In a nod to Milwaukee’s economic aspirations, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is visiting the city Thursday to sign an agreement to launch joint water technology research with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s meetings with metro Milwaukee’s water industry leaders coincide with metro-area efforts to create a center of water technology innovation.

Jackson, who holds cabinet-level rank in the Obama administration, will tour UWM’s Great Lakes WATER Institute before signing a memorandum of understanding covering “the development and implementation of innovative water treatment technologies,” according to a copy of the document. While the memorandum opens the way for collaborative research for at least three years, any funding would require a separate agreement, the document says.

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