White House Water Summit Highlights Israeli/California Innovation

The focus at Tuesday’s “Water Summit” was on developing new technology and innovation to solve the water crisis in California and improve drought resiliency across the country.

The White House announced Tuesday new steps and billions of dollars in private money to help solve California’s drought.

The focus at Tuesday’s “Water Summit” was on developing new technology and innovation to solve the water crisis in California and improve drought resiliency across the country. More than 200 experts, scientists, policy makers and high tech innovators attended the summit at the White House which coincided with World Water Day.

This new focus follows a six-month-long investigation by NBC Bay Area that exposed an antiquated and outdated water management system in California and showed how other countries, particularly Israel, have already addressed water shortages through new technology rather than relying on the weather.

Nearly $5 billion in private money will go towards the development of new technologies to help solve drought, not only in California, but around the country during the next decade.

The White House also announced another $35 million in federal grants to support cutting edge water science, including $4 million in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Among the projects featured at the summit was the Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership, founded by Bay Area entrepreneurs Aaron Tartakovsky, Mark Donig and Ashleigh Talberth.

Tartakovsky is also CEO and co-founder of the San Francisco technology firm Epic CleanTec, which designs systems to recycle wastewater in large urban structures.

Talberth is CEO of the Israeli consulting firm @t GreenTECH and was previously active in the think tank Next Generation in the San Francisco Bay area.

A lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay area, Donig is a graduate of Stanford and currently a law student at UC Berkeley and a non-resident research fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya.

“We have a drought situation where 11 of the past 14 years in California have experienced a severe drought and that’s not getting any better,” said Donig. “Unless we find solutions” the drought will expand.

At the White House Summit, “Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership” announced it is teaming with Los Angeles’ Cleantech Incubator to bring 10 of Israel’s innovative start-ups to California in an attempt to find new solutions to solve California’s drought.

The LA incubator partnership is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2016.

“We’re looking for the best and the brightest of the Israelis to come over to California,” said Tartakovsky. “Israel has been a world leader in the water sector for a long time. Israel actually is water independent which means if it doesn’t rain Israel is going to be OK. And that’s the type of approach we want to have in California.”

Also featured at the White House Water Summit: 

  • A project to improve weather forecasting for water-management operations put together by the US Army Corps of Engineers, USGS, NOASS and Sonoma County Water Agency
  • A project to improve identification and monitoring of harmful algae blooms by the University of Michigan, NOAA and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  • The launch of a water-innovation accelerator by Cleantech Open, based in Redwood City 
  • A multi-year initiative to develop data solutions in the water industry by San Francisco based water-innovation accelerator Imagine H2O 
  • $4 million awarded to four institutions including Public Policy Institute of California, University of Utah, Water Research Foundation at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Clemson University

“Change can happen,” Tartakovsky said. “Innovation can happen. It’s been stagnant (in California) for a while. But I think we’re at the beginning of a water revolution in California and the rest of the country.

To see NBC Bay Area’s entire series of reports plus interactive maps, charts and extra interviews, visit our Surviving the Drought feature page.

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