Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards convened a meeting of leading international researchers in water management during his economic development mission to Israel. At Ben-Gurion University in southern Israel, Gov. Edwards joined leaders from the Baton Rouge-based Water Institute of the Gulf and the Israel-based Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research as they signed a five-year agreement to participate in strategic research initiatives together.
President and CEO Justin Ehrenwerth of The Water Institute of the Gulf and Director Noam Weisbrod of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research signed the five-year Memorandum of Understanding, which commits each institute to collaboration on groundwater research, applications to improve farming, better utilization of drinking water aquifers, surface water and stream research, and other fields that support and enhance human life.
“The spirit of our mission to Israel is to join two peoples and two cultures in a way that brings lasting benefit to both our lands,” Gov. Edwards said. “The Negev, the vast desert of southern Israel and home to the Zuckerberg Institute, is a striking contrast to the Mississippi River and coastal Louisiana, where The Water Institute of the Gulf is based. But the reality is both of these institutes conduct water management research all over the world, and both can bring their scientists and research together to solve our biggest challenges related to water. Just as The Water Institute of the Gulf formalized its relationship last year with the renowned Dutch institute Deltares, we believe this relationship with the Zuckerberg Institute will be very fruitful for our state.”
Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, or CPRA, manages a $50 billion Coastal Master Plan that is generating private sector growth in water management as the state implements coastal preservation solutions for decades to come. Both CPRA and The Water Institute of the Gulf, along with the LSU Center for River Studies, are housed on the 35-acre Water Campus in Baton Rouge, where up to 4,000 employees eventually are expected to work in up to 1.6 million square feet of developed facilities. Over the next generation, as many as 45,000 direct and indirect jobs could result from Louisiana’s growing water management sector.
In addition to coastal research, The Water Institute of the Gulf has conducted National Science Foundation-funded work addressing the August 2016 flood along the Amite River, and it has pursued applied research as far away as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Ehrenwerth, the institute’s president and CEO, and Alyssa Dausman, the institute’s vice president for science, participated in the MOU signing and exchange at Ben-Gurion University, a research university of more than 20,000 students with a renowned biotechnology park and public-private partnerships in energy, fuels, robotics, cybersecurity, homeland security and other fields.
“We’re very excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the innovative thinkers at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and Ben-Gurion University,” Ehrenwerth said. “The lessons Louisiana and Israel have learned through our respective decades of pioneering water research represent a strong foundation for working together to address future challenges.”
While coastal Louisiana can receive more than 70 inches of annual rainfall, Beersheba’s semi-arid climate can see fewer than 10 inches of rain per year. Founded in 2002, the Zuckerberg Institute is part of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research – one of six national research institutes at Ben-Gurion University – and is located at the Sede Boqer Campus of the university, further south in the Negev. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, established his retirement home at the kibbutz, or communal settlement, of Sede Boqer, which includes tourism, a vineyard, winery and other agricultural and research pursuits among its industries.
“Our arid climate – and ongoing, continuous water shortage – forces us to think creatively about water use, and especially about conservation,” said Professor Noam Weisbrod, the Zuckerberg Institute director. “Put that together with our high motivation and dynamic nature, and you’ve got a winning combination with the ability to think creatively, tackle water-related challenges, and to solve problems.”
Among its projects, Louisiana’s Water Institute of the Gulf worked in eastern Texas to examine how changes in water management could mitigate some impacts of drought and is currently working with communities around the state on ground and surface water management projects. The Zuckerberg Institute in Israel specializes in desalination and water treatment, one area of potential joint research between the two institutes.
Gov. Edwards and the Louisiana delegation also visited Israel’s Iron Dome while in the Negev Desert. Designed and developed by Israel with joint U.S. funding, the Iron Dome is a missile defense system that intercepts and destroys short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances as far as 40 miles away. Over the last week, the Iron Dome was utilized to intercept dozens of rockets being fired at Southern Israel.
While in Beersheba, the Louisiana delegation also took part in a briefing and demonstration by Israel’s CyberSpark Industry Initiative, a major priority of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to create a global center of cybersecurity technology, research and economic development.
Cybersecurity will continue to be a focus of Gov. Edwards’ economic development mission to Israel, with visits to leading cybersecurity companies planned for Wednesday. Tuesday’s activities will focus on geopolitics and cultural destinations in northern Israel, followed by a key briefing early Wednesday with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Deputy Minister Michael Oren.