The author of “Let There Be Water” was invited to present on the Israeli case study by Ángel Gurría, secretary-general of the OECD.
The world is looking for best-practices in confronting the global water crisis. Seth Siegel, the author of “Let There Be Water – Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” has become something of a guru in this arena, and is serving as an informal ambassador for Israel’s water industry. He was recently invited to the OECD’s headquarters in Paris for a meeting and presentation, as part of the prestigious “Coffee with the Secretary General” project, where world’s foremost thinkers come to the OECD to meet Secretary-General Angel Gurría and participate in a discussion with the OECD experts.
“The OECD has a macro perspective on the global water situation,” explains Lena Zeiger, Israel’s Economic Attaché to the OECD. “As Seth Siegel mentioned to the Secretary General, the lack of access to drinking water may have not just economical but geopolitical implications within the next decade, including even waves of immigration northward, bringing about a potential global crisis. Water policies have long been an area of interest to the OECD that works to identify the priority areas where governments (both members and non-members of the OECD) need to focus their reform efforts. Naturally, Israel contributes to this work, including through presentations of the Israeli case in various opportunities”.
Seth Siegel met with OECD Secretary General Ángel Gurría, and then presented to a larger forum of 80 researchers, government representatives and environmentalists. The presentation began with an overview of the global water crisis, and a highlight on the unique case study of Israel, which has been successful in reaching water security. Siegel presented Israel’s water success as due to a number of factors, including: water governance in the national and local level, education (the Israeli government educated the population to view water as a valuable resource and created a culture of water conservation), water pricing and the fact that Israelis accept the fact that prices reflect the real cost of the resource and the service (something that is not the case in many countries), advanced water technologies and companies, advanced desalination projects, etc.
The OECD has produced quite a few concrete “deliverables” which are meant to assist governments to meet the water challenge, such as “The OECD Principles on Water Governance” (2015) and “OECD Council Recommendation on Water” (2016). The action plan may seem clear, but, according to Zeiger, implementation can be very challenging. “Water reforms are not easy and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Some aspects may be sensitive from the domestic political perspective – the difficulties encountered in Ireland when the government wanted to install water meters are a recent example of it. When people are used to water being free, like air, changing the perception can be very difficult.”
Israel’s permanent delegation to the OECD is active on a number of fronts to promote Israeli water technologies on a global level. One is the Water Governance Initiative (WGI), an informal network where Israel is involved and sharing best practices. This multilateral forum includes representatives from 24 countries, from industry and the private sector. Another planned project is a Roundtable on Water Finance. Beyond its value for “good policy” design, these can also be great networking opportunities to advance Israeli technologies, according to Zeiger.
“We’re working on bringing a delegation from the OECD to the next WATEC event,” says Zeiger. “When Seth was asked at the meeting ‘what can we implement from the Israeli model to other areas?’ his reply was that when we look at the bottom line, Israel – located in a geography where water is scarce – was able to truly solve the water problem. I think this is the real story, it’s an inspiration to show that this is doable. And this is a great basis for ‘exporting’ Israeli technologies and best practices around the world.”