China could be new market for Nev. water tech

Water shortages and oppressive pollution are some of China’s biggest obstacles, but they could also spell big opportunity for Nevada.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and a small delegation from Nevada returned Oct. 25 from a weeklong trade mission to China that was focused on getting Nevada-born pollution solutions into China, and coaxing Chinese investment dollars into Nevada. Sandoval signed agreements with two Chinese governors that clear the way for Nevada economic development officials to return and drill down on specific deals in January and March.

“The state’s job is to serve as a relationship broker,” said the governor’s chief strategy officer, Dale Erquiaga, who pointed out that the Chinese government is a key party in opening up any business deals under the Communist system. “The governor opened the doors.”

The mission also included a meeting with officials from secretive car company Faraday, which Nevada officials hope to lure to the state, although the delegation isn’t sharing any specifics about the talks.

Some of the topics on the itinerary:


While Sandoval said his whirlwind trip left little time for tourism — he said he spent about 10 minutes at the Great Wall of China and less than an hour in the Forbidden City — he did get exclusive access to the famous Terracotta Army.

Scientists with Nevada’s Desert Research Institute have been working for a decade to help restore the army — a vast collection of ancient clay figurines that was crushed under the weight of dirt and water and is now being put back together again. Air pollution eats away at the surface of the statues, and DRI technology has helped monitor and reduce damaging toxins.

Unlike most visitors, who see the statues from a viewing gallery, Sandoval was allowed onto the floor where the restoration work happens.

Sandoval and the governor of the Jiangsu province, population 80 million, signed an agreement that aims to expand a student and faculty exchange program between DRI and HoHai University. The school is considered the leading water research university in China.

DRI and HoHai also hope to build a joint research laboratory focused on climate change and its impact on water.


Sandoval took his first-ever ride on a high-speed train during the trade mission, zipping between the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai.

Chinese officials were puzzled that the U.S. doesn’t have the technology, Erquiaga said, but have caught wind of plans to link Las Vegas and Southern California with high-speed rail.

Lawmakers and Sandoval breathed new life into the stalled plans this year, restructuring an old commission dubbed the “California-Nevada Super Speed Ground Transportation Commission” into the new “Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority.”

Sandoval appointed members in September, and the group has already started meeting.

“They’re aware of the work we’re trying to do with Nevada and California and see it as a potential business opportunity,” Erquiaga said.


Nevada’s learned to make things work in a dry and inhospitable climate, and its economic development office has recently been working to turn those hard lessons into lucrative business partnerships.

Chinese officials, who struggle with pollution issues that threaten the drinking water supply, were interested in the work of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The authority uses leak detection technology that’s reduced leakage to 5 percent — a figure that impressed Chinese officials who said they had trouble reaching a 15 percent leak rate.

“That’s the kind of work Nevada companies would be well-positioned to provide them,” Erquiaga said.


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