By Benjamin H. Grumbles
WWD featured columnist Benjamin H. Grumbles reports from Ontario’s Global Water Leadership Summit. Addressing water innovation and sustainability, the summit was held May 17-18 in Toronto. Grumbles is President of the Clean Water America Alliance and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entrepeneurs, researchers, regulators, policy-makers and educators gathered in Toronto at Ontario's Global Water Leadership Summit May 17-18 to share ideas and advice on water innovation and sustainability.
The government of Ontario sponsored the brainstorming and thought-provoking event, with support from XPV, Cleantech, the Artemis Project and Ontario Centres of Excellence.
High-ranking Canadian officials, international energy and environmental experts, manufacturing executives, venture capitalists and other "titans of innovation" who participated in the sessions didn't solve any of the big problems, but they did move the world one step closer to more sustainable, profitable solutions.
How? By waging a thoughtful and probing collaboration on water innovation and the opportunities ahead locally and globally, with a special emphasis on the private sector, including energy, mining, food and beverage manufacturers, and water technology providers.
Panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking breaks dominated the two days. Interspersed throughout were recognition ceremonies for winners of the Artemis Project's top 50 water tech company awards.
Ontario Ministers of Economic Development and Trade, Research and Innovation, and Environment provided strong support. Ontario Premier Dalton McGinty gave passionate closing remarks for the Summit and opening remarks for the adjacent Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery Conference, which highlighted innovative technologies for water, energy, health and other applications.
Following are common observations and themes:
- The water sector, more than most, suffers from fragmentation and there's a compelling need for silo-busting and integration to reduce policy stagnation and business-as-usual attitudes;
Public-private sector collaborations, innovative technology research clusters, and global and regional summits add value and must increase in quantity and quality;
Proper pricing of water is a key to valuing and sustaining the resource;
Virtual water (imbedded water) concepts and smart water metering applications will continue to grow and help businesses and policy-makers connect the dots and drops;
The water-energy nexus needs greater attention, e.g. the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and the energy footprint of water treatment and delivery; and
Reducing water waste and reusing wastewater are important and growing trends.
Some notable, quotable droplets on innovation:
- David Flitman of Nalco: "Innovation outpaces regulation."
Bob Wolpert of ITT: "Ideas die quickly if you don't connect them to resources."
Ontario Premier Dalton McGinty: "The race to innovation doesn't have a finish line."
Ontario put on a strong showing to become a world water hub rivaling Singapore, Stockholm and Milwaukee to name a few, and signaled a second summit would be held next year.
That's good news to groups like Clean Water America Alliance, of which I'm president. The more thoughtful and frequent the collaborations, the better. We have a lot of catch-up work to do locally and globally if we're going to improve integration and innovation in the water sector.