New Programs Bring Water-Industry Professionals Together

New Programs Bring Water-Industry Professionals Together
A rendering of the Global Water Center in Milwaukee, Wis. The Water Council has submitted a grant proposal to the U.S. EPA to create a National Center for Innovation in Small Drinking Water Systems.

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Municipal water systems managers and operators may have more opportunities for process innovation and training if the new Global Water Center in Milwaukee, Wis., moves ahead as planned. 

The Center, created by Milwaukee’s Water Council, is intended to bring together water engineering and equipment companies, universities, students, and others involved in the worldwide, multi-billion dollar water management market, establishing Wisconsin’s largest city as the worldwide hub for water research and technology. The Center opened in September, and already two-thirds of its location in a renovated warehouse on the city’s south side are occupied by area water businesses as well as the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences. 


Working with the university, the Water Council has submitted a grant proposal to the U.S. EPA to create a National Center for Innovation in Small Drinking Water Systems. The EPA created the small systems program to help offset some of the stress put on drinking water providers, which serve 10,000 or fewer users. 

According to the Water Council’s Communication Director Ryan Matthews, the grant would help small drinking water systems adopt innovative technology to improve their operations. 

“Since many small drinking water providers don’t possess the resources to carry out the research needed to advance technology,” he says. “A national center would provide a way for that research and development to take place and can then disseminate that research to water providers in the field.” 


While the EPA grant would help small systems with technology, another Water Council program will advance operator skills and help develop new operators to staff municipal water systems. 

“We were able to work with Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board to create a Water Technician Certificate,” Matthews says. “This certificate works in coordination with other programs and diplomas. The certificate requires 17-19 credits with courses that also apply toward the technical college’s environmental health and water quality technology associate degrees as well as other associate degrees and technical diplomas.” 

The program was developed through a $1 million grant to the investment board from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. 

The technical college’s President and CEO Donald Sykes explains that the training program was developed working with more than 50 water-related industry employers for input as to the fundamental skills needed to enter into water industry jobs. 

“We are pleased that this industry-recognized credential, in one of the most promising employment sectors, will serve as a foundation to water industry careers,” he said in an interview with the Milwaukee press. 

Location, location

Why Milwaukee, and why now? 

Located on Lake Michigan, the city already is a center for a number of major water systems suppliers and engineering companies, including A.O. Smith, Badger Meter, and more than 130 other firms. The Great Lakes Water Institute is there, and the University’s School of Freshwater Sciences is the first of its kind in the nation. 

Milwaukee is also designated as a UN Global Compact City, recognizing its freshwater resource expertise, as well as the area’s efforts to provide green solutions to stormwater management, develop energy from waste materials, and adapt to climate change. 

“Created by leaders in both business and education, the Water Council is convening the region’s existing water companies and research clusters, developing education programs to train our talent, and building partnerships that cut across all sectors and geographic boundaries,” says Dean Amhaus, Water Council CEO. 

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