Seth M. Siegel: "Can a desert nation help solve the world's water shortage?"

©OECD / Michael Dean

Seth M. Siegel is a businessman, activist and the author of Let There Be Water. He visited the OECD on 31 January 2017, giving a talk on solutions for water scarcity. Part of the Coffees of the Secretary-General series, you can read the complete transcript of Mr Siegel below. 

I am delighted to be here. The OECD is the paradigm of the ideal audience. A lot of people talk about issues, but the OECD is the entity that helps develop standards. It collects metrics and, with that data in hand, suggests best practices. We obviously need to focus on best practices, and not just for the developing countries which face specific problems, but for all countries around the world. I therefore hope that our conversation will spark some interest on the issues discussed today.

Before I begin, I would like to thank the OECD Secretary-General, Mr Angel Gurría for inviting me and Mr Eugene Kandel of Start-Up Nation Central in Israel for suggesting this to the secretary-general and the Israeli delegation. I am honoured to be here.

Let me start my presentation by saying, I am not a lifelong water person. I got involved in the issue as a citizen activist when, no more than five years ago, I learned of emerging global water scarcity. This was before some of the worst effects experienced in the western United States, in Asia and elsewhere. I learned about this global challenge during a meeting at a foreign policy think-tank where a senior US government intelligence officer shared that the world was falling into an era of global water scarcity. The official said that by the year 2025, 60% of the world’s landmass and about 1.6 billion people will be experiencing water scarcity on a level from concerning to profound and life threatening. 

You would think that climate change would be the cause of this water scarcity, and of course it is a factor, but it is by no means the only factor. But to discuss how climate change is causing water supply disruptions, we need to look at rain patterns around the world where, almost everywhere, we see disruption. We either have places which have much less rain or we have the same amount of rainfall but in different intervals. With the longer intervals between rains the soil gets harder and the rainwater is not absorbed normally, and it is lost. 

Our fresh water comes from a couple of sources. It comes either from surface-water, which is from rivers, lakes or ponds. Or from groundwater, and this is where most of the world’s water comes from. The rains fall and saturate the soil and when needed, the water is pumped out. But, as the rain patterns become elongated, they fall much more intensively on hard-packed soil that cannot absorb the water. 

Get the full transcript here


Short biography

Seth M. Siegel is a writer, lawyer, activist, and serial entrepreneur.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World. His essays on water and other issues have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and in leading publications in Europe and Asia.

Seth M. Siegel is the Daniel M. Soref Senior Water Policy Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. He is a senior advisor to Start-Up Nation Central, an Israeli non-profit that connects government, NGO and business leaders to the relevant people, companies and technologies in Israel. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Seth M. Siegel has spoken on water issues around the world and at venues in over 65 US cities, including at the United Nations, the World Bank, the US Congress and  Google’s headquarters, and at more than 20 major college campuses, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Yale and Stanford University. Foreign editions of Let There Be Water are available or in production in 40 countries including China, the Czech Republic, Japan and Viet Nam and the Czech Republic and in 14 languages, as of now. He has also spoken at Davos, Congreso del Futuro in Chile, and the Czech Parliament.

Seth M. Siegel is the co-founder of several companies, including Beanstalk, the world’s leading trademark brand extension company, which he sold to Ford Motor Company. He was also a producer of the Tony Award-nominated Broadway revival of Man of La Mancha. He sits on the board of several not-for-profit organizations.

All of the profits from sales of Let There Be Water are donated to charity.

Website: www.SethMSiegel.com

Twitter: @SethMSiegel

©OECD Observer February 2017




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría discusses the uncertainty in politics around the world, lack of proper skills for future jobs, global growth and US-Mexico relations.
  • Green Talks on 3D printing: 3D printing may be growing rapidly and innovations abound, but what does this mean for the environment? Click on the picture to join Shardul Agrawala of the OECD Environment Directorate on 27 February at 13:00 CET to discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of widespread 3D printing.
  • How should pension systems account for gender differences and deliver equitable pensions for women and men? Do differences in financial literacy between men and women impact their long-term well-being? These are some of the questions to be debated at an OECD-hosted conference taking place on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017