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Governance, capacity and safety for an off-grid water project in Jerusalem
Led by William Piermattei, JD, UM Carey School of Law; Brent Goldfarb, PhD, Robert H. Smith School of Business; and Julie Weisman, JD, Carter, Ledyard, Milburn LLP
Students (school affiliation): Devon Harman (law), Renee Lani (law), Taylor Lilley (law), Sarah Wicks (law/public health)
This project builds on the conclusions of the last project led by Professor Robert Percival during the spring of 2015. In that project, he took eight students from the schools of law, business, nursing, and dentistry to investigate the feasibility of small scale greywater projects in off-grid communities in the Middle East. Dr. Clive Lipchin, director of transboundary water management at the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies (AIES), served as the team’s client and director of the small scale greywater installations. The overwhelming conclusion of the students was that these projects, as structured, were not sustainable in the long term. Dr. Lipchin agreed with the students’ findings and has solicited our assistance on this current project.
This next project involved work in one off-grid community, the village of Auja, located a few miles outside of Jericho. Auja is an agricultural village yet water is scarce for irrigation purposes. Currently, the farmers of Auja use drills to dig deep for groundwater yet the cost of pumping the water (for electricity) is expensive, and the quality of the water is not always as expected. Using external grant funding, AIES, under Dr. Lipchin’s direction, has installed a set of solar panels to help provide power to the water pumps. The solar panels provide approximately 25% of the farmers’ power needs.
Currently, the solar panels constitute a donor project. Experience has shown that unless the local community can take control of the project using a sound business model, supported by an appropriate corporate governance structure, the project cannot be sustained. More importantly, the concept cannot be scaled up so as to be useful in other communities. Because water extraction and use is heavily regulated, it is important to ensure that such a project does not run afoul of current regulatory strictures. A closely aligned issue concerns the fact that the quality of deep groundwater is sometimes brackish and can only be used with certain crops. Thus, the ability to assess water quality must be built into any sustainable business and governance model.
The trip was based in Jerusalem, the EcoCenter at Auja and Kibbutz Ketura where AIES is located. At the end of the program, students were required to produce a collaborative report which provided recommendations for a business model, corporate governance structure and integration of water quality monitoring into both.
Read the team's final report submitted to the Arava Institute.
Read more about the project through the UMB student blog here.
Download the 2017 Israel team project presentation.
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