Positioning Ohio as a Global Water Innovation Hub: Launching the 2023 Smart Lake Erie Watershed Season

May 20, 2023

We are making significant strides in positioning Ohio as a global water innovation hub by launching its 2023 Testbed Season. CWA has created the largest digitally connected freshwater body in the world through outfitting the Smart Lake Erie Watershed with state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure and hundreds of IoT and LoRaWAN sensors covering over 6,000 square miles of open water, rivers, streams, and wetlands, and is projected to nearly double over the coming years. This network of sensors enhances the region's ability to establish functional, streamlined solutions for monitoring water quality in ever-changing conditions.

Recent Events to Support Smart Lake Erie Watershed Development

The upcoming deployment of Smart Buoys at Edgewater Park and along the Lake Erie coast, as well as the recent Sensor Calibration Event, are key milestones in the CWA's efforts. 

The Calibration Event in April brought together local researchers, municipalities, and water plant operators at Cleveland State University to ensure that smart water sensing devices are calibrated and ready for monitoring and reporting accurate results. These solar-powered sondes are the 'brain' of the CWA buoys, which measure water quality and conditions and report data in real-time to scientists, regional water utility managers, and the general public. This data provides an early-warning system to plant operators and water quality experts, preventing harmful algal blooms from entering drinking water, accelerating responses to public health concerns, and many more critical applications that protect and improve the vitality of the Lake Erie watershed.

In the coming weeks, we will launch more Smart Buoys to kick off the 2023 field season of monitoring our Great Lake and collecting robust, reliable data. Assisting with the deployment of the Smart Buoys is Argonaut, the CMSD partner organization training students in maritime career opportunities. These students staff and manage vessels on the River and Lake, such as Port of Cleveland’s debris harvesting vessels, Flotsam and Jetsam.

Attracting New Business from Around The World

CWA’s Water Accelerator Testbed program provides innovators from all over the world with an opportunity to test, trial, pilot, and demonstrate their cutting-edge IoT technologies such as sensors, telemetry, data management, cloud platforms, cyber security, AI, and predictive analysis. It accommodates innovators at all stages, from start-ups to multinational corporations, and allows them to test their technologies in a range of environments such as open water, marshlands, or streams. This Testbed is an unparalleled asset for water innovators: standardizing location, equipment, and access, as well as providing legal and insurance considerations.

“As we continue to evolve and develop new technologies that address specific needs in the marketplace, we're immensely grateful for our partnership with Cleveland Water Alliance. They've created an easy avenue not only for innovators to refine and demonstrate their technologies, but also for users to evaluate for themselves what's going to make a positive difference in their processes,” says Andrew Luessenhop, Regional Sales Manager of In-Situ Environmental, a Colorado-based company who has utilized CWA’s testbed and forged new partnerships from this asset.

CWA also amplifies the economic opportunities this Testbed offers for these innovators, as well as for the Great Lakes region, aiming to connect these companies with manufacturing support, research and industry collaboration, opportunities for funding, and potential customers and end-users.

Driving Economic Growth

These initiatives within the region’s water economy represent billions of dollars in economic impact and support tens of thousands of local jobs. Ohio represents about 10% of the $15.3B US Water Economy Market, and Cuyahoga County is experiencing explosive job creation within the water economy, outpacing advanced manufacturing, biohealth, and additive manufacturing. 

By providing a diverse and highly sophisticated data collection and decision support network, the Smart Lake Erie Watershed programs enable early warning and real-time insights for industry, utility, agriculture, maritime, and recreational interests across the region. IoT technologies comprise a significant portion of the growing environmental monitoring and “smart water management” landscapes. According to a January 2022 report, the global environmental monitoring market – which includes sensors for monitoring air, water and soil – is projected to grow $3.4 billion by 2026. Other reports estimate that the global market for water-quality sensors alone is growing by a rate of nearly double that.

Overall, the Cleveland Water Alliance is making significant progress towards sustainable water practices and solutions in Northeast Ohio. Through its commitment to driving progress and innovation in the water economy, we are working towards providing the data, technology, and partnerships that will ensure more sustainable use of our freshwater resources, here and around the globe. The CWA's work not only benefits the region's economy but also protects and improves the vitality of the Lake Erie watershed.

Photos by Jeff Pu

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