March 16 2010 12:00 AM
How does a young man go from being a potato farmer on a kibbutz in Israel to the head of one of the largest water filtration companies in the world? We asked that question of Rami Molcho, president and CEO of Amiad, USA.

“Growing up in that part of the world where water was extremely limited, we used each drop of water like it was gold,” said Molcho.

He grew up in the Negev, a desert community in  the southern part of Israel. “After my father immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria, he founded the kibbutz (communal settlement). All his life, he was dealing with finding water to make the desert bloom. Everyone in the kibbutz called him ‘Mr. Water,’ so water issues and water scarcity have been with me all my life.”

Upon Molcho’s completion of a five-year stint as an officer in the Israeli Navy, he entered Open University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business management and farming. Shortly after, he became president of a factory on the kibbutz. While there, he met and married his wife Galya, and within the next ten years, they added four daughters to their family.

“Although I didn’t realize it then, learning to live with limited amounts of water prepared me for my present position,” said Molcho. “When I first moved to the United States, I was bewildered by how much water was available here and how it was squandered.”

In 1998, Molcho moved to the United States, where he took a position with New Jersey-based Logotech. Nine years later, he completed his assignment with Logotech, and in 2007 was approached by Amiad USA. “They invited me to move to California and take the leadership of the company and bring it to the next level,” Molcho said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.” Having been raised in a desert environment where water was scarce, Molcho understands the challenges of using water efficiently and effectively. “I have a background in water filtration, but I’m not an engineer, I’m a businessman,” he says.

He and his family were delighted to move to California where the weather was very similar to the weather of Israel. When Molcho first moved to Oxnard, California where Amiad is located, he called his wife and told her that “California was the only place to live.” They didn’t much care for the frigid winters of New Jersey.

Molcho believes that most people are simply not aware of how serious the water problem is. Even more so in the United States. He’s somewhat amazed at the enormous amounts of water being wasted by industries and municipalities. “Once people see a few days of rain, they think everything is fine, but that’s not true,” he said.

From his experience, Molcho knows there are many ways to conserve. He points out that the efficiency of drip irrigation is 80% compared to flood irrigation, which is about 30%. “What this means is that you’re wasting about 70% of the water when you use flood irrigation,” Molcho explained. “Drip irrigation is a much better way.” However, one of the problems with drip irrigation is that the nozzles will clog unless you install a filter.

Amiad has long been a leader in filtration technology and has worked with the municipalities to build a wastewater treatment plant that makes the water useful for the landscape. “So, in the middle of the desert, you see a town of about 1,500 families that’s blooming and green like it’s in the middle of Beverly Hills,” he says. “We’ve learned over many years how to filter the water from the showers and toilets, and because we’re using the filtered water we can use it to help make the plants grow.”

Cities are also becoming more aware of the increased amounts of pollution being generated by stormwater runoff. “We have seen areas of the country that were flooded a few months ago. The runoff from the flooding is going into major rivers adding pollution to the entire system. There has to be a way to filter this water and re-use it in a good way instead of pollution.”

None of Molcho’s family is in the water business. But he knows that unless the water problem is taken more seriously, there may be dire consequences for his daughters and potential grandchildren, as well as future generations. He believes the future in water conservation is in education, especially in the area of recycling, and generally changing the way people use water.

One of the best ways to help people understand the problems and solutions to water use is through education. Toward that end, Molcho has created Amiad University as a tool to educate his customers and potential customers on the use and the importance of filtration in various applications. It is so successful that they now have one scheduled in Florida.

Molcho visits his family in Israel several times a year and still has a home there. “When our family is in Israel, we live in a town that’s surrounded by palm trees and gardens.

The house we live in has two separate systems, one system for potable water and one that transports waste water through our filtration station where it’s cleaned and used for irrigation.”

Molcho, his wife Galya and their youngest daughter, Leor, 16, reside in east Ventura County. Leor attends the local high school and is very active in basketball and varsity tennis. His three older daughters have returned to Israel.

In his spare time, Molcho is a gourmet cook who enjoys entertaining friends. He loves to travel and is planning to obtain his dual citizenship next year. In his spare time, he can be found swimming in the family’s pool to keep him trim and fit.

Molcho adds, “If we could re-use just a small amount of the water we waste, then I will consider my career a success.”