The Innovation Age Is (Finally) Here
Dawn Kristof Champney

Innovation does not just happen. At least, not in the water industry. It requires governments to take risks and try new things. It requires regulators to adjust for altered outcomes. It requires investors to accept uncertainties.

Is it any wonder we are slow to innovate?

As technology solution providers, WWEMA members have for decades led the charge advocating for programs and policies that encourage innovation. And while the rest of the industry for the most part has nodded in agreement, the actual development of such programs and policies has occurred at a glacial pace.

In recent years, however, the industry seems to have begun to demonstrate a real understanding of the wisdom, and indeed the urgent need, to develop and adopt innovative solutions to our nation’s water-related challenges.

In today’s “do more with less” environment, financial considerations are a major driving force behind this movement. In addition, as more municipalities have adopted asset management techniques, they have gained a better understanding of the condition of their plants and distribution systems, which in turn has led to a demand for technologies that offer the best life-cycle value for their investment dollars.

Last month, WWEMA and the U.S. Water Alliance hosted a roundtable discussion on “Innovating for Water’s Future.” Originally planned to accommodate about 35 people, the program proved to be so much in demand that it had to be expanded to allow for more than 60 policy makers, regulators, manufacturers and other industry leaders in attendance. The results of that very productive and very open roundtable discussion have been compiled into a report, which can be downloaded here.

Also last month, the U.S. EPA released its newly developed Blueprint for Integrating Technology Innovation into the National Water Program, which identifies 10 key market opportunities for employing water technology innovation and outlines six actions the agency plans to take to promote it.

On June 10, WWEMA will participate in a Roundtable Solution Session at AWWA ACE13 in Denver, “Overcoming Challenges to Innovation in the Water Industry.” The AWWA and its members recognize the need to address this issue and find ways to move forward within their individual communities and as a nation.

It has been a long time coming, but a serious push for innovation is finally coming from within the water industry. Working together, utility directors, consulting engineers, manufacturers and regulators can now begin to face the hard questions and take the steps needed to move forward.

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Dawn Kristof Champney is president of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn., a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that has represented the interests of manufacturers serving the water supply and wastewater treatment industry since 1908. Kristof Champney can be reached at info@wwema.org.

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