Erie Hack is Back to Take on Water Equity, Quality, and Infrastructure

September 14, 2021

That’s right! The Lake Erie innovation competition that attracted national attention and launched exciting technologies in 2017 and 2019 has returned. A program of Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA), Erie Hack is a multi-month innovation challenge that brings together techies, creative thinkers, and entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Canada to develop technology solutions for our greatest water challenges.

We know what you’re thinking: What exactly are Lake Erie’s challenges?

Challenge Statements  

Through a NASA-facilitated regional stakeholder engagement process, we’ve developed three Challenge Statements that serve as the guiding force of Erie Hack. Each challenge frames a particular set of water resource issues, as well as the affiliated innovation opportunities, for competing teams to consider as they develop their solutions.

Community Water Resources

The first of the three challenge statements for 2021 centers around Community Water Resources. Lake Erie and its watersheds represent an invaluable natural resource; however, this value is not shared equitably across Lake Erie communities  and often not conveyed in an accessible manner.

Public awareness of the impact of human choices on Lake Erie’s ecosystems, like burning fossil fuels, dumping pharmaceuticals and other toxics, over-development, increased impervious areas, and draining wetlands and filling floodplains, is low. While there’s a lot of data out there, relatively little is packaged as useful information or consolidated for quick, digestible public reference.

Further, racial and economic disparities mean that affordability and environmental justice issues can prevent our most vulnerable communities from benefiting from the presence of our Great Lake, resulting in many community members who aren’t aware of these challenges or the local tools they can use to combat these issues and advocate for change.

Additionally, Lake Erie and its watersheds offer a tremendous learning opportunity for youth in communities across the basin, and by integrating STEM with meaningful watershed education experiences, we can engage the next generation of water innovators. Water is life, and it’s up to all of us to make sure it benefits everyone.

The Challenge

At Erie Hack 2021, teams of innovators will gather to develop practical solutions - such as devices, processes, hardware innovations, or digital tools - that cultivate public awareness of the value of water, meaningful water data, equitable water access, and community resilience.

In previous years, finalists have presented a diverse variety of innovations that ranged from streamlined water storytelling through video production, visualization, and a crowdsourcing data application to a texting alert and reporting service for real-time information exchange between utilities and residents without internet access.

Curious about how YOU can contribute to a more equitable future for Lake Erie and the City of Cleveland? Find out more and register to participate at

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