The Water Council, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that helps get startups’ innovative water technology to market, recently won the 2019 Great Lakes Leadership Award for Water Technology Innovation from the Great Lakes Protection Fund.
The award, which was also given to five other organizations from Cleveland; San Francisco; Chicago; Montreal; and Palmetto Bay, Florida, recognizes efforts made by water technology groups to improve water quality and combat the effects of water pollution. The Water Council was recognized for its efforts in protecting Lake Michigan and surrounding Milwaukee-area rivers, according to a news release from the Great Lakes Protection Fund.
A $15,000 prize accompanies the award, which Taylor Baseheart, communications manager at The Water Council, said will be put into existing programs designed for innovators from both small and midsize companies to bring an idea to life.
The council’s Tech Challenge and BREW Accelerator programs both invite innovators to propose cutting-edge water technology. The winners of each program receive funding and company sponsorships to help their inventions become a reality and go on the market.
“It’s really great that we have this award for recognition of our innovative programs that support these early startups and small and midsize businesses,” Baseheart said. “We hope to be that connector to further their engagement and awareness of their cutting-edge solutions.”
Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council, said he’s proud of the progress the organization has made since it began in 2013, but the award also shows that there’s still so much more to do. He said lead pipes are still a big issue in Milwaukee and other areas surrounding the Great Lakes. He also wants to focus on the harm pharmaceutical products cause to local water supplies, as well as the wildlife living within them.
Amhaus said many of these issues simply won’t be solved for many years to come. That’s where the emphasis on entrepreneurial and startup innovation comes in.
“It’s coming up with solutions that these companies are looking to add to their R&D (research and development),” Amhaus said. “The beauty of this is that it can come from small companies, large companies, university researchers … even a high school student.”
Amhaus said one example of the innovative technology the council is working with is sensors that can detect the different types of pollutants in a body of water. This technology is still developing, and Amhaus said he hopes the council can help increase the accuracy and speed of the sensors.
The five Great Lakes make up 84% of the surface freshwater supply in North America and serve 40 million people, the news release stated.