U.S. Chamber and AmCham MENA Host BusinessH20: Water Innovation Summit
Forum Focused on Policy, Technology, and Projects in the Middle East
On Wednesday, October 30, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AmCham MENA hosted BusinessH20: Water Innovation Summit, which brought together a range of business leaders, water experts, and government officials to discuss policy, technology, and projects focused on water resources in the Middle East. There are a host of challenges related to water in the Middle East. With less than 6 times the available renewable water resources than the world average, the region faces unprecedented levels of water scarcity. Climate change and increasing populations exacerbate this issue, and MENA water resources are projected to be reduced by half by 2050. In order to address this growing strain on the region, the World Bank has estimated that the Middle East will need $500-600 billion of investment in water supply infrastructure by 2030. Should the issue of water scarcity go unaddressed, all economic sectors will be impacted, with a decrease in regional GDP of at least six percent.
Mohammed Bataineh, Chairman of MENA AmCham
and CEO of Agrijordan, welcomes participants to the summit.
Despite these challenges, however, there are significant business opportunities. American businesses are creating solutions, especially through the introduction of new water technologies. This positive impact of American tech was highlighted by several summit speakers. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker explained how the introduction of U.S. technology to monitor leaks in Jordanian water infrastructure led to a 50% decrease of water loss in pilot areas. Companies Watergen and Fluence additionally presented their innovative solutions of extracting clean drinking water from the air and decentralizing infrastructure to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Joe St. Julian, Water and Pipeline Business General Manager at Bechtel,
outlines the company's efforts to meet the water needs of MENA countries.
Water leaders from across the Middle East called for investment and U.S. engagement as they look to modernize and expand their water infrastructure. Khaled Al Qureshi, CEO of the Saudi Water Partnership Company, emphasized this while outlining the Saudi Arabian government’s commitment to expanding the country’s water infrastructure, such as through an increase from 1-3 days’ worth of state water reserves to 7 days. With a convergence of interests of the region’s governments and U.S. businesses on the problem of water scarcity, summit participants expressed optimism in the ability for public-private cooperation to address the region’s challenges.
Participants raised a number of issues that could be addressed in a Middle East-oriented water taskforce, including:
- Working with the U.S. government to share technical and technological know-how with water challenged countries all across the region and the world, as there is a need to ensure foreign governments that are developing water policy frameworks understand the latest best practices. The U.S. has the expertise needed by the Middle East, as demonstrated by the work of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in arid regions of the western U.S., as presented by Commissioner Brenda Burman, and this expertise can be shared.
- Supporting the export of innovative American water technologies globally. The global water and wastewater market exceeds $700 billion annually and introducing more U.S. technology and products to markets around the world supports jobs and economic growth domestically. Assistant Secretary Schenker highlighted the importance of U.S. exports by pointing to the increased access to American investment and technology which Free Trade Agreements provide.
- Expanding U.S. private sector involvement in in multilateral bank tenders. The World Bank alone manages hundreds of projects and deploys billions of dollars, yet U.S. companies are under-represented in these ventures. Working with our government and multilateral organizations to reduce transaction costs and points of friction will ensure more U.S. firms of all sizes can engage with global markets. The level of investment in water infrastructure which the World Bank estimates to be required in the Middle East cannot come from the public sector alone, and multilateral organizations such as the World Bank need to support companies who are seeking to invest in this area.
- Serving as a platform for American companies – large firms and SMEs – to connect with U.S. development and financing agencies to understand market and programmatic opportunities. It is important to have a regular dialogue with U.S. agencies supporting global water infrastructure projects on country and area priorities. U.S. government representatives at the Water Summit outlined their commitment to developing and financing water-related projects in the region, and coordination with U.S. business will ensure their success.
David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs,
highlights U.S. engagement on the issue of water scarcity throughout the Middle East.
We would welcome additional feedback from members about additional needs in this sector. As we approach 2020, the U.S. Chamber is exploring sustained engagement and a focused work plan based on member interest. Please contact Josh Kram, Executive Director, Middle East Affairs, at email@example.com to get involved.
Rose Alissi, CEO of AmCham Jordan, and Eng. Ali Mohammed Ali Subah,
Secretary General of the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation,
discuss water conservation best practices.
The U.S. Chamber’s BusinessH20 Water Innovation Summit highlighted the increasing need of investment to offset the Middle East’s growing water scarcity, as well as the vital role of public-private partnerships in addressing regional challenges. The U.S. Chamber remains committed to its role of advancing these partnerships and the economic development which they bring to the U.S. and the world.