CWA at WEFTEC 2023: Collaboration, Innovation, and Global Impact

October 10, 2023

WEFTEC 2023 in Chicago is not just another conference; it's a premier event in the water sector where the world's top water professionals gather to talk tech, collaborative solutions, and the future of not only the industry, but also our freshwater resources. CWA was there to drive the conversation, showcase our Smart Lake Erie Watershed - the largest digitally connected freshwater body in the world - and solidify key global connections. The message was clear: CWA operates on a global scale and is a critical cluster in the water technology arena. Our participation wasn't just about being in the room—it was about leading the dialogue. During our time in Chicago, our team contributed in a variety of ways. Here are our top moments from #WEFTEC23.

CWA's Strong Presence in WEFTEC Panel Discussions

Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) team members led and participated in critical dialogue throughout the conference. Kicking off with a standout session presented by the Korean Water Partnership in the Innovation Pavilion, four of America's top water clusters – including The Water Tower, Current Water in Chicago, and The Water Council – presented their transformative work in the water sector. Engaging in an enriching dialogue, the panel dissected both the potential of innovation and its barriers. 

Our Executive Director, Bryan Stubbs, emphasized CWA's distinct approach to innovation. He detailed our meticulous matchmaking process – how we diligently listen to market partners to facilitate innovation. A key takeaway was Bryan's synopsis of the recently-established Freshwater Innovation Fund - a $5 million seed fund aimed at investing in promising early-stage water technology companies. Bryan noted the need to educate investors, urging them to realize that today's water market is significantly evolved from past perceptions – “It’s not your dad’s water market!” Above all, he underscored that CWA operates with a pulse on genuine market-need: CWA is deeply tuned into the concerns of utilities and end-users. Rather than offering redundant solutions, our goal is to discern their needs, understand their challenges, and accelerate market-driven innovations to address them.

Finally, Bryan joined the World Water Cluster Leaders Forum at WEFTEC’s Global Plaza. He was joined by representatives from Denmark’s CLEAN cluster, the Korea Water Cluster, and Catalan Water Partnership in Spain. The theme of the discussion was ‘Bridging Clusters: Connecting the World of Water.’ While each organization highlighted their efforts, the need for collaboration was clear: we must be united across sectors in countries to advance the global #WaterEconomy.

CWA’s Global Impact Shines at Partner Happy Hour

Amidst the bustling activities of WEFTEC 2023, Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) hosted an exclusive meet-and-greet that saw participation from over 40 esteemed partners hailing from all across the world. This mixer was more than just a casual gathering; it was a testament to CWA's significant international footprint. With attendees spanning from Korea to Germany and all the way to various corners of the US, the diversity in the room was palpable. A highlight of the event was the presence of CWA’s European Representatives, who play a crucial role in bridging collaborations across continents.

Our international reach isn't merely symbolic. It's operational and impactful. With assistance from our European Representatives, CWA has opened doors for clusters and technology companies abroad, introducing them to fresh opportunities and a launching pad in the US. This platform allows them to showcase their innovative water solutions and tap into a vast new market. This event was a reflection of CWA's commitment to building global relationships, driving innovation, and creating lasting solutions for the world's water challenges.

Emily Hamilton: Leadership at LIFT's Intelligent Water Systems Challenge 2023

Cleveland Water Alliance's very own Innovation Advocate & Deal Flow Analyst, Emily Hamilton, exemplified leadership and expertise in this year's LIFT Intelligent Water Systems Challenge. Hosted by The Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), this fifth annual challenge is an key event that underscores the importance of integrating intelligent water systems within utilities to pave the way for the adoption of cutting-edge water technologies - aligning with CWA’s mission and goals.

With our current water industry’s expansive systems aimed at ensuring public and ecological health, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has made these systems even more sophisticated. They are now equipped with advanced instrumentation that monitors critical process indicators, simplifying system operations. However, the vast repository of data collected from these "intelligent" water systems holds potential far beyond mere monitoring. As the industry grapples with intricate issues like stormwater management, eutrophication, aging infrastructure, and CSOs, it's clear that this 'big data' can provide valuable insights, guiding utilities in making informed decisions.

The LIFT Intelligent Water Systems Challenge, through its work of engaging students, professionals, and tech enthusiasts seeks to unleash this potential. With three finalists vying for the $10,000 grand prize and a special recognition for the "most elegant solution," the challenge becomes a platform to highlight the potential of data-driven solutions for water utilities. 

Being on both the steering committee and the judges panel, Emily Hamilton ensured the challenge met its goal: to emphasize the value of smart water technologies and encourage their adoption. Through such initiatives, we're not just showcasing talent and innovation; we're shaping the future of water management.

Spotlight on the Water Data Forum at WEFTEC's Innovation Pavilion

At this year's WEFTEC Innovation Pavilion Elkin Hernandez of DC Water and WEF's Intelligent Water Systems Working Group introduced the audience to the Water Data Forum (WDF) series. This groundbreaking collaborative web series is designed to engage a diverse group of experts from various sectors, discussing the multifaceted approaches to collecting, managing, and leveraging water data for maximum impact.

Offered as a free, virtual forum, the series encompasses a wide array of topics. From cutting-edge sensor technologies and control systems to broader subjects like the application of water data in promoting environmental justice and climate resilience, the spectrum is vast and enlightening. The initiative, jointly presented by Cleveland Water Alliance, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub, and other esteemed guest partners, aims to make the intricacies of water data accessible not only to experts but also to the general public.

Looking ahead, the next exciting chapter in the WDF series is slated for November, focusing on the crucial theme: "Towards a Resilient Water Future: Managing the Impacts of a Changing Climate on Community Infrastructure." The dedication to promoting knowledge and driving innovation remains unwavering, promising yet another insightful session for enthusiasts and professionals alike.

WEFTEC 2023 was a Success!

WEFTEC 2023 was a significant event for Cleveland Water Alliance. In addition to promoting CWA’s unique offerings as a globally-leading cluster, we also scouted exciting technology that may be a fit for our testbed programming to present to our portfolio of utility partners. As WEFTEC wraps up, we remain focused on our mission to tackle global water challenges and look forward to continuing our work with our partners and the broader community. Thanks to everyone who joined us in this endeavor. We look forward to connecting with you throughout the year!

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