A Watershed Year for Stewardship & Technology

By Dean Amhaus, President & CEO

What a year it has been for the country, the water sector, the sustainability movement and, of course, The Water Council. Despite the many challenges presented in 2021, The Water Council made great strides in building on previous work and charging into new territory. Below are some highlights:

Water Stewardship
Driven by the rapid and dramatic expansion of expectations on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance by corporations, 2021 was a (pardon the pun) watershed year for our water stewardship work. We have created a program that fills a critical gap in the corporate ESG marketplace. Participating in UW-Milwaukee’s six-week National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, we interviewed more than 50 stakeholders about their water stewardship needs. We used that information – along with the results of several pilot projects – to shape a corporate water stewardship accelerator that we are excited to introduce in early 2022. Thank you to our early adopters in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Contact Matt Howard to learn more.

BREW 2.0
After six years of operating our BREW Accelerator, we re-engineered the program in 2020 to fill another gap as we targeted our support for late-stage water technology companies focused on sales and scale. We welcomed our first post-accelerator cohort in 2021 with several weeks of concentrated virtual programming and a pitch event broadcast around the world. These companies have seen real growth and promising accomplishments. For example, Aqua Membranes was backed by computer memory and data storage company Micron, while Divirod closed a million-dollar investment round led by Thin Line Capital Fund I and GoHub Ventures.

We have been pleased to add Beckhoff Automation and Thales Water Advisors as BREW 2.0 sponsors, joining previous sponsor American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. BREW 2.0 was recently recognized as a finalist in the Wisconsin Inno Fire Awards from the Milwaukee Business Journal. We are accepting applications for the 2022 cohort through Jan. 15.

Tech Challenge
We saw some exciting results from our Tech Challenge in 2021. In spring, our sponsors selected PANI, an Israeli innovation, as winner, further emphasizing the global nature of the competition. For our second round that closed in November, we received applications from 13 countries, a new record! Fall also marked the first time we offered three challenges with four sponsors – A. O. Smith, Badger Meter, Watts Water Technologies and Xylem – who are currently busy conducting semi-finalist interviews.

Attention has been growing for a 2020 Tech Challenge winner, Fixed Earth Innovations, for its innovative process of using microbes to destroy PFAS, also known as forever chemicals. If you’d like your company to get inside access to promising new technologies, contact Karen Frost to learn about joining our spring 2022 Tech Challenge round as a sponsor.

Water Champions
Water technology companies form the bedrock of our membership at The Water Council, but we wanted to offer companies outside that sector the opportunity to support our mission to drive freshwater innovation and advance water stewardship. That’s why we introduced our Water Champion program in fall, with SCS Global Services as our inaugural member. Since that time, we have added Black & Veatch, Donohue & Associates, Ecolab and Riverwater Partners. Contact Laura Mullen, our member engagement manager, to learn how you can become a Water Champion.

New Tenants in the Global Water Center
We were thrilled to welcome Xylem Sanitaire and Beckhoff Automation to the Global Water Center, our headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our partnership with these companies includes not just physical proximity but also programming support, as Xylem has signed on as a sponsor of our Tech Challenge and Beckhoff is now sponsoring BREW 2.0. We have a variety of spaces available in 2022, from co-working space for entrepreneurs to larger offices for established companies. Contact Amy Jensen to learn more.

“Cimbria returned to the Global Water Center after the height of COVID-19 because the state-of-the-art building allows us to welcome investors, colleagues and clients into a highly adaptable and sustainable workplace aligned with our purpose – the Water Economy. It’s a center of excellence, collaboration and impact that complements the professionalism expected of our private equity initiatives and consulting engagements with premier clients.” ~ Noah J. Sabich, Partner, Cimbria Capital & Cimbria Consulting        

Water Leaders Summit
After missing our annual Water Leaders Summit in 2020 (we recorded a podcast instead), we held a virtual summit over six days filled with insight from thought leaders on infrastructure, climate change, ESG and more. The summit was headlined by Sara Gonzalez-Rothi, the first adviser focused solely on water for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who called climate change “the existential challenge of (our) lifetime.” You can catch recordings of our summit sessions on our YouTube page, where you can also see some of the terrific branding videos we put together this year with Source Ten Creative. Watch for more in 2022.

New Members & Partners
As always, we are thankful for our members, including our newest member, MentorAPM. If you’re not a member yet, contact Laura Mullen, our member engagement manager, to learn how membership in The Water Council can help you make connections and grow your business.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the speakers, companies and organizations that helped us welcome naval officers from all over the world to the Global Water Center this month as part of a U.S. Naval War College field program. The officers learned how businesses, NGOs and universities are finding solutions to humanitarian water challenges that could affect their home countries. As climate change accelerates water crises such as drought and flooding, these solutions become more important than ever.

Member News & Opportunities