Water Technologies: From Research to the Real World

Over the past year, two important research organizations - the Water Environment Research Foundation and the WateReuse Research Foundation - consolidated to form the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF).

Over the past year, two important research organizations - the Water Environment Research Foundation and the WateReuse Research Foundation - consolidated to form the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF). Its core focus areas comprise wastewater, stormwater, water reuse, and desalination - and despite the slightly new acronym, WE&RF is, as it has always been, a champion of innovation in the water industry.

An excellent example of its dedication to advancing new technologies in the water sector is the Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) program, which WE&RF jointly leads with the Water Environment Federation (WEF). “The LIFT program was created to bridge the gap between research and standard practice,” explained Aaron Fisher, LIFT’s technology and innovation collaboration manager, addressing the delegation at the Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association’s annual Washington Forum. “It covers from the point an idea leaves an academic lab, a startup, a vendor … all the way until it becomes common practice,” he said.

There are a number of ways in which the program strives to do that. One is its Technology Scans, which identify and evaluate new technologies. If the technology is accepted by LIFT’s panel of experts, the technology provider is given an opportunity to speak to members of the LIFT audience - municipal and industrial facility owners, consulting firms, and investors - that have expressed interest in that type of technology.

“Our membership is very interested to hear about these new technologies,” said Fisher. “They’re always looking for what’s next, how to do their jobs better, how to be better stewards of the water environment.”

Once a technology is accepted through the scan, it’s added to LIFT Link, which is a sort of innovation social network where members can browse new technologies, connect with other facilities with similar needs, and follow the progress of a technology throughout its evolution. The platform provides utilities an opportunity to talk about the challenges they are having at their facilities - and utilities that have solved a particular challenge can share their success stories. “It takes the discussions that utilities have been having with us and our organization and makes it that much more public because the collective knowledge is much smarter than any individual’s knowledge,” Fisher noted.

The LIFT program also features a test-bed network called the FAST Water Network (Facilities Accelerating the Science and Technology of Water), which it’s building in conjunction with several impressive stakeholders, including the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many others. This is an excellent opportunity for utilities to participate in fostering the growth of new innovations by offering certain capabilities - perhaps a digester that’s not in use, or an empty concrete slab where a trailer could be set. By pooling all of these opportunities into a single, searchable reference directory, “everyone can see where these facilities are, what they’re capable of, and then how to contact them,” said Fisher. Currently, the LIFT program has about 70 test-bed facilities all around the world with a wide array of capabilities.

To learn about all LIFT has to offer and how you can get involved in advancing innovation in the water sector, please visit werf.org/lift.

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