A Year of Water Crises & Solutions

By Dean Amhaus, President & CEO

When we look back at 2022, we might see it as the year the world finally took notice of the rapid and dramatic escalation of critical water challenges.

In the U.S., we saw the beginnings of a reckoning in the Southwest as Colorado River reservoirs fell to historic lows with no end in sight. Hurricane Ian caused more than $50 billion in damage to Florida. A water plant failure left 150,000 residents of Jackson, Miss., without access to clean water after heavy flooding and decades of infrastructure neglect. Unfortunately, this is only a small sampling in the U.S, and that does not even begin to reference the many issues across the world.

But I remain optimistic about our abilities to solve and adapt to these challenges as I watch our members develop new water technologies and adopt water stewardship best practices to use water more wisely and reduce operational risks. Central to this optimism are the innovations from individuals who are passionate about their work and commitment to improve the environment. While often unsung, they are inspiring!

The Water Council has also achieved several momentous milestones this year. Below are some highlights.

A Growing WAVE

We started 2022 with a splash by launching our enterprise-wide water stewardship program, WAVE, in February. WAVE is the first independently verified program that seeks to better define, recognize and reward “good” corporate water stewardship practices. WAVE companies follow international best practices to assess water uses, impacts and risks across the enterprise. Independent verification is provided by SCS Global Services and provides a credible foundation on which companies can launch corporate water stewardship programs that combine enterprise-wide goals and policy with meaningful site-level action and transparent reporting.

Already, seven companies representing a range of industries are somewhere in the WAVE “pipeline” from just starting to verification including Sloan, BlueTriton Brands, Toyota Motor North America and Marquette University. A. O. Smith Corporation, one of our pilot companies, just became WAVE verified, joining fellow verified pilot tester Watts Water Technologies. We also formalized partnerships with Riverwater Partners, an investment advisory firm, and KPMG, an accounting firm, to promote water stewardship through WAVE.

In the next few weeks, we will finalize agreements with a handful of additional companies, including some that have very strong global brands. Moving into 2023, we already have several commitments and are in discussions with many more companies, so stay tuned for more news. More importantly, ask yourself whether WAVE can be a great resource for your company in 2023.

Spreading the Water Stewardship Message

We continued our other water stewardship services in 2022, including training and advisory services. Plus, we:

Just this month, we completed a video with Source Ten Creative emphasizing the importance of water to business operations.

We are also participating in a Water Environment Federation (WEF) effort to raise awareness of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors in the water sector and set ESG guidelines. To that end, please fill out this survey to help us and WEF understand ESG familiarity and needs in the sector.

BREWing Innovation

This year marked the second round of our redesigned water technology accelerator program. BREW 2.0 is a next-stage post-accelerator created to help young companies build connections and grow their company’s capacity.

This year’s cohort spanned the globe with companies from the U.S., Austria, Canada, France, India, Sweden and the United Kingdom. We also welcomed new sponsors Beckhoff Automation and Thales Water Advisors. In June we held an online Demo Day attended by more than 100 viewers.

The 2023 application period for BREW 2.0 is open through Jan. 6. Programming will include two weeks of virtual training and a week of in-person training in Milwaukee, Wis.

We are thrilled to announce the in-person week will include a special day of pitch and investor events. After a public Demo Day, The Water Council is partnering with NVNG Investment Advisors to offer BREW 2.0 cohort companies connections to the venture capital community. We will be inviting a unique assembly of global investors and members of The Water Council such as A. O. Smith, Badger Meter, Baird, Beckhoff Automation, BlueTriton Brands, Evoqua, Nutrien, Rockwell Automation, Toyota and Xylem, to name a few invitees.

tech challenge

We held two successful Tech Challenges this year. In spring, our corporate sponsors – A. O. Smith Corporation, Badger Meter and Watts Water Technologies – selected MIS7 of the Netherlands for its innovation using the temperature difference between a pipe and its surroundings to generate electrical energy and Biovert Protein of Thailand for its work reclaiming wastewater for reuse using a nature-based intervention.

Just as with BREW, it is particularly exciting to see the global reach of Tech Challenge. The list of applicants from across the world is even more extensive but, of course, that information and technology insight is reserved as unique assets for our Tech Challenge sponsors.

The sponsors recently met with finalists for the fall challenge, and we will announce a winner soon. Watch for a new challenge in spring!

student pilot program

We helped fund two water-focused pilot demonstrations by Wisconsin students through a collaboration with the Fund for Lake Michigan, the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences:

Maybe in the future we will see Alexis and Beth start new businesses, win a Governor’s Business Plan Competition or even become engaged in BREW 2.0. We can then look back and say it all started in 2022 with some seed funding for a pilot.

Click here to learn more about these inspiring students.

Young woman in blue shirt and baseball cap stands next to large water cylinders in a field.
Beth Kondro’s project tests wastewater treatment residuals in cropland runoff.

twc & the U.s. army reserve

In June, we announced a collaboration years in the making with the U.S. Army Reserve. We signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) (USACAPOC(A)) to assist in the recruitment of water industry professionals to serve as Public Water and Sanitation Civil Affairs Officers. These officers will provide technical expertise focused on water and sanitation systems for human, agricultural and industrial needs.

This is an exciting opportunity for water professionals to use their years of experience and training to serve their country. A few days ago I heard that several outstanding candidates are seriously considering joining the 38G/6G unit of public water and sanitation specialists within USACAPOC(A). Check out the video below or visit our website to learn more.

growing membership

Also in June, we hosted our first in-person membership meeting in more than two years at Potawatomi Business Development Corporation in Milwaukee. It was wonderful reconnecting with colleagues and friends and meeting new contacts.

That circle of contacts continues to grow. We added 47 new members in 2022, bringing our total membership to 146. That includes 24 members based outside the U.S., emphasizing our global reach. It also includes our newest members, Sudoc and Green Lake Association. Welcome!

We also continued to grow our Water Champion membership for non-water technology companies interested in supporting our mission to drive freshwater innovation and advance water stewardship. Water Champions was launched in 2021 and now stands at 22 companies.

We plan to hold more in-person member meetings in 2023, starting March 8 at InSinkErator in Racine, Wis. Members, mark your calendars and stay tuned for more details.

water leaders summit

Our annual summit also returned to an in-person event this year to great success. We held the 2022 Water Leaders Summit in October at the Harley-Davidson Museum with the theme “Unifying Innovation & Stewardship.”

Panels addressed hot topics such as water and economic development in the American Southwest, water’s role in national security, PFAS contamination and corporate water stewardship. The event received many positive comments, particularly about the format and the venue. As one example:

I have attended a number of Summits and thought it was one of the best in terms of good discussions, food and reception time that provided the ability to interact with others.

If you missed it, you can now view the opening session, a virtual conversation with Jaclyn Porfilio, senior policy advisor to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Porfilio spoke about new efforts to track the effects of climate change and why that’s important for businesses. Check it out below and view photos from the summit here.

Mark your calendars – the 2023 Water Leaders Summit will be held Sept. 13 and 14. Contact us to learn about sponsorship options.

new neighbors

As more workers return to the office, we saw growing interest in our headquarters building, the Global Water Center. In October, Danish firm APX10 opened its first U.S. office in the building. It joined CDM Smith, Regulosity and The Nature Conservancy as new tenants. Several other companies are considering opening offices or expanding their existing offices here.

We still have some space available ranging from one-person desks in our Oasis co-working space to larger furnished offices. If you operate a water-related business, if you’d benefit from the close connection to The Water Council’s water technology and stewardship network, or if you’d like to work in a historic building in a fun neighborhood, contact us to learn more.

There is certainly more that I could talk about, but I think that is enough for today. Let’s call this a wrap on 2022! We’re ready to take a small break for the holidays to rest and spend time with our loved ones, and I hope you’re able to enjoy the same. See you in 2023!

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