Aging water infrastructure, ubiquitous residential lead service lines, chronic flooding, and depleting groundwater supplies are challenges at the top of mind on days like World Water Day. To address these issues, Chicago is leaning on its long history as a water innovator.
The livability of the metropolitan region has relied on engineering milestones such as reversing the Chicago River’s flow to protect drinking water supplies, constructing some of the world’s largest drinking water and water reclamation plants, and the decades-long effort to build the deep tunnel and reservoir system to better manage urban stormwater. These feats have enabled Chicago to thrive and established the city as a global water infrastructure leader.
On March 22, Current convened 170 water industry experts to commemorate World Water Day and to recognize the region’s leadership in water technology innovation. Attendees heard from industry leaders with valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges facing the water industry and how Chicago is poised to capitalize on those opportunities and overcome those challenges.
Mayor Emanuel, a strong supporter of water innovation, said, “Current is building on our city’s proud water innovation history to cultivate and commercialize the water technology solutions needed around the world.”
The first panel, moderated by John Robinson of Mazarine Partners, featured leaders from international water tech firms with operations in Chicagoland. Jeff Martens, Business Manager at Nalco Water, an Ecolab Company; Zeki Oral, Director of Business Development, Global Market Segment at Grundfos; and Fabian Solberg, Sales Manager – CPI at Eisenmann Corporation spoke about trends and opportunities in the U.S. market. Panelists agreed that a major challenge to innovation is finding scientifically proven technology, noting that validated technology can be more quickly commercialized.
Panel two featured insights from solution providers, including: Andrew Cooper, Vice President, Water Research & Development at Nalco Water, an Ecolab Company; Mark Hunsaker, Director of Product and Market Management at Evoqua Water Technologies; and Bob Miller, President of Earthwise. The panel, moderated by Mike Reardon, advisor to Current and water industry veteran, discussed best practices related to tech acquisition and development.
Terry Mah, Founder of The Malabar Group and former CEO of Veolia North America, moderated the third panel, Perspectives on Water/Wastewater Technology Integration. Utility and engineering firm leaders Randy Conner, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Water Management; Andrew Martin, Principal and Managing Director of Midwest Operations at Greeley and Hansen; Chriso Petropoulou, Senior Principal at GeoSyntec; and David St. Pierre, Executive Director of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago spoke on the panel. Panelists offered advice for technology companies, including the importance of understanding what the industry is looking for and how their technologies can work within existing infrastructure.
The final panel, Leadership in Disaster Relief & Humanitarian Water, was moderated by Mark Bertler, Managing Director of The McLean Group and VP of Fundraising and Corporate Relations at Wishing Well International Foundation. Panelists Rashidi Hodari, Vice President Commercial Brands & Platforms at Beam Suntory; Ebie Holst, Founder and CEO of SplashLink; and Kevin Sofen, Business Development Manager at Darley spoke about innovative solutions to disaster relief. They agreed that most institutions
do not adequately prepare for disasters, which leaves them vulnerable to water supply interruptions that can disrupt supply chains and leave communities vulnerable. Darley Corporation discussed how their boxed water product can be pre-deployed for rapid distribution while Beam Suntory described their efforts to help communities in St. Croix recover from recent hurricanes and Splashlink explained how their emergency response platform can rapidly mobilize water treatment equipment and expertise in the wake of natural disasters.
The event also featured pitches from Israeli technology companies C.Q.M, IOSight, Krausz, Odis, Purammon, RealiteQ, Utilis, and Victaulic Bermad Technologies. A special thanks to Beam Suntory, the Government of Israel Economic Mission to the Midwest, and West Monroe Partners for sponsoring the event.
"Current’s World Water Day Symposium was a great opportunity for Evoqua Water Technologies to engage with industry experts to further Evoqua’s overarching purpose of Transforming Water, Enriching Life. Very valuable connections were made during the event. Evoqua is looking forward to being a part of the Current network moving forward.” Mark Hunsaker, Director of Product and Market Management, Evoqua Water Technologies
“Darley is beyond excited to join the Current ecosystem. We believe that Current serves an extension of our water division and will help us gain more awareness and support. Joining Current has been invigorating and has reaffirmed our mission to provide safe water solutions with the help of other experts in the water field. At the World Water Day event, our eyes were opened to the amount of people that truly care about accelerating innovation in the water space and we are excited to play a role in these efforts." Kevin Sofen, Business Development Manager at Darley
"Water management and waste water treatment are becoming more and more important and the need for better solutions will be needed across many industries. As a system integrator, we partner and collaborate with a lot of technology companies to provide our clients with solutions that fit exactly what they need. This collaboration is not possible without events like the World Water Day Symposium, that was organized by Current where we can connect with companies and organizations that share the same goals as we do, namely to provide reliable design to fit solutions. At Current’s World Water Day Symposium, I met new potential partners, both technology companies and solution providers." Fabian Solberg, Sales Manager- CPI at Eisenmann Corporation
Terry Mah moderated Panel 3 that included: Randy Conner, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Water Management; Andrew Martin, Principal and Managing Director of Midwest Operations at Greeley and Hansen; Chriso Petropoulou, Senior Principal at GeoSyntec; and David St. Pierre, Executive Director of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Mark Hunsaker, Director of Product and Market Management at Evoqua Water Technologies, responded to moderator Mike Reardon on Panel 2 that also included
Bob Miller, President of Earthwise (pictured) and Andrew Cooper, Vice President, Water Research & Development at Nalco Water, an Ecolab Company.
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