Collaborative sector study reveals challenges


Study stresses need for Water Stewardship, Innovation

Washington, D.C. —The U.S. Council on Competitiveness’ latest sector study, co-led by A.O. Smith Corporation and Marquette University, reveals challenges faced by water users in the manufacturing sector, where nearly half of industry water consumption is attributed. Leverage: Water and Manufacturing found that to meet increasing water demand, innovation in infrastructure, technology, investment and talent are needed to overcome challenges resulting from urbanization and population growth. 

“Water is a limited resource that plays a critical role across multiple sectors of the U.S. economy,” said William Bates, Executive Vice President, U.S. Council on Competitiveness. “Thanks to the collaboration of the tremendous leadership in the Milwaukee area, we’ve identified key policies and actions that can bring greater efficiency and productivity to the manufacturing sector and greater opportunity for businesses and workers.” 

The Council, through its Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership (EMCP), partnered with Marquette and A. O. Smith to hold the initial sector study dialogue on water & manufacturing on February 16, 2016 at Marquette. The dialogue gathered over 50 national leaders and water experts from all sectors of the economy to discuss the important issues around water and manufacturing.   

“Water is a critical resource that is essential for our businesses, communities and society to thrive, and we are proud to collaborate on this roadmap for our nation,” said Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell. “On this important strategic priority, many national leaders and water experts came together to focus on accelerating development and technology for all sectors of the economy.” 

“Manufacturers need ample, reliable supplies of fresh water if they are to compete in a global economy,” Ajita G. Rajendra, chairman and chief executive officer A. O. Smith Corporation said. “This is an issue that is gaining a great deal of attention, and this study represents a call to action, not just for manufacturers, but for all stakeholders to address the critical water needs in this country.” 

The robust conversations during the dialogue formed the basis for Leverage and led to a set of recommendations that will feed into a larger EMCP paper and eventual action plan for the president-elect. These recommendations included:   

  • Use a stewardship approach to water management in which laws and regulations surrounding water reuse support natural processes whenever possible and treat water as the limited resources it is rather than a limitless commodity.
  • Integrate natural infrastructure, including roof installments, rain barrels and constructed wetlands, into water management approaches to improve energy efficiency and water quality while reducing overall water infrastructure investment costs.
  • Encourage development and deployment of technologies and microbiological barriers that increase overall water supply by diversifying sources and improving quality and efficiency such as desalinization, nutrient recovery and wastewater re-use.
  • Promote the uptake of sensors and monitoring equipment and aggregation of big data across sectors and geographies to improve water management and increase information available on water quality and efficiency.
  • Increase federal funding available for water technology test beds to accelerate development and reduce cost and risk associated with deployment of advanced technologies for improving water quality and efficiency.
  • Model water consumption and availability using high performance computing to address gaps in supply and demand and reduce overall waste and costs associated with managing water and energy systems.
  • Engage government and private sector stakeholders in an enhanced public awareness campaign to address water conservation needs.
  • Address the skills gap in the water and manufacturing sector by de-stigmatizing technical careers, reintroducing hands-on training in K-12 and encouraging cross-sector partnerships between industry and academia.

 Dialogue attendees made commitments to the solutions proposed and captured in Leverage, including:  

The Water Council has launched a water innovation scouting program called the ICE (Innovation - Commercialization - Exchange) which is expected to connect emerging technologies from government laboratories, universities and entrepreneurs to commercialization across industry sectors.

A. O. Smith Corporation has made four commitments: 1) a collaboration with The Water Council to sponsor the Business Research Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin (BREW), which will promote start-up businesses in freshwater technology. A. O. Smith is also excited about becoming one of the Founding Members of a groundbreaking initiative by The Water Council. To bridge the gap between research and industry, the initiative, called the ICE Institute, will accelerate Innovation, Commercialization and Exchange (ICE);  2) leveraging the data and capabilities of their newest company, Aquasana, to identify regional water issues and develop approaches to address those issues; 3) a partnership with the Plumbing Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Educational Foundation to support an initiative for training outreach and recruitment of incoming talent, specifically in the plumbing field; and 4) along with other companies, A. O. Smith Corporation will provide support in a global outreach program that works to identify and broaden the efforts to develop sensor technologies that can be employed to monitor fresh and waste water usage. 

Marquette researchers in collaboration with industry are developing cross-functional sensors that can be used in water monitoring equipment. Technologies under development include solid state and acoustic wave sensors, micro-electro-mechanical Systems (MEMS) devices and sensors, optical wave guide-based sensors, and smart sensor systems for water monitoring applications.  Faculty from the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Sciences are involved in collaborative efforts at the Global Water Center to foster academic-industry partnerships on use of big data in the water sector. 

About the U.S. Council on Competitiveness
The U.S. Council on Competitiveness is a nonpartisan leadership group of CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and national laboratory directors working to ensure U.S. prosperity.  @CompeteNow 

About Marquette University
Marquette University is a Catholic and Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 10 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. A Marquette education offers students a virtually unlimited number of paths and destinations and prepares them for the world by asking them to think critically about it. Along the way, we ask one thing of every student: Be The Difference.