Is­raeli wa­ter treat­ment firm set to make US ready for hur­ri­canes

The Jerusalem Post - - REGIONAL NEWS - • By MAX SCHINDLER

The next time a hur­ri­cane rolls around, the wa­ter could be safe to drink. And that’s due to the ef­forts of one Is­raeli-founded com­pany.

“Be­cause of a nat­u­ral or man­made dis­as­ter, you have the risk of your No. 1 wa­ter treat­ment plant be­ing to­tally out of com­mis­sion,” said Henry Charrabe, the CEO of the Is­raeli-founded Flu­ence, a wa­ter and waste­water treat­ment com­pany. In many Amer­i­can mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, there is only one cen­tral wa­ter treat­ment cen­ter and if that plant gets flooded or loses elec­tric­ity, the wa­ter in the city may no longer be drink­able.

In re­sponse to the ris­ing threat of cli­mate change and ail­ing in­fra­struc­ture, Flu­ence sells por­ta­ble and pre­fab­ri­cated wa­ter and waste­water treat­ment sys­tems that have been in­stalled world­wide. That could pre­vent a re­peat of of­fi­cials or­der­ing res­i­dents to boil wa­ter be­cause a treat­ment plant was flooded or lost elec­tric­ity

“We put the treat­ment unit at the site of the cus­tomer so you save on the in­fra­struc­ture cost and you also save on the pump­ing cost for dis­tribut­ing it, that’s in the US,” Charrabe said, speak­ing at the bian­nual WATEC wa­ter-tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence in Tel Aviv on Wed­nes­day.

With a mar­ket value of $250 mil­lion and ex­pected prof­its of $90m. this year, Flu­ence was formed in 2017 after Is­raeli waste­water com­pany Eme­fcy was merged with RWL Wa­ter, owned by Jewish billionaire and phi­lan­thropist Ron­ald Lauder.

The com­pany’s mo­bile and pre­built wa­ter treat­ment plants which can be in­stalled quickly and fil­ter some 1,000 to 1,500 cu.m. of fresh­wa­ter wa­ter daily, or enough to meet the needs of 10,000 peo­ple to wash, cook, bathe for 24 hours.

Its waste­water cleans­ing mod­ule, the Mem­brane Aer­ated Biofilm Re­ac­tor, al­lows smaller cities to quickly and eas­ily deal with sewage us­ing much lower en­ergy lev­els. En­cased in a spi­ral, steel-framed con­tainer, it uses wa­ter-tight mem­branes to defuse oxy­gen into the sludge with­out a high-en­ergy com­pres­sor. Such com­pact wa­ter treat­ment fil­ters use 80% less en­ergy than reg­u­lar plants.

The de­cen­tral­ized wa­ter and waste­water mar­ket is worth $13 bil­lion, with coun­tries like China in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in in­stalling such por­ta­ble treat­ment plants in or­der to treat ru­ral waste­water. Such pack­aged, de­cen­tral­ized plants are much more eco­nom­i­cal and easier to in­stall, which is where Flu­ence comes into the pic­ture.

To­day, the com­pany’s head­quar­ters is in New York and its stock is listed in Australia, but a third of the com­pany’s staff is Is­raeli. All of the com­pany’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment is based in Cae­sarea, north of Tel Aviv, with an assem­bly line in the Galilee town of Karmiel.

Flu­ence also spe­cial­izes in de­salin­iza­tion, waste-to-en­ergy and wa­ter re­use and re­cov­ery. The com­pany has de­signed and built some 7,000 in­stal­la­tions world­wide.

Part of Flu­ence’s grow­ing mar­ket share is due to Is­rael’s rep­u­ta­tion in the agri­cul­tural-tech­nol­ogy field. That al­lows lo­cal wa­ter and waste­water treat­ment com­pa­nies to main­tain a com­pet­i­tive edge.

Charrabe, a Ger­man-Amer­i­can who vol­un­teered on a kib­butz and met his wife in Is­rael, is per­son­ally com­mit­ted to try­ing to help the re­gion.

“It’s like what cars in Ger­many used to be or engi­neer­ing in the US. If you say that you’re an Is­raeli wa­ter treat­ment com­pany, that al­ready has a lot of grav­i­tas. Is­rael is known for reusing 90% of its waste­water, for hav­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy. And for a coun­try that was based in the Negev desert, it’s now a net ex­porter of wa­ter, which is as un­usual as it can get. It’s be­come a name,” he ex­plained.

“Wa­ter has al­ways been the key to peace in Mid­dle East,” Charrabe said, re­fer­ring to how Lauder, the com­pany’s co-owner, has in­vested mil­lions in dif­fer­ent peace ini­tia­tives be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans. “That’s a hope of mine here.”


FLU­ENCE PLANTS like this al­low smaller cities to quickly pro­duce potable wa­ter us­ing less en­ergy.

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