News10NBC Investigates: Water as the new oil

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — We live on one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and combined with all the Great Lakes, 95 percent of the surface water in the United States.

When Micron decided to build a $100 billion semiconductor plant upstate, access to water was one of the top reasons.

And when we got special access to a Monroe County Water Authority plant, the executive director said water is the new oil.

“The next oil. Water. You need water for everything,” said Nick Noce, the executive director of the Water Authority.

Brean: “I was struck by the comment you just made where you said water is the next oil.”
Nick Noce: “It’s nature’s most precious resource and we are fortunate to be in the area we are and we have it.”

I was granted access to the secured areas of the water authority’s station in Greece. On average, 60 million gallons of water are used in the county every day. Combined with the plant in Webster, the water authority can produce up to 190 million gallons.

The CEO of Micron said one of the reasons he’s building a new semiconductor plant in Clay, New York, near Lake Ontario is access to water.

Matt Hurlbut, whose job leading the Greater Rochester Enterprise is to recruit new companies to the Finger Lakes, says access to water is in his sales pitch.

“Plug is a good example who’s got a couple hundred people here right now talking about their hydrogen fuel cell technology,” he said.

Plug is based in Henrietta. Its technology splits water to create hydrogen fuel that powers forklifts for Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot and Wegmans.

“And we love Rochester and we love our region because water is plentiful here in all of its forms,” said Daniel O’Connell, general manager Plug’s Rochester operations.

In the last decade, more than 160,000 people migrated from New York to the American southwest, which a University of Nebraska map shows is somewhere between “abnormally dry” to a “severe drought.”
In Chicago, on Lake Michigan, they call access to fresh water the “blue economy.”

“This is what the area is looking forward to its growth. And I think an affordable rate for the future,” Noce said. “And I believe it is the next oil.”