Monday, September 23, 2019

Israeli Technology is Answer to Flint Water Crisis

Earlier this year I stumbled upon an intriguing company exhibiting at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The company, Watergen, had an impressive booth that drew attendees in, but they had an even more impressive claim. The company, which is only a decade old, creates fresh drinking water from thin air using ground-breaking Israeli technology.

As I listened to the spokesperson tell me about how Watergen can create clean drinking water for entire cities, I naturally thought about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is an ongoing problem for the residents there even if the news coverage has declined recently. Rather than trucking in countless plastic bottles of drinking water to Flint, why not allow Watergen to set up their innovative technology and end the crisis? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to think of this solution.

Yehuda Kaploun, who is the president of Watergen USA and responsible for coordinating strategic development and partnerships throughout the United States, also was puzzled as to why his company wasn’t putting their solutions into place in the one American city that needed it most. Apparently, Watergen tried to convince city officials in Flint to use their technology, but they were resistant. They were content with continuing to distribute plastic water bottles to Flint residents, which is obviously not the best financial solution or the most environmentally-conscious option.

A Chance Encounter Changed Everything

Armstrong Williams
The Flint water crisis seems to be ending thanks to a chance encounter between two men. Armstrong Williams, the political commentator and entrepreneur, was in Washington, D.C. this past May at an event to celebrate Israel's 71st birthday. Upon leaving the event, Williams noticed the Watergen machine outside the Mellen Auditorium, where the event was held. Yehuda Kaploun was standing next to the machine and Williams introduced himself and asked him about the technology. Kaploun excitedly told Williams, who operates a local television station in Flint, about Watergen’s innovative process that turns air into clean drinking water. “Would this work in Flint?” Williams asked. When Kaploun explained that Watergen is the solution to the water crisis in Flint, Williams agreed to make the connections that would expedite its use there.

Williams got in touch with the general manager of Flint’s NBC25 who introduced the men to Bishop R.L. Jones, a pastor in Flint committed to community outreach. The pastor’s community center was providing over 10,000 bottles of drinking water per week to Flint residents. He was thrilled to replace the plastic bottles with a donated Watergen system. The Flint community now replenishes its water supply (approximately 234 gallons per day) without waiting for weekly bottled water deliveries.

The Technology

Watergen's solution is based on an Israeli technology invented by soldiers who were stuck in a tank without enough water. Air is drawn into the Watergen atmospheric water generator, where it is thoroughly cleaned, removing dust and dirt. The clean air is then directed through a heating and cooling process, bringing it to its dew point to create water. The water then gets channeled through a multi-stage filtering system to remove impurities, add minerals, and maintain its health properties and fresh taste. After the water reaches premium quality, it is either stored in a built-in or external reservoir where it is kept fresh or connected to the water grid of buildings, neighborhoods and cities, delivering clean water directly to residents’ taps.

The company, which was acquired recently by Russian-Israeli entrepreneur and industrial philanthropist Michael Mirilashvili, has a local connection. Elliot Grossbard, Vice-President of Sales for Watergen USA, is originally from Metro Detroit. Grossbard told me that Watergen’s commitment to solving the Flint water crisis has personal meaning for him because of his local Michigan roots.

Flint lawmakers were initially hesitant to implement Watergen’s Israeli technology, but that chance encounter between Kaploun and Williams, which led to Bishop Jones, will likely go down in history as the encounter that solved the Flint water crisis. Watergen isn’t going to stop with Flint. The company is committed to solving the world's drinking water problem, which affects an estimated 1.2 billion people. The $75,000 Watergen machine is being used all over the world to provide drinking water solutions in disaster-affected regions and is beginning a major rollout in the United States. The irony is that the technology innovation that could solve the world’s drinking water scarcity comes from Israel – the tiny country in the desert.

Originally published in the Detroit Jewish News

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