JUNE 24 - 25 | Milwaukee, WI USA

Water leaders summit

The Water Council’s Water Leaders Summit is an annual water industry conference that brings together water business leaders, governmental entities, academics, entrepreneurs and futurists from around the world for curated conversations about vital current global water challenges and the future of water innovation.

The Water Leaders Summit is the preeminent North American water industry event for water professionals from water technology organizations and water-intensive industries who are seeking to hear from global experts in an intimate and “unscripted” program. This annual conference brings business leaders, governmental entities, academics, entrepreneurs and futurists from around the world together for curated conversations about vital current global water challenges and the future of water innovation. This key industry event is hosted by The Water Council and attracts water experts, influencers and practitioners looking for emerging technologies, top talent and new business opportunities.

Established in 2007, the Summit has created a unique and engaging annual forum for connecting an international network of water leaders to exchange ideas, share experiences, advance water-related goals, connect with emerging solutions and shape the future of water technology. Participants have included thought leaders from Campbell Soup Company, Ford Motors, DOW Chemical, Ecolab, United Nations, NASA, UC Berkeley, San Diego County Water Authority, Merck, General Mills, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Small Business Administration, Walmart, IBM and MillerCoors.

“I go to a lot of water conferences. I took more notes in a day in a half at this one than I have in 20 years at the other ones. It was very helpful, as I’m responsible for business development for our company for industrial clients in the Great Lakes states. So, it could not have been more tailor made for me.”
–Guy Carpenter, Vice President, Carollo Engineers, Inc.


Attendees come from all parts of the water cycle and from around the world including Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, France, Canada and South Korea and from 23 U.S. States. Corporate leaders, innovators, government affairs, economic development specialists, water technologists, and students are encouraged to attend from:

  • Water technology businesses of all sizes and stages
  • Water-intensive industries
  • Utilities
  • Governments
  • Universities
  • Media
  • Organizations and regions that are looking for water solutions
  • Investment groups
  • Non-profits / associations
  • Suppliers of water-related products and services

A Look back


How are you and your business “Rethinking Water?” The Water Council asked this question to a full room of 260 global water industry leaders from 22 states and 7 countries for the 12th Annual Water Leaders Summit in Milwaukee, the Freshwater Capital of the World, at the Harley-Davidson Museum®.

At capacity, attendees kicked things off early on Day One of the Summit by participating in the Tour of the World Water Hub. This year we freshened up the agenda with behind the scenes tours of Badger Meter’s Customer Experience Center and A. O. Smith Corporation’s newly opened Corporate Technology Center.

Author and Fast Company contributor Charles Fishman joined us for the fourth year to set the tone of the Summit with a staggering calculation of the hidden water we may not think about. Fishman used an example of how much water is used to perform a single Google search.

“Google searching requires 31,250 gallons of water a minute, 45 million gallons of water a day, that’s enough water for a U.S. city of half a million people.”
-Charles Fishman, Author

An all-star line-up of seasoned water industry leaders created a thought provoking atmosphere with discussions centered around rethinking our approach to water in the areas of Water Use, Corporate Governance, Business and Investing.  Rounding out the sessions were one-on-one conversations with William Sarni, Founder and CEO of Water Foundry, LLC and Eleanor Allen, CEO of Water for People.

The third ‘Water Warrior of the Year Award’ was presented to Kevin Shafer, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) for his support of furthering STEAM education. Every summer, MMSD hires 25 students to provide them with hands-on experience within water quality protection, laboratory services, engineering construction and sustainability. Many students apply for consecutive summer internships and in some cases are hired on as permanent MMSD employees.

“The future of Milwaukee rests with our students. Exposing them to the strength of our water industry not only provides them a future in Milwaukee but also creates a water synergy that will continue to grow for generations. I am proud to be a member of the Board of The Water Council and to contribute in any means I can.”
-Kevin Shafer, MMSD

The sixth round of the BREW Accelerator program concluded with this year’s cohort pitching their innovative water technologies on Day Two, showcasing their progress and next steps to attendees. The day prior to the Summit, BREW 6 winners pitched their ideas at the first official BREW Demo Day on June 25 at the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons in Downtown Milwaukee.

An exclusive announcement by Raj Shukla, Executive Director of River Alliance of Wisconsin, and Matt Howard, Director, Alliance for Water Stewardship North America, concluded the Summit. The groundbreaking Clear Water Farms Program will implement the water stewardship standard at two farms in Wisconsin, with the ultimate goal of establishing a model to use across North America at any farming operation. Both Raj and Matt spoke on the joint initiative to address the economic challenges of farming and the negative impacts on water due to the intensifying agricultural practices.

“Farms like Miltrim are the solution to our water crisis. The AWS certification and Clear Water Farms shows producers how to cut costs, help the environment and strengthen local communities. River Alliance of Wisconsin is excited to grow our partnership with the Alliance for Water Stewardship and future Clear Water Farms Program participants.”
-Raj Shukla, River Alliance of Wisconsin

The Water Leaders Summit would not have been possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors and attendees. We look forward to hosting our 13th Annual Water Leaders Summit in 2020. Official dates and location will be announced soon, stay connected by subscribing to our email list for all future updates from the World Water Hub.


Directly across the Menomonee Canal from the Global Water Center and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, we hosted a sold out Summit of 290 future-first thought leaders from 23 U.S. States and 6 Countries at the Harley-Davidson Museum®, which showcases the iconic Milwaukee brand celebrating its 115th anniversary. Milwaukee’s manufacturing history collided with the growing water industry in an atmosphere of collaboration you wouldn’t otherwise see at our previous Summit venues.

In years past, our audience consisted of water technology gurus and experts, and this year we wanted to paint a broader picture of the water challenges industries face and how water technology can be applied. The 2018 Water Leaders Summit set the stage for global industry leaders to share their untold stories of adopting water technology and innovation to address their respective day-to-day challenges, as well as providing unique perspectives and potential opportunities for our water tech experts.

Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst” and contributor for Fast Company, returned for the third consecutive year as our master storyteller. Six conversations focused on: Emerging Innovations, Value Creation through Water Stewardship in the Food & Beverage Industry, The Petroleum Business & Water, Key Insights and Opportunities in Adopting Alliance for Water Stewardship Standards, Water and the Health Economy and Sports, Grass & Smart Water.

Our second Water Warrior of the Year honor was awarded to Dr. Marcia Silva from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the new Future Water Leaders Fund was announced with three Wisconsin students receiving scholarships to help support their education in water.

It is undeniable that Milwaukee is the World Water Hub, as highlighted by a pre-Summit, capacity Tour of Milwaukee’s Water Technology District that explored the physical assets of our water hub. Thank you to all of our sponsors and attendees for another world-class conference for the books.

Water LEADERS SUMMIT 2017: A secure future needs water i May 23-24

In a digital world, a chain-link fence and a padlock won’t secure your water system.

The 2017 Summit’s big idea was focused on water security and bringing together thought-leaders at the heart of water security strategy. The goal was to be thinking about and talking about security not as a defensive crouch, but as a creative tool. What does it mean to achieve water security? How do you make your community’s water future secure, for people and companies, for cities and for the environment? How do you develop smart, resilient water strategies to avoid water insecurity?

Back by popular demand, Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst” and contributor for Fast Company, led provocative “story starters” followed by big idea conversations with water leaders from academia, non-profit organizations, private industry and government. Four plenary sessions narrowed in on: Cyber Security, Environmental Security, Diplomatic Security, and Organizational Security.

Water Leaders Summit 2017 was a collision point for professionals looking for new technology, talent, business growth opportunities, and inspiration. With 300+ targeted attendees, the Summit created a channel for water professionals to discuss vital current global water issues and advance innovative solutions shaping the future of water technology and our world’s water crisis.

In honor of our 10th anniversary, we revealed a new name for this special edition: Water Leaders Summit. The early years of the Summit generated awareness for the water technology cluster in Wisconsin. Since 2007, Milwaukee has grown into a magnet for the water industry and The Water Council has developed as a leader in water technology economic development thanks to strong industry, government, community, and academic support.


As communities near and far experience water shortages and contamination, the world is in need of innovative solutions to address the global water crisis. Cities are thinking about global risks and how to mitigate them, and rethinking urban planning strategies to strengthen resiliency. Utilities are confronted with aging infrastructure, toxic metals, and financial limitations. Companies and academic institutions are developing new water technologies at a rapid rate, and our future generation of water leaders are being trained in water-based careers.

Water Summit 2016 focused on developing a multi-dimensional approach that addresses water use and the investment in the development of new innovative products and solutions that will reinvent how we live and work with water. These topics and key players from all corners of the water space collided into four headlining conversations: resilient health, economics, infrastructure, and industry revolutions. This was the first year the Summit rolled-out a new conference format with 4 plenary sessions combining brief, provocative “story starters” followed by engaging conversations and it was well-liked by all attendees and speakers.


In July 2007, The Water Council convened the first Water Summit at Discovery World on the shores of Lake Michigan. Sixty individuals of various backgrounds attended – fulfilling the initial open, participatory forum that the organizer’s envisioned. Attendees from government, business, and education quickly recognized the potential of Milwaukee as a water industry cluster and began working to make it a reality.

It was decided at the first Water Summit that the Milwaukee region was equipped to take the lead in economic development, education and research across all aspects of water and the Summit was a platform to help generate awareness of Wisconsin’s water technology cluster. Our proximity to an abundant freshwater source, Lake Michigan, to world-class water research facilities and a cluster of companies focused on water technology and supporting freshwater as a human and natural resource through all stages of the water cycle, confirmed that Milwaukee was indeed a World Water Hub. Since 2007, the Water Summit has grown into a two-day event with access to hundreds of the world’s water industry thought-leaders and decision-makers.


Taylor Baseheart

Communications Manager