Quenching A Nation’s Thirst

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Although he’s virtually unknown to the public eye, Shai Dreizen, 48, is responsible for providing over one million Israelis with the very water they drink. As general manager of the Ashkelon Water Desalination Plant, the largest of its kind in the world, Dreizen stands at the helm of a technological wonder built to meet the needs of a water-scarce nation. On a recent visit to his alma mater of Boys Town Jerusalem, Dreizen gave today’s students a look at the complexities of water desalination—as well as his own personal tips for how to succeed in the future.

“I can tell you that Boys Town Jerusalem was where I learned the basics of mechanics and technology that steered my course in life,” he told the students. Following his high school graduation, Dreizen enrolled in Boys Town’s College of Applied Engineering, and then served as a technical instructor in the IDF. Upon completing his BA from the Technion, he joined “Orbit,” an Israeli company specializing in the measurement of antennas. There Dreizen found his niche in developing software solutions, was sent to the US for advanced training, and climbed to a senior position in the firm.

In 2007, Shai Dreizen made the career change of his life, assuming the role of general manager of the Ashkelon Desalination Plant. “I was drawn by the sheer complexity of the operation, involving masses of technological and mechanical challenges. Overall, I was swept up by the excitement of applying Israeli ingenuity and inventiveness to create a water desalination plant like the world has never seen.” The result was a resounding success, with the plant soon exceeding expectations to produce a whopping 120 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year. This constitutes over 16% of Israel’s domestic consumer demand, at one of the world’s lowest prices for desalinated water.

“We set a precedent by proving that the method of ‘reverse osmosis’ was a viable means for transforming sea water into pure drinking water, building a world-renowned installation,” Dreizen declared. He noted that the plant is a joint venture by the French firm “Veolia” and the Israeli “IDE Technologies,” in cooperation with the Israeli government. Most impressive, the Ashkelon plant is the first in a series of large-scale seawater desalination units planned to enable Israel to independently produce 80-90% of its water needs by 2020.

“When I was a student at Boys Town,” Dreizen told the students, “I was fascinated by the technical realm that was opened before me. I believed it was important to study as hard as I could, and that made all the difference in my future. Take it from me–everything depends on you. Do your best at all times, and you’ll be well prepared to take your place working in a technology that is changing our world for the better.”

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