Israeli company eager to solve Texas’ water woes with desalination

A well-established Israeli water treatment company has opened its first U.S. office in Austin with plans to market its desalination services to water utilities in Texas and across the nation.

The company, Kadima, Israel-based IDE Technologies Inc., has brought on Mark Ellison – who most recently served as former Gov. Rick Perry’s manager of strategic water initiatives in the Texas economic development office – to establish the company’s presence here.

Ellison makes no bones about it: The reason IDE is expanding here is because Texas’ water infrastructure faces serious challenges to meet the needs of the Lone Star State’s booming population.

“2011 was quite an eye opener for all of us in Texas when the drought hit us,” Ellison said. “Our existing companies that were here already were concerned about water security and prospective companies continued to raise it as an issue.”

But Ellison said that the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas — SWIFT, for short — brought about by the passage a statewide ballot initiative in the most recent election, offers a ray of hope for those looking to build infrastructure to meet Texas’ booming water needs.
“That was a strong signal,” said Ellison.

SWIFT provides financial assistance to public utilities, state agencies and water districts for projects in the state water plan. In all, $2 billion was set aside from the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund.

IDE Technologies, which has built more than 400 water treatment projects across the globe during the past four decades, has its main area of expertise in desalination plants. The company, though only opening its first permanent U.S. office this month, is already building the largest desalination plants in the Western Hemisphere in Carlsbad, California. Company officials think that Texas could benefit from expanded desalination infrastructure as a way to help meet the state’s water needs.

“Groundwater and surface water resources in Texas are at a challenging stage, and the state has faced significant drought conditions for several years. With more than one thousand people moving to Texas every day, there is a growing need for new water sources,” said Mark Lambert, CEO of IDE Americas in a statement. “By entering this key market, IDE is set to help meet this need through seawater desalination and water treatment projects.”

For now, Ellison will be a division of one. The company plans on expanding its U.S. operations, starting from here in Austin, but it’s still a ways out before it adds staff. The company’s office is located at 106 E. Sixth Street in downtown Austin.

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