Could Southern Nevada Become a Water Tech Hub?

Nevada, which is generally covered with desert terrain, is partnering with Israel to learn how the country diverted resources to secure water through desalination and water reuse technologies.

by Jackie Valley, Las Vegas Sun / February 2, 2016
Southern Nevada typically receives 4 inches of water a year. flickr/Tearbringer

(TNS) -- Could Southern Nevada, a desert community with an uncertain water future, become a “water technology hub”?

Nathan Allen, executive director of the Nevada Center of Excellence, thinks yes — partially thanks to Israeli companies expanding here, setting the groundwork for others to do the same.

“Israel and Nevada both, for a very long time, have been forced to reconcile what the economic value of water is,” he said. “We all realize that if we don’t have that water, our economy is really going to struggle.”

Israel, once facing a dire water crisis, turned the tide by making water a matter of national security. The desert country launched successful desalination programs, significantly boosted water reuse rates and began developing numerous water technologies. The nation’s laudable efforts garnered even more interest last year with the publication of Seth Siegel’s book, “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World,” which became a New York Times bestseller.

Siegel will serve as keynote speaker this week for the Jewish National Fund’s Las Vegas Water Summit, which, in part, will explore the importance of collaborations between Nevada and Israel. Given what it calls a global water crisis, JNF is hosting water summits in 12 major U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, to share Israel’s technological advancements and accomplishments.

The summit starts 9 a.m. Wednesday at UNLV’s Stan Fulton Ballroom and has been designed to be “comprehensive and useful” for both water industry professionals and surrounding residents, said Shawn Willis, JNF Las Vegas director.

“We really need to grow the awareness here,” Willis said.

Israel’s efforts already have caught the attention of Nevada leaders. In 2013, Gov. Brian Sandoval traveled to the Middle Eastern country to attend its large water conference and tour its water industry, Allen said. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development founded the Nevada Center of Excellence the same year, envisioning it as a “global leader in water development research and the commercialization of water development technology.”

Nevada, while not known for creating its own water technology, has a reputation for adopting innovative strategies to conserve water. That’s what makes it an ideal location for water-technology companies looking to expand their reach in the United States, Allen said.

Since its creation, the Center of Excellence has been working to recruit water technology companies to Nevada. Two Israeli enterprises — Ayyeka and Outlocks — have partnered with the center and will be employing people in Nevada, Allen said. Ayyeka produces sensors that can monitor water temperatures and levels in remote storage tanks; Outlocks makes highly secure locking units that work well for water-utility companies.

More companies likely will follow suit. State officials traveled to Israel in October and scouted companies interested in setting up Nevada locations, Allen said. The center received 17 proposals from interested companies.

“I don’t expect all those companies to end up here,” he said. “We are very selective with the companies and technologies we want to work with.”

The center also has been fielding interest from water-technology companies based in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Singapore, he said. The partnerships stand to create jobs and bring useful technologies to the United States, which is facing water shortages throughout the West.

“What we’ve really been trying to do is to create a system that allows us to share information and share technology in a way that’s a win for everybody,” Allen said.

©2016 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.