation
Water is running out as the world becomes more globalized and more energy demanding. Israel's answer is "I2I" - innovation to implementation, the main theme of this year's WATEC conference. "We identified a major global problem," Oren says. "There are islands of innovation worldwide - here in Israel, in Canada and other locations in the world. When you are going to scale it up, there are major obstacles."
Proposing solutions that can be implemented locally is the easy part. The hard part is getting those innovations accepted and adopted. To ease the process, Israel has created water-tech collaborations between Israeli cities and overseas cities facing similar challenges. Partnerships are already underway involving Italian and Canadian cities. "When the engineers begin to share what is working and what is not working, we then create an openness to what can be done," says Oren.
"We are creating a new network of chains of information in order to establish the implementation of innovation. We are not talking about making revolutions in the industry. The main thing here is an increasing demand for water. Many times there are crises and the same crisis will happen somewhere else in the world, and maybe someone already invented a way to solve it," Oren says.
How water bridges are built
"Israel is an 'incubator' for crises," he adds in all seriousness. Israel has had to deal with water shortages since its founding, and Mekorot's solutions have been shared with places like Las Vegas and British Columbia. "All the leaders of these water utilities - all the global leaders from five continents - are coming to Israel," says Oren. "They understand that there is something here and that we are open to share our experiences and to learn from it. We are talking about collaboration. We sell Israel from an innovation hub to a partnership hub."
Some familiar water-tech companies that will be showcased at WATEC will run the gamut from the young new upstart startup TaKaDu, which is creating a smart water grid for utilities, including in the city of London; to market leader IDE Technologies, Israel's biggest desalination company. Some new players will be there as well.
A day before the event starts, a special symposium will allow investors and stakeholders to meet 20 Israeli water innovators, in the hopes of making water smart investments for Planet Earth.