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Raising the world’s next generation of Water Industries Engineers at Kinneret College

By: Mickey Chesla

 

Kinneret College water engineering lab

The Sea of Galilee (or “Lake Kinneret” in Hebrew), which, until recently, has been the main source of drinking water for Israel, is indeed drying up, but the “Kinneret College In the Jordan Valley” located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is bursting with creativity and technology in the water arena, promising to become a source of innovation for the water industries throughout the world.

Because the world is increasingly suffering desertification, while water needs are growing due to modernization and accelerated urbanization in many parts of the world, e.g., in India and China, the field of water engineering is undergoing a fast transformation from low-tech to ultra-hi-tech. Today, in order to manage water resources intelligently and to respond to consumers’ needs, the water engineering arena requires interdisciplinary skills in areas like infrastructure.chemistry and biology, IT ; the best and brightest minds have to be recruited. The world requires technological developments that will provide smart, integrative solutions to the complex problems of water resources. Huge investments will be required in order to seek solutions. All these developments require experts in Water Industries Engineering.

These challenges stood behind the initiative, two years ago, to create a B.Sc. degree in Water Industries Engineering at the Kinneret College , by the Dean of the College’s School of Engineering, Professor Jacob Bear, a world famous water expert in the field of groundwater Hydrology and previously Vice President of the Technion (Israel’s world renowned Technological University). The first class will graduate in about two years. The number of registered students is continuously growing each year (from with 26 in the first year to 50 who will start in October, 2012). The study program provided is based on more than a year of relevant scientific courses such as physics, chemistry, and microbiology. The program also includes courses in economics and marketing alongside technological studies such as material engineering, electrical engineering, and programming.

Heading the department of water industry engineering at the Kinneret College is Dr. Ram Shpiner, a graduate with high honors of the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Technion, holding an M.Sc. degree in environmental engineering from the same institution and a Ph.D. from the Chemical Engineering department of Imperial College of London. Shpiner, who has rich professional experience, believes that the Kinneret program is unique in the world. It covers areas related to water infrastructure, such as water supply systems and irrigation systems, but also fields associated with water quality and the development and production of alternative water sources, such as wastewater reclamation, sea and brackish water desalination, and grey water utilization. The vision of the program is to attract and educate creative minds, who will develop innovative solutions already during their academic studies.

The new program has attracted excellent, experienced professionals who joined the academic staff as lecturers and researchers. The College is planning to establish a Center for Research and Training in Water Industries, where research will be conducted by members of the academic staff in cooperation with industry on new technologies leading to industrial products. The Center also plans to provide enrichment courses for water professionals (from utilities, corporations, etc.) from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

This is good news for the water industry beyond Israel’s borders. Israeli water companies have already discovered the program and they are headhunting it for fresh minds. Mekorot, Netafim, Bermad, Amiad-Arkal and other world-leading companies in the water sphere are among those who seek to recruit engineers who will be educated within the framework of this program. “We already have students employed in these companies, or receiving scholarships from them. We believe that there will also be interest from companies from abroad,” says Shpiner. The scholarships of about $10,000 per student cover the tuition fee for the 4 years’ program.

Philanthropic bodies who have identified the significance and vision of the program have provided the funds required for setting up the laboratories included in the program. These include the Arison Foundation, the Foundation for the Development of the Galilee, and the Dudi Friedman Foundation. “The investment in each and every student here is immense,” says Shpiner.

“We’re convinced that this B.Sc. program and the research center will help maintain Israel’s leading position in the international water arena, as it also takes advantage of Israel’s proven strength in hi-tech and electronics. I expect that there will be a wave of breakthrough ideas from our graduates,” Shpiner summarizes, sending a message to water companies in Israel and beyond.


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