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Water unites all, including Maryland and Israel




Ben's Blog - Thoughts from Secretary Ben Grumbles

Water unites all, including Maryland and Israel

When so many around the world these days are focused on division and hatred, it’s reassuring to see unity and friendship spring forth, particularly when the purpose of the partnership is to sustain our most precious liquid asset, water.

This is what happened at the October 10 Maryland-Israel Water Reuse and Security Summit and Roundtable, held at the University of Maryland College Park Marriott Conference Center. The State of Maryland and the nation of Israel celebrated “Imagine A Day Without Water” in a most inspiring way by convening governmental and utility leaders with technology innovators and policy experts on the challenges and opportunities for integrated water reuse and security throughout the Chesapeake Bay with the help of Israeli expertise, technology, and partnership.

Secretary Ben Grumbles speaking a podiumHow did the Summit arise? Governor Hogan traveled to Israel in September 2016 and signed an MOU with Israel that called for partnerships on water sustainability. Secretary of State John Wobensmith tasked the Governor’s Chesapeake Bay Cabinet, which I Chair, to look for the best opportunities that show Maryland is open for business and innovations for water progress. A groundswell of factors pointed overwhelmingly to water reuse and water security, recognizing Israel is a global leader on both and Maryland is in need of new solutions to meet its ambitious goals for clean, affordable and sustainable supplies of water.

A man and woman at the Maryland-Israel SummitA major step forward was the formation of the Maryland- Israel Sister State Committee, headed by Randall Morgan. Tapping into his talents and experiences, Randy pulled together a strategy with MDE and SOS to host a meeting in short order and with high impact. Randy, Deputy Secretary of State Luis Borunda, and I made connections with key leaders in Israeli government and business. Gili Elkin, General Partner of the Israel-Colorado Innovation Fund, became the key go-to in making the summit a success. She helped convene an AWWA-sponsored US-Israel Water Roundtable in Colorado earlier in the year and put Maryland in touch with key players who might be able to do a similar Roundtable in Maryland. With support from MES, MDA, and DNR we organized a day-long Summit, including roundtables, panel discussions, and networking.

Conference sponsors included CONSERVE, University of Maryland, Jewish National Fund, Trade and Economic Mission of the Embassy of Israel, the Phyllis and Leonard Attman Family Foundation, Maryland Environmental Service, KCI Technologies, Spectrum Printing and Graphics, Maryland MEP, Stay Calm Industries, Chesapeake Water Environment Association, WSSC, and Maryland American Water.

What are our next steps?

Like the other two U.S.-Israel water round tables (in Colorado and Louisiana), the Maryland event was focused on promoting smarter technology and policy and linking community and utility needs with solution providers. Representatives of Israeli businesses traveled throughout the state after the conference and met with local water and wastewater officials to explore partnership opportunities in Maryland’s water sector.

Maryland Department of the Environment is also taking the lead on setting up a state water innovations group to modernize regulations and incentivize promising new technologies. The “Fit for Purpose” movement is a key component to advance reuse that protects public health and the environment and reflects the differences between gray water, waste water, industrial process water, agricultural water and their differing uses. Maryland also has the opportunity to spark innovative technologies and policies with pilot projects and risk sharing arrangements so that counties, towns, and businesses find the most effective, efficient, and equitable solutions. Look for more news to follow.

In the meantime, know that Maryland investments in reuse and zero discharge strategies are key to our continued success in protecting the environment and aligning for growth, and technologies to detect warfare agents, prevent cyber terrorism, and increase resiliency to extreme weather and climate change are essential to towns and utilities of all sizes throughout the state.

The challenges are great but Maryland’s water future looks bright as our local and global partnerships continue to grow.

Air, Land, Water – Did You Know?

Lead poisoning in Maryland drops to lowest recorded levels, testing increases dramatically under state initiative

A chartChildhood lead poisoning cases in Maryland decreased last year to the lowest levels since data has been collected in connection with the state’s 1994 lead law, according to the 2017 Childhood Blood Lead Surveillance report, released today by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The historically low levels were reached even as blood lead testing rates increased significantly under the state’s universal testing initiative. MDE continues to work with the Department of Health and the Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as local partners, to prevent childhood lead poisoning in Maryland.
Read more

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