• Keynote speaker from Israel's water industry identifies water reuse as growth opportunity
MILWAUKEE, WI, Sept. 1, 2009 -- Water industry leaders met July 20 on the shores of Lake Michigan at Water Summit III: The True Costs and Opportunities of Water, hosted by the Milwaukee 7 Water Council. Participants from local and international businesses, technology, education and environmental organizations shared different perspectives on the increasing value of freshwater, its effect on investment in water related companies, and how Milwaukee's strength in water technology and its proximity to Lake Michigan uniquely positions it for investment and economic development.
Assaf Barnea, CEO of Kinrot Ventures, Israel's leading seed investor in water and clean-tech related technologies was the Water Summit's keynote speaker. He reflected on how the staid water industry was suddenly and dramatically transformed by the compelling events of 2004. "The race started when General Electric purchased Ionics and Zenon Environmental of Canada, and Siemens purchased U.S. Filter," said Barnea. "These giants declared water is here to stay and companies outside of the industry took notice. In 2008 water was a $450 billion industry. It is the 5th largest industry on the planet and it is growing between 7% and 8% a year."
Barnea explained that world demand for freshwater is increasing at an even faster rate than global population growth and it's creating severe water shortages in many regions. Water scarcity will drive change to many accepted practices prevalent throughout the water industry. Reusing wastewater will become much more common and the new technologies that make it possible will be adopted and grow. "Reuse of water averages only 5% worldwide," said Barnea. "In spite of its water shortages, the City of Los Angeles reuses only 1% water of its water. However, in Israel we've been using 75% of our water for our agriculture."
Water scarcity has forced Israel to focus on water technologies. However, Milwaukee located on Lake Michigan, one of the world's largest bodies of freshwater has also focused on water and has emerged as the global hub of freshwater technology, science and education. Over the years Milwaukee has invested in the infrastructure and built the critical mass that is now attracting even more investment in its water industry. In 2007 area business, academic and civic leaders formed the Milwaukee 7 Water Council to develop the Milwaukee Region into the world hub of freshwater research, economic development and education.
The Great Lakes WATER Institute, the largest freshwater research facility on the Great Lakes and 120 businesses that serve some aspect of the water industry are located in Milwaukee. Five of the world's largest water companies have headquarters or other major operations in the area. In 2009 the State of Wisconsin committed funding for the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It will be the first of its kind in North America. Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater have expanded academic programs with the addition of curricula focused on water management issues. And most recently, the United Nations designated Milwaukee as one of 14 cities comprising the Global Compact Cities Program and the only city focused entirely on all aspects of water quality.
To access videos and slides of the Water Summit presentations and to learn more about the Milwaukee 7 Water Council, visit www.milwaukee7-watercouncil.com.