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.


Twitter: @SethMSiegel

©OECD Observer February 2017

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