In this issue of Municipal Water Leader, we speak to leaders who have helped to position the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a worldwide leader in water technology. Not only is the city situated near an abundance of fresh water in Lake Michigan, but the industries that historically served as catalysts for Milwaukee’s growth— brewing, dairy, and forestry—relied heavily on water for production or transportation. Today, companies like Badger Meter, A.O. Smith, and Rexnord call Milwaukee home and have collaborated to foster new water technology innovations under the auspices of The Water Council.
Innovation in the city is not limited to water technology—it extends to management. Kevin Shafer manages the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, which provides management and wastewater treatment services to 28 municipalities covering 1.1 million people. The district can treat between 120 and 630 million gallons of water per day. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District was an early adopter of the public-private partnership model and has benefitted from it.
Mr. Shafer explained, “The private-sector approach to paying wages, benefits, and pensions is also beneficial. We estimate that we have saved over $150 million over 10 years during the first private [operations and management] contract we signed. . . . and we will save millions more over the course of our current contract.”
Milwaukee fosters and harnesses water innovations through The Water Council, an organization formed to support water industry entrepreneurs. The Water Council furnishes water technology startups with with office space, networking opportunities, and even some funding.
Dean Amhaus, The Water Council’s president and chief executive officer, explained that utilities are a critical component in the development of technology. “The utilities are another critical factor in the success of the [water] cluster, both for drinking water and wastewater. Our community is strong because we have faced some significant challenges over the past 20 years, but we have learned from them and improved how water is processed.”
The Water Council’s enthusiasm and energy in the development of technology reflects that of one of its founders. Rich Meeusen is the chief executive officer of Badger Meter, the largest water meter maker in North America. Mr. Meeusen identifies partnerships like The Water Council as critical to success in business. “Smart companies in the future will take advantage of the opportunities that come out of collaboration among industry, academia, and government. No entity can do it alone.”
One of those smart companies is PaveDrain, led by owner Doug Buch. At the depths of the 2008–2009 economic downturn, Mr. Buch began the process of engineering a better way to address capturing and moving stormwater from once-nonpermeable surfaces. His creation, the PaveDrain, is now being used across the country to help individuals, businesses, and municipal entities efficiently move stormwater off streets and parking lots and back into the ground. The former farm boy and Rose Bowl captain’s success is a testament to Milwaukee’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.
We hope you enjoy this issue and take a close look at Milwaukee. Its people are leading the way in water technology and management innovations.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com