China Taps Milwaukee’s Expertise for help in creating ‘Sponge Cities’

Posted by Don Behm of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Nov 15, 2017

The central government in China is soliciting the water expertise of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and several area businesses to help transform 30 of China’s largest urban centers into “sponge cities” by 2020.

China will invest $16 billion or more over the next few years to enable those cities to soak up rainwater where it falls rather than letting it flow into rivers, a critical step in preventing major floods.

The 30 mega-cities are planning to store much of the water to meet another goal of re-using at least 70% of all rainwater. The water could be captured and stored for future use or allowed to seep into the ground to replenish groundwater aquifers.

So China could become a major buyer of water technology from Wisconsin, everything from engineering expertise to valves, filters, pumps and other products, said Katy Sinnott, vice president for international business development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“We have met with Chinese companies who will be building the ‘sponge cities’ infrastructure and who will need to buy our technologies,” Sinnott said in referring to a March trip to Beijing.

An increasing number of Chinese cities in recent years have been damaged by major floods. Part of the blame for those losses rests on the unbroken expanse of concrete and other impermeable surfaces that cover the land in urban centers, according to central government officials.

WEDC and The Water Council are leading a Wisconsin delegation to China this month intended to promote the ability of MMSD and more than 200 state-based companies in the water technology industry to lend a hand to China and its “sponge cities.”

Read full story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.