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Michigan looks to Israel for help with leaky pipes

Posted By Karin Kloosterman On May 26, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

Israeli company Miya is to help Michigan replace its aging water infrastructure and create new jobs as the result of a joint water agreement between the US state and Israel.

Earlier this month, a water main in the US city of Seattle burst, buckling streets and causing water to flood an area of 10 blocks. Some eight to 10 homes were damaged, and it took workers hours to stop the flood since valves were buried underground.

About a week later, a water main break in Massachusetts caused major delays on the Interstate 91 from Springfield to Enfield. Hours later, about 2,500 West Lafayette, Indianapolis residents were under a “boil order” after yet another burst water pipe.

America’s water infrastructure is aging, and experts are warning that accidents like this – that endanger both people’s lives and their livelihoods – are just the start. Now, however, help could be at hand, from Israel.

This month, Israeli company Miya launched a new pilot initiative in the US called ‘Green jobs for blue waters’ to help replace aging water infrastructure and create jobs in the sector in Michigan.

Miya, which was set up by Israeli heiress Shari Arison, will work with Detroit’s Water Works Park, Michigan’s Water and Sewerage Department, and the city of Farmington Hills, to cut water losses in Detroit and Farmington Hills, and create jobs throughout the region.

Green jobs in water infrastructure

Representatives from Israel-based Miya will work side by side with experts in Michigan to help identify faulty pipes, and leaks, and will together develop ways to go about fixing problems.

Project organizers say they plan to expand the program to the entire Michigan region to help stimulate jobs in water engineering, maintenance, installation and manufacturing.

“As these projects expand, we will train more Michigan workers and develop expertise that we can export nationally and globally as well,” said Lt. Gov. John Cherry at the official opening of Green Jobs for Blue Waters.

The initiative will not only create new jobs, but will in the long term save taxpayers money, as water savings translates to energy savings.

Booky Oren from Miya said it was a business opportunity for Miya, but also one for Michigan as well. “I think that when you are dealing with efficiency, you create more from existing resources,” he told the Michigan Business Review.

Currently water works operators tend to miss major problems when it comes to finding faulty pipes and making repairs. But Miya’s know how and technology provides a package of tools and expertise including acoustic sensors, and technologies that can better control water pressure over an entire municipality.

Water repair and vision badly needed in US

Supplying water to four million customers, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department estimates it loses up to nine percent of its drinking water supply, mainly due to leaks. Miya aims to send staff to man the two new pilot projects in Michigan to help alleviate water losses immediately, while the project looks for local partners to help fulfill its goal of creating new jobs, and a more environmentally friendly water works system.

This new project between Miya and Michigan is a direct result of a water cooperation agreement signed between Israel and Michigan at the end of last year.

In November, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm brought a delegation of Michigan businessmen to Israel for an economic investment trip.

During the visit, Granholm signed a joint water declaration – the first between a US state and Israel – to establish a working group of Israeli and Michigan governmental bodies to help improve water quality, energy efficiency and water reuse.

 “Michigan has the resources and Israel has the technology to create great synergy on this important issue,” Granholm tells ISRAEL21c.

The visit, she explains, highlighted some parallels between Israel – which was once reliant on agriculture and needed to diversify its economy – and Michigan.

A lesson for the State of Michigan

“Not that long ago, this country faced similar economic challenges to what Michigan is experiencing now,” she says. “In the last decade, Israel has honed in on homeland security and defense and water technologies and has strengthened its economy, creating thousands of new jobs and lowering its unemployment rate. A reminder that we are on the right path in Michigan.”

The meeting between the Israelis and Michigan officials was coordinated in part by the Michigan Israel Business Bridge (MIBB), a non-profit organization that operates to establish economic and business ties between Israel and Michigan.

The group, which includes Howard Edelson, of the Edelson Group, a lobbying firm in Michigan, works mainly in the automotive sector and is actively promoting Israeli Shai Agassi’s Better Place electric car scheme in Michigan, the home state of America’s Big Three automakers.

Founded in 2007 by Susan Herman and Chuck Newman, the CEO of ReCellular – the world’s largest collector and reseller of cell phones, the MIBB sees itself as a “connector” organization helping Israeli companies do business in Michigan; and assisting Michigan companies identify technologies, business partners, and investment opportunities in Israel.

As past chairman of the board of directors of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Newman says he has a love for both Michigan and Israel. “I’ve lived in Michigan all my life. And the State is having economic challenges,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

The exposure of Israeli water technologies to Michigan seems to be paying off, and is already starting to create new jobs in Michigan.

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