Wisconsin as an emerging technology hub for the water treatment industry
The state of Wisconsin is known for its water. Well, it’s actually known for its cheese, but with two Great Lakes touching its shores, the state is rife with opportunity for researchers, water technology startups, and innovative treatment methods.
Last October, my colleagues and I drove to Milwaukee to spend a day with The Water Council, touring the Global Water Center and seeing what else the city has to offer in terms of water.
The Global Water Center is located in a historic seven-story building in downtown Milwaukee and is home to a number of water technology companies, from new startups working in its water-centric coworking space to nationally recognized brands headquartered in Milwaukee. The facility is designed to foster innovation and collaboration, with demonstrations and research happening around every corner. Tenants are encouraged to collaborate with each other and share resources.
The Water Council team took us to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Science, which abuts the Kinnickinnic River, to see how graduate students use the waterways available literally in their backyard for research. We also visited a local wastewater treatment plant and a storm water project at South Shore Park Beach.
In December, I took a tour of A.O. Smith’s new Lloyd R. Smith Corporate Technology Center, located across the street from the company’s Milwaukee headquarters. Opened in October 2018, the 42,700-sq-ft facility houses laboratories for water quality testing, water heating and boiler performance, and air quality, as well as other more specialized labs. Because many of the company’s products are used in China, it was interesting to learn how the products are used differently there than in the states.
Wisconsin’s water advocacy extends past Milwaukee. A recent study in southwest Wisconsin showed elevated E.coli and nitrate levels in 42% of tested groundwater wells, prompting the creation of a water quality task force. There are approximately 800,000 private wells in the state, serving 25% of the population, so determining the source of this contamination and how to remedy it will be vital to protecting public health. With Wisconsin’s water-conscious reputation, the state certainly has the technical expertise to manage it.