Water is a vital resource for business and a critical fuel for economic growth. From energy and minerals to manufacturing and agriculture, water is an essential ingredient to the food we eat and the products we use every day. However, as we’re seeing here in Nevada and throughout the southwest United States, water supplies are strained. Groundwater basins are drying up, leading to an increased prevalence and intensity of drought.
According to research by Deloitte, without any significant change in how we manage water, demand will exceed supply by 40 percent by 2030 and the cost to close this gap could be as much as $60 billion a year for the next 20 years. An economic impact of this scale will affect our families, our local businesses and markets around the world. If left unresolved, costs stemming from water mismanagement could be seen in both our weekly grocery bill and the landscape of global geopolitics.
Addressing these challenges will require innovation in water management and leadership from the business community. That is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is bringing policymakers, business leaders, water experts, and researchers to Las Vegas this week for the first of its kind BusinessH2O Summit to discuss water management and develop practical solutions to prevent a water crisis.
It may seem ironic to host a conference about water in the desert. But despite being among the driest states in the country, Nevada has become a leader in water management and sustainability. It has shown initiative through its growing water start-up industry and smart corporate water stewards that have innovated their way in the Vegas desert for years.
Innovative water management can be seen in other dry environments, as well, like Israel. While Israel is 65 percent desert, it boasts a national water surplus and even exports water to neighboring countries. Israel has developed policies and processes that support smart water management.
For instance, Israel is able to reclaim 90 percent of its wastewater, while the United States reclaims about 1 percent of its wastewater. Israel also works to turn the Mediterranean Sea into drinking water, which provides about 60 percent of Israel’s drinking water. By prioritizing water as a national economic asset, Israel’s people have reliable access to safe drinking water, and its economy has prospered as a result.
The United States already partners with Israel on other areas of commercial collaboration, such as in the tech industry. The link between Silicon Valley and Israel has been built over 25 years, and now more than 250 major U.S. tech firms conduct international research and development in Israel. Joint research and development efforts have spurred global innovation and job creation in both countries.
Water management presents the next opportunity for U.S.-Israel commercial collaboration, and it has the potential to change the world. Israel already has hundreds of start-up companies in the water sector that support U.S. industry in everything from leak detection to drip irrigation. At our summit, a water technology incubator supported by the state of Nevada called Waterstart will sign a cooperative agreement with the Israeli Innovation Authority to promote greater collaboration in research and development, which will bring new projects to companies in both Nevada and Israel.
Businesses in Nevada and across the United States have the opportunity to lead in water management innovation. Through initiatives such as the U.S. Chamber’s BusinessH2O Summit, the business community can work with the Trump administration and state and local governments to shape public policies that encourage sustainable water solutions. And through these kinds of new partnerships, companies can share best practices in corporate water stewardship that will extend around the world. While these efforts are important first steps, we need to ensure they aren’t the last. The stakes are too high.
Myron Brilliant is executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.