Singapore International Water Week Recap

July 8, 2024
Bryan Stubbs

In June, I attended the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), one of the world's premier platforms for water economy innovations and solutions. Organized and invited to attend. Organized by Singapore's National Water Agency (PUB) and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, SIWW brings together global leaders, experts, solutions providers and practitioners to share knowledge and foster global partnerships.

A City Leading in Innovation and Collaboration

With its pristine cityscape, the iconic Marina Bay Sands in Singapore provided an ideal SIWW setting. Although smaller than our recent visit to IFAT in Munich, SIWW was highly impactful. The conference's emphasis on innovation for water utility and industry partners, combined with perspectives from Asia and Australia, offered fresh insights often missing in US and European events.

Learning from Water-Stressed Regions

Water-stressed areas, particularly in Australia, are driving significant technological advancements. These regions are heavily investing in solutions including desalination and water reuse for both utility and industrial players. A presentation by Amazon Web Services (AWS) highlighted how the water-intensive industry, and in particular thirsty server farms (driven by AI), are innovating to reduce water usage, creating programs to incentivize and finance water-saving technologies. This was a very fascinating session and reinforced trends we have seen lately that countries including Australia and here in the Southwestern region of the United States, both water-stressed regions keep on developing cheaper ways to utilize critical water technologies.

Focusing on Climate Change

Climate change was also a major focus at SIWW. Rising sea levels and increased rainfall in many regions of Asia demand resilient infrastructure solutions. The cross-application of ideas between the East and the West provided valuable lessons on building robust urban and utility systems. It's clear that many countries represented at SIWW are deeply committed to infrastructure updates and upgrades.

Impressed by Singapore's Infrastructure and Ecosystem

Singapore's water management approach showcases its innovative capacity. Universities in Singapore are generating groundbreaking research, leading to the creation of new companies with solutions focusing on a range of topics from AI management through to mining of minerals from wastewater. It was great to interact with both at the conference. I observed the ways this collaboration addressed the full spectrum of technology readiness levels and positively impacted the utilities and infrastructure in the region. The panels at SIWW, uniquely pairing utilities with corporations and researchers, underscored the value of diverse perspectives in solving complex water challenges. This was one of the most powerful aspects of the conference, and something I haven't seen executed at other conferences. This cross-sector conversation provided incredibly effective, solution-oriented conversations about water challenges.

TechXchange: A Platform for Cutting-Edge Innovation

The TechXchange event at SIWW was a highlight. This full-day technology pitching session connected startups and innovators with end-users, venture capitalists, and incubators. Featuring 31 global startups across five categories, the event showcased advanced treatment, decentralized solutions, asset management, water quality monitoring, and smart digital solutions. A highly selective process that brought the ‘best in class’ innovators with the most promising solutions at a global scale.

The immediate feedback from end-users set TechXchange apart. Two startups that have collaborated with CWA by utilizing our Water Accelerator Testbeds, The Wave Talk, with its rapid bacteria sensors, received well-deserved recognition. I was thrilled to see The Wave Talk win the pitch competition, continuing to bring notoriety to our testbed partner!

Youngdug Kim of The Wave Talk from South Korea winning the pitch competition at TechXchange

Other technologies pitched that I found impressive included several rapid bacteria sensors, as well as a variety of digital watershed management tools including one created with McGill University in Montreal, Canada. There were other technology solutions, ranging from digital management products to for mining heavy metals and nutrients from wastewater.

This platform also provided amazing connections for our Innovation Team, with many innovators interested in connecting with CWA to utilize our testbeds in the future.

Strategic Connections and Collaborations

SIWW also facilitated reconnections with companies and partners from IFAT including several firms working with CWA in seeking support for establishing a US office and establishing US manufacturing here in Ohio.

It was also productive to see and engage with Tikal from Chicago and discuss collaborations through the National Science Funded Great Lakes ReNEW project.

Attending the launch of the new X Prize for Water, a $119 million competition aimed at revolutionizing desalination, was particularly inspiring. It was great to see our friends at WEF and Dr. Christine Boyle from Burnt Island Ventures, both of whom are actively participating in the X Prize for Water project. We will be watching this effort with great attention as it evolves.

And of course it was great to see so many companies that we work with and support us including In-Situ, Xylem, Hach, K-Water, Netherlands Water Alliance, Catalonia Water Partnership, and so many others!

Moving Forward with Determination

I extend my gratitude to Ryan Yuen and Singapore PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency, and the US Department of Commerce's Office of Trade for making this experience impactful. The insights gained and connections made at SIWW will directly influence CWA’s approach to water technology, economic development, and investment.

In summary, Singapore International Water Week demonstrated the power of innovation and global collaboration in addressing global water challenges. We are determined to apply these lessons and drive forward partnerships that will shape the future of water management.

Bryan Stubbs
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Bryan Stubbs

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Bryan Stubbs is the Executive Director & President of Cleveland Water Alliance

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