We are accustomed to hearing bad news from UC Irvine. Last year, UC Irvine's student senate voted to join the ranks of the BDS (a.k.a. Bigotry and Double Standards) movement. UC Irvine allowed a group of hate-filled hooligans to repeatedly and aggressively attempting to silence Amb. Michael Oren.
Today, the news is of a very different kind.
A group of Irvine water researchers is visiting the region, exploring opportunities to share knowledge and to collaborate. I should say, first of all, that being water researchers, these visitors adhere to a point of view that is progressive and environmentally focused. For them, the water shortages in the middle east and around the world are looming crises that must be addressed soon in order to stave off disaster. They recently published a study on water losses in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran over the years from 2003 to 2009. The researchers were invited to Israel by Friends of the Earth - Middle East.
In National Geographic Water Currents, Prof. James Famiglietti, director of the Hydrologic Modeling Center at the University of California – Irvine comments on their recent visit to the Technion.
Technion University was our first stop on this water journey,, where we met with researchers at the Grand Water Research Institute (GWRI). During our conversation at Technion, we learned about the Israeli tools to allocate, reuse, and distribute water and how academic research improves these tools. Israel’s water monitoring and allocation system is phenomenal – every drop of water, from freshwater resources to desalinated water, is accounted for, priced accordingly, and delivered to the end-user. ....Universities and researchers around the world need to reject bigotry, double standards and lies, and instead actively support collaboration with Israeli researchers. They do not need to do this for the sake of Israel; rather, they should do it for the sake of their own societies.
For we Californians, it was surprising and inspiring to hear about the innovative strategies in place to meet agricultural water demands and, even more so, that the farmers were completely in support of these policies. ...
As our discussions at Technion illustrated, the support for such innovative management policies begins with knowledge transfer to stakeholders. For example, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture hosts annual meetings that farmers, academics, and decision makers attend with the goal of sharing their respective water experiences and to work toward more efficient water practices. A core aspect of that effective communication is creating practical, actionable results rooted in technical research. During our discussion at Technion, we repeatedly heard an emphasis on interdisciplinary research, bringing together economists, engineers, hydrologists, and politicians to guide those actionable results for water management. Technion is one of many universities that are part of the Middle East North Africa (MENA)Water Centers for Excellence project, sponsored by USAID. This platform provides the foundation for collaboration between researchers throughout the MENA region including in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan.
The concept of a “water research network” is lacking in the United States, as is the connection between researchers and decision-makers at the local, state, and national levels. In Israel, this model of collaboration has resulted in meticulous monitoring of water resources to inform water management policies and the subsequent support from all stakeholders. If we could shift our water management paradigm in the United States to effectively link researchers, policy-makers, and local stakeholders with open lines of communication, the outcome could be groundbreaking.
Our meeting at the GWRI at the Technion left us with many ideas for potential collaboration between our research center at UC Irvine and the Technion. On a technical level, we discussed a wide variety of potential research topics, ranging from the development of a 3D groundwater model; the evaluation of the linkages between water and soil management at a global scale; the use of enviromatics to better manage and monitor regional water systems; and optimization of land-surface and water management models to better reflect the reality of water demand and supply. On a broader level, our meeting provided a glimpse at new strategies and tools that we, in California, can use to more effectively manage water resources, link stakeholders, communicate knowledge, and develop policies to sustainably manage our resources.
This Israel-California knowledge transfer model is an exciting venture, and we hope that over the duration of our trip we will find more ideas, collaboration opportunities, and links with civil society, academic, and governmental agencies.