California-Israel innovation pact: Solving the drought crisis
March 04, 2014

Wednesday morning at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will sign an agreement to address emerging global threats created by water and food scarcity, carbon-emitting energy sources, and inadequate health care. The Milken InstituteaEUR(TM)s Financial Innovations LabsA(R) are committed to identifying methods to accelerate and finance solutions to these perils. WeaEUR(TM)ve been fortunate to be part of the team that crafted this historic agreement and look forward to working toward its successful implementation.

LetaEUR(TM)s take the case of water, where both California and Israel, along with much of the world, urgently face the prospect of going dry.

Globally, water demand already exceeds supply in regions with more than 40 percent of the worldaEUR(TM)s population, which is likely to climb to 60 percent over the coming decade. This makes it impossible for water-scarce regions to grow enough food to feed their people.

Without innovation, the water-food-energy nexus will block global growth and drive conflict. The speedy deployment of smart technology solutions in conservation, water quality and infrastructure, aquifer remediation and agricultural technology could, however, support a sustainable water ecosystem.

California and Israel share a warm Mediterranean climate, the devotion of most of their water to agriculture, and record lows in rainfall. In Israel, in fact, JanuaryaEUR(TM)s rainfall was the lowest in 150 years. Both have also over-exploited their freshwater resources at a time of rapid population growth.

One big difference: per-capita residential water use in Israel is one-third of CaliforniaaEUR(TM)s and represents only one-quarter of annual consumption. Currently, California is in a drought emergency while Israel is not. For example, 85 percent of waste water in Israel is recycled toward agricultural use and recharging aquifers, while California recycles only 5 percent of its waste water. California relies on snowpack for its water supply, while Israel has excess capacity in water production from desalination — capacity it is now exporting to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

For California, scaling up proven solutions and improving them could set up the two regions to operate as a massive laboratory for resolving water scarcity throughout the world.

There are numerous strategies to explore and adapt. Among them:

  • Efficient use in agriculture through big data applications in irrigation, control, and new horticultures for water treatment in wetlands
  • Enhanced distribution efficiency through IT applications
  • Waste water reuse through aquifer remediation
  • Rainfall capture and storage
  • Desalination and mixing sources
  • Agtech innovations in the form of low-water crops

All of these solutions and more will be part of a technological portfolio crafted and proven via the innovation bridges that this weekaEUR(TM)s agreement will help build, from the Far West to the Eastern Mediterranean and the rest of the world. Both the small nation and the big state will continue to advance the cause of helping to quench the thirst of an increasingly parched planet.