our history

The Water Council was officially founded in 2009, but the history of water in Milwaukee goes back long before that. Native Americans established Millioke, or “gathering place by the water,” as it provided them with the opportunity to fish, farm, hunt and raise their families. Situated on the shore of Lake Michigan and at the confluence of three rivers, the Milwaukee region has attracted water-intensive industries like brewing, meatpacking, tanning and transportation for more than 100 years. Over time, the city and state have developed world-class expertise in moving, metering, measuring, managing and monitoring water and is now home to more than 230 water technology companies including industry leaders like A.O. Smith Corporation, Kohler, Badger Meter, Pentair and Zurn Water Solutions.


  • Discussions begin on the development of a “Silicon Valley of Water.”
  • First annual Water Summit (later Water Leaders Summit) and quarterly meetings are convened.


  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee submits proposal to create a School of Freshwater Sciences.
  • The first member of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council is welcomed.
  • The organization receives a U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration WIRED grant.


  • Milwaukee 7 Water Council officially incorporates as a 501(c)(3).
  • Milwaukee is designated as a UN Global Compact City, one of 15 cities around the world selected for its concentration and expertise in a specific topic related to global health and development. Milwaukee is also one of five cities recognized as a UN Innovating City.


  • National Science Foundation designates a $2.75 million industry/university collaborative research center in Milwaukee, the Water Equipment & Policy Center.
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee announces $53 million expansion to create the nation’s first School of Freshwater Sciences.
  • First student chapters established at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Marquette University.
  • First full-time employee hired.


  • Winner of a Job Accelerator Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge and the United States Water Prize from the U.S. Water Alliance for outstanding achievement in the advancement of sustainable solutions to our nation’s water challenges.


  • Milwaukee 7 Water Council becomes The Water Council.
  • $22 million renovation of the future Global Water Center begins at a seven-story warehouse in Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee.
  • BREW (Business, Research & Entrepreneurship in Water) Accelerator is established in partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.


  • Global Water Center opens on Sept. 12, creating the physical cornerstone of the World Water Hub, accelerating Milwaukee’s reputation as the leading water technology cluster and providing a headquarters for The Water Council.


  • The Water Council is selected as the North American regional partner for the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), a global collaboration of leaders in sustainable water resource management. This collaboration continues until 2021.


  • Pilot Program is established in partnership with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Fund for Lake Michigan.


  • Nestle Waters US achieves AWS Standard Certification at its Ontario, Calif., site, making it the first site in North America to achieve certification.
  • The Water Council participates in trade missions to Israel and China to highlight Wisconsin’s water technology sector.


  • Oasis Coworking Community opens in the Global Water Center.
  • Implementation of the AWS Standard is completed at the Global Water Center and MillerCoors Brewery (later Molson Coors). Upon certification, the sites became the first commercial building and brewery in the world certified to the AWS Standard.
  • Launch of the Tech Challenge, a global competition to identify cutting-edge freshwater technologies and ideas with high potential for commercialization and implementation.
  • The Water Council signs an agreement with five other global hubs during European Water Tech Week: PUB (Singapore), Mekorot-Watech (Israel), Korea Water Cluster (South Korea), Water Alliance (Netherlands) and Jiangsu Institute of Environmental Industry (China).


  • The Water Council records a podcast series, Water Sessions, in lieu of annual Water Leaders Summit.
  • BREW is reimagined as BREW 2.0, a next-stage post-accelerator created to help young companies build connections and grow their company’s capacity.


  • Introduction of Water Champions, a membership program for non-water technology companies that wish to support The Water Council’s mission.


  • WAVE: Water Stewardship Verified debuts as the first enterprise-wide, independently verified corporate water stewardship program.
  • The Water Council signs a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Reserve to further the country’s capabilities relating to public sanitation, water technology and water talent.


  • A coalition led by The Water Council is awarded a prestigious $1 million Development Award from the National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engines Program to design an economic engine meant to build water and energy resiliency for manufacturers and utilities.