It's a Wrap - World Water-Tech North America 2019

World Water-Tech North America welcomed pioneering water-tech leaders from 36 states across North America and 13 countries around the world to Los Angeles. Previously held in Toronto, Canada, the summit brought together over 280 water-tech leaders, investors and innovators at the cutting edge of technology innovation and the future of water efficiency and resiliency. Outside the sessions it was all about making business connections with over 2,620 1-1 meetings taking place.

The week began with a tour at Hyperion Water Treatment Plant, and was followed by two fast-paced days of panels, visionary presentations and roundtable discussions. The summit covered asset optimization, indirect and direct reuse, machine learning, smart water grids, resiliency in agricultural water stewardship, micropollutants, and investment deals and opportunities.

We’ve included a few highlights below.

Pre-Event Workshop and Tour

Teaming up with LA Sanitation and Environment, 40 delegates joined a pre-summit tour and workshop to explore the future of indirect and direct reuse, hosted at the famous Hyperion Water Treatment Plant (HWRP).


Who Attended the Summit?

Roundtable Discussion Takeaways

Corporate Watershed Stewardship Beyond the Factory Gate: Innovation and Technology

HostSammy Fahrbach, Global Director, Water and Sustainability Operations, ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV

We need to have a  view of the stakeholders involved in a given problem and the multi-beneficiaries of a solution, then take a B2B approach in terms of bringing people on board.

We must have a mutual understanding of what success looks like – a baseline evaluation, monitoring and benchmarking, plus a framework for identifying the ROI and a provable measurement mechanism.

We need to take a systems view of impact of water use reduction (e.g. while good for water availability, also reduces water revenues to utility / municipality); engagement with utilities and municipalities is key.

Addressing Cybersecurity and Physical Security Threats in the Smart Water Era
Host – Ting LuBusiness Practice Leader – Digital Solutions, CLEAN WATER SERVICES

The industry needs standards, and for policy to be more consistent across the board.

It’s critical for continued education to increase security awareness. Human components are the key for cybersecurity.

More advanced technology, such as AI is desired to improve security technology.

AWS, Microsoft already offer cloud storage, it’s pretty secure, but how to operate it, manage it and backup is important to understand.


Digital Innovation for Small and Medium Utilities
Host – Melissa MeekerWater Innovation Center Director, THE WATER TOWER AT GWINNETT 

What we do works and we know what is required. There is no time to train. This is partly generational but also who is training new employees?

Integration – don’t bring an authentic software program that doesn’t integrate with existing systems, it’s too difficult.

Data standardization- there is a great need but a huge challenge. It requires consistent business practices, which are very difficult.

The What, Why and How Regarding Smart Water Network Implementation
Host – David JohnsonDeputy General Manager of Engineering & Operations, SOUTHERN NEVADA WATER AUTHORITY

There is no consistent understanding or distinction of smart water networks or digital twin.

The innovation community has excellent solutions that, integrated together in the right way, can be powerful.

For many utilities unlocking a digital twin or a smart water network will help open opportunity for currently unthought of solutions.

Many are searching for a solution or a roadmap for this type of solution and it will take early adopters to drive this forward.

Resource Recovery: Essential for a Sustainable Future
Host – Enrique ZaldivarDirector & General Manager, LA SANITATION AND ENVIRONMENT

Can water reclamation plants be a resource for food waste to be an investment recovery?

The digesters can process food waste to create a pathway to food waste to abandon the landfill. Food waste in digesters uses hydraulics to break down food waste to its smaller size. This is pre-treatment of food waste before discharging to the sewer lines. This concern is putting food waste in digesters and the high ammonia amount.

As we develop our water recycling plant, our water recovered to 100% recycled water, we will reduce less gas, since less biomass will be produced, so less methane will be produced. This creates more of a need for food waste to be added to the system. To offset that loss of methane production, we can use the steam to heat digests to a normal heat of 129 °F to 98 °F. We can send the steam to create the energy.

Is there a way to use our brine concentration to be reversed so its not in the ocean?

There is technology to reduce it to 1/10th of the size. We can extract water and use the brine to be used to mix the cement for conservation.


The Utility of the Future
Host – Rebekah EggersWW Leader – IoT for Energy, Environment, & Utilities, IBM

The definition for utility of the future can be described as: sustainable, resilient, smart utility, no longer compliant, manage valuable resources, more efficiently, eliminate entry lower level work, innovative systems, data AI, seamless stakeholder and engagement, affordable/equitable, customer driver, adaptive mobility.

Issues (what’s getting in our way): silos, integration of systems, diamond water panels, resistance to change, aligning new/old systems, conservative nature, resistance to experiment. Political case for change with new generations and legacy ruler, affordability. Customers are diverse with diverse needs and expectations, fragmented industry with fragmented silos within the utility using specialized tools, standardization of data, affordability of solutions for small utilities.

Opportunities which could accelerate the future of our profession: leadership communications, change management to adopt new technologies, not more data but focus on the right data. Focus on outcomes, what it is we want to achieve. Education – at all levels from pre-school to PhD. Build change for 3-5 year horizon vs 20–30 years.

Sustainable Investing: The Water Case 
Host – Alina DonetsGlobal Water Strategy Co-Portfolio Manager, ALLIANZ GLOBAL INVESTORS

Technology companies find it difficult to access VC capital because of different perspectives on the ROI. My sense is that VC companies have a shorter horizon than what is a realistic assumption for the water space.

Innovation departments at the utilities are what is actually killing innovation. Utilities are unable or ineffective in directing capital toward real innovation.

Water’s social value is difficult to quantify and therefore an argument of viable impact investment is difficult to make. Very much interlinked with point 1.

Water is the most poorly marketed good. We need to change the marketing in order to improve the perception of the issue and the prospects, with an aim of changing the willingness of people to pay up for water, and consequently improving the classic ROI perceptions.

How to be Realistic in Financial Forecasting and Company Valuation 
Host – Brian IversenFounder & Managing Partner, CIMBRIA CAPITAL

Delegates discussed the following opinion:

To receive equity investments as a start-up venture or growth company in the water technology space, aggressive financial forecasts are required to get the attention of VC and PE firms.
The expectations of the VC community to un-realistically high returns are therefore forcing the start-up community to put forth unachievable financial budgets and forecasts.

This is – in turn – creating a set of expectations that misguides and misaligns. And it increases the risk of start-up companies and their management teams to fails. Since the wrong set of expectations oftentimes trigger sub-optimal decision-making by the executive management team and Board of Directors.

How Do we Halve Leakage by 2050? 
Host – Mary Ann DickinsonPresident & CEO, ALLIANCE FOR WATER EFFICIENCY

Technology advances in pipe materials will advance the field: Nanorobots. DMA’s are the key to evaluating success within the utility.

Climate change and scarcity will be drivers of leakage reduction because supply costs will be constrained.

We need to develop better business care so that utilities managed are motivated to do better water management. The value of water needs to be incorporated on a true basis.

More regulations are happening with varying degrees of success. Utilities resistance to better management must be overcome.

Summit Highlights

Head of Innovation Forum: Accelerating Adoption and Reducing Risk
Session Chair: Dean Amhaus, President & CEO, THE WATER COUNCIL

“What is the key to accelerating the adoption of new water technology innovations by utilities?

Panelists unanimously emphasized that it comes down to the people within the organization and therefore it is critical to creating a work environment geared toward encouraging an innovative spirit. In describing their successes some panel members described how they fostered a place that broke down the utility’s inherent silos by taking intentional efforts to listen to and encourage innovative ideas from all of the staff.

Panelists also emphasized that accelerating innovation often occurs when people are comfortable in asking ANY question, challenging paradigms and allowed to fail if it fosters new ideas and approaches.”



Dean was joined by

John NortonDirector of Energy, Research & Innovation, GREAT LAKES WATER AUTHORITY
Shivaji DeshmukhGeneral Manager, INLAND EMPIRE UTILITIES AGENCY


Sammy was joined by:

Paul FlemingCorporate Water Program Manager, MICROSOFT
Bruce KarasVP, Environment, Sustainability, Safety & Technical Information, COCA-COLA NORTH AMERICA
Pia BakerGroup Manager, Marketing – Sustainability, NESTLÉ WATERS

Sustainable Industry: Stewardship and Strategy
Session Chair: Sammy FahrbachGlobal Director, Water and Sustainability Operations, ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV

“A number of private sector companies have made public commitments on water stewardship, but the global water crisis has not yet been solved and some hold the view that despite good progress, corporate water stewardship may be stalling. This panel explored the role of the private sector in addressing our most pressing water challenges; how companies are using innovation to advance water stewardship; and what more needs to be done.

Key takeaways included the need for companies to look beyond their own operational water footprint to water stewardship in their broader value chain. In addition, companies should further leverage the expanding world of water data available to them. Finally, companies should take initiative in engaging consumers on water stewardship, because although consumers may not currently have high awareness of corporate water stewardship efforts, data indicates that they are eager to learn more.”

Indirect and Direct Reuse: Developments in Technology and Policy

Session Chair: Melissa MeekerWater Innovation Center Director, THE WATER TOWER AT GWINNETT 

“Progress in the potable reuse space has grown exponentially in the last five years, in part due to the leadership and dedication of leading utilities and consulting firms.  This panel invited a few of those leaders to discuss lessons learned and key components of successful projects.  Key takeaways included the need to actively engage the public and policy and regulatory leaders before and throughout the project journey.

In addition, the support and passion of leadership, including elected officials, can be a huge benefit for project success.  In terms of future technological advances, the focus will be on refinements to existing treatment technologies and the development of more on-line, real time monitoring sensors, while future policy advances need to focus on integrated water management to allow for regulatory flexibilities for the overall benefit of the resource.”

Melissa was joined by:

Enrique ZaldivarDirector & General ManagerLA SANITATION AND ENVIRONMENT
Katherine BellManaging Director of Water StrategyBROWN AND CALDWELL
Mike Markus, General Manager, ORANGE COUNTY WATER DISTRICT
Suad Cisic, National Practice Lead – Water, MICHAEL BAKER INTERNATIONAL

Deals of the Year 2019

“World Water-Tech North America 2019 in Los Angeles was once again an excellent event riddled with experts and leaders of the water sector from all across the region and worldwide. What stood out for me was the number of new investment funds attending the conference. Water is definitely becoming a hot and attractive topic.”

Maarten ter KeurstDirector of Investments, PURETERRA VENTURES

Asset Optimization: Locking in Resiliency

Session Chair: Cristina AhmadpourPresident USAISLE UTILITIES

“The AWWA State of the Industry Report (2019) identifies the top 3 issues impacting the water sector are renewal and replacement of aging assets, financing for capital improvements, and long-term water supply availability. Also, we continue to hear about the aging workforce, affordability, emerging contaminants as additional concerns of utility leadership.

Interestingly, “Climate Risk and Resiliency” were categorized together and was identified as number 30 on the list of top 30 categories. Meanwhile, some of the latest research highlights that by 2100, up to 60% of oceanfront communities in the East and Gulf Coasts in the US may experience chronic flooding from climate change. We’ve seen the impact in Houston, Puerto Rico and many other communities. The fires in CA are a reality for us, where planned and emergency shutdowns are leaving many without extended power, including the water and sanitation services. Is resilience just another buzz word that is exciting the sector or is it changing the types of projects, utility priorities, or driving the selection/procurement process of solutions considering these realities? The session took a deeper dive by hearing the utility and consultant perspective.

The discussion of resilience between panelists was very much tied to innovation, technology, people, process. We discussed customer expectations increasing. This is due to just the advancement of technology and thus services in our everyday life. Such as Amazon same day shipping, Nest and other tools to turn your home into a “smart home” etc.

In our discussion, we identified that lowest hanging fruit in terms of projects were around emergency response and communications (internal and external).”

Cristina was joined by:

Hardeep AnandDeputy Director – Capital Improvement & Regulatory ComplianceMIAMI-DADE WATER AND SEWER DEPARTMENT 
Joe BarbagalloMunicipal & Institutional Strategic Business Unit LeaderWOODARD & CURRAN
Stephen WelchAssistant General Manager – Engineering, CONTRA COSTA WATER DISTRICT
John WalshVice President of Operations, AQUARION WATER COMPANY
Aaron ZahnManaging Director & CEO, JEA

“The conference highlighted for me the absolute necessity for technology providers to collaborate in cooperative risk sharing with both engineering consultants and end users to be successful in addressing the challenges in associated with introducing new technologies into the water-tech field. The pressure to decrease the average timeline of 14 years for new technology introduction to broad application has to be dramatically reduced as we are well into the climate change era, which requires drastic change and adaptation in how we use and reuse water.

Cooperative technology development and prototyping with all stakeholders sharing the risks and learning from each other is the key to reducing the timeline for new technology implementation. It was also apparent at this conference that no one technology fits all situations. Shared learning and listening to each other is the key to successfully meeting the new emerging challenges we face globally.

This conference was the place to be to experience the transformation of changed paradigms and the forging of new relationships with entrepreneurs, consultants, and end users as part of a global community  to address the common challenges we all face in adapting to increasing climate change realities in the water and wastewater-tech field.”

Derk MaatPresident & CEO, SCICORP BIOLOGIC

Derk presented in the ‘Innovation in Action Case Study: Biologic SR2 technology improves wastewater treatment plant performance, eliminates odor, reduces sludge and energy consumption.’

“The willingness in the water industry to “go digital” is growing significantly. This was on full display as I and Carol Haddock, Director of Public Works for the City of Houston shared our vision for the digital utility of the future.

Carol outlined how we are curating an ‘innovation hub’ at the City of Houston and are empowered to meet challenges like limited capital, growth, and climate change with intelligent operations based on resiliency and sustainable innovation.

My message was presented around market research by Innovyze revealed to how technology is needed to address common pains throughout the market like asset performance management, leak detection and response, water quality compliance, and project prioritization. By delivering integrated applications – connected by shared data, enhanced by AI, and securely available via mobile and the web – Innovyze empowers utility leaders to be agents of change.”

Colby ManwaringCEO, INNOVYZE
Carol HaddockDirector, HOUSTON PUBLIC WORKS

Colby and Carol presented ‘Innovation in Action Case Study: Innovation and Acceleration: Empowering the Digital Water Utility’.


“Sedaru’s experience with World Water-Tech North America was validating, valuable, and overall enjoyable from a business and relationship/interaction perspective.  The opportunity to enable, empower, and drive the digital utility, or digital twin, with business and systems automation has never been more prevalent.

As example, the water industry was compared to a glacier, and countered with the under-current to move forward as being stronger than ever, so the glacier’s moving at a faster clip!  Thanks to World Water-Tech North America, we engaged current customers, promoted active relationships, and identified new ones, while visiting with partners and friends in our space.  Sedaru looks forward to next year’s summit in 2020, and supporting this forum to advance water, and help accelerate our industry past its tipping point.”

Paul Hauffen, CEO, SEDARU 

Paul presented in the ‘Innovation in Action Case Study: Driving Automated Utilities: Making Real Time Operations A Reality’.

Water-Tech Entrepreneurs

Following another successful World Water Tech North America, we showcased ten innovative start-ups, both on stage and off, highlighting new technologies that help define and face challenges within the forever evolving and adapting water industry. From biotech to wet-waste treatment, and from sludge management to AI analytics, we announced some of the most exciting and imminent names in the market.

Among the stellar line-up of entrepreneurs:

Geo-Environment is a revolutionary industrial sludge management using patented slurry injection to process rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Water Harvesting commercializes atmospheric water harvesting systems based on Metal Organic Frameworks. Pioneered at the University of California Berkley, they have demonstrated to work atmospheric water harvesting application even under very arid conditions.

MAIA Analytica provides real-time analytical tools that help next generation wastewater treatment operators with practical decision making.

View full details of all ten entrepreneurs

Interested in presenting your new innovation and breakthrough technologies at the next summit?

Please contact Georgia Freeman for additional information.