Water tech forum explores region's innovation and economic opportunities


On Thursday, Nov. 12, the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati will host a forum on water technology in Cincinnati and how to harness the opportunities it provides. Titled “Liquid Gold: the Cincinnati ‘Water’ Technology Story,” the event brings together science, nonprofits, research and industries to discuss the water technology resources already existing in Cincinnati and how those resources can be leveraged for innovation, environmental impact and economic development.
 
“Cincinnati does have this rich history of water technology,” says panel moderator Melinda Kruyer, director of Confluence, a nonprofit that coordinates water technology innovation and tries to facilitate new research, accessibility and commercialization of new water technologies and ways to meet water and environmental crises with innovation.
 
Cincinnati is already a leader in water technology and innovation and has been for a long time, she says, from the city water works founding nearly 200 years ago to establishment of one of the first federally-funded freshwater research labs here in 1913 to creation of an Environmental Protection Agency lab in the city in 1972.
 
In fact, the region is so rich in water technology research and innovation that a few years ago it was identified as the EPA’s first Water Technology Innovation Cluster and named Confluence.
 
“For Confluence, it’s really about connection,” Kruyer says. “We take down the barriers to that commercialization to help (innovators) get from the lab to commercialization.”
 
The cluster tries to bring together researchers, industry, government and other stakeholders to address water technology issues. Since they’ve been doing this for several years now, when new issues like this summer’s aqua-toxin algae bloom on the Ohio River occur, they already have teams and networks in place to come up with solutions.
 
“We’re not going to solve these problems,” Kruyer says. “We’re going to have to innovate our way out of them. … When you see these brilliant technologies people are coming up with, it’s wonderful.”
 
Kruyer will be joined by panelists who work directly with that kind of innovation, including Theresa Harten, director of the water technology cluster project at the EPA; Oliver Lawal of AquiSense Technologies, which innovates water treatment and disinfection technologies; and Bill Scheyer, president of Skyward (formerly Vision 2015) in Northern Kentucky.
 
The event is sponsored by the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati, which engages the city in a wide range of issues.
 
“This event speaks to their broad-based knowledge and awareness of big issues,” says Kruyer, adding that she sees the collaboration as a perfect fit and encourages public participation in the forum.
 
“What I hope attendees learn is that we have this rich asset,” she says, “and we’re probably better known around the globe than right here.”
 
Kruyer points out that the very reason the city exists is its proximity to water — its location on the Ohio River. For her, Confluence and the upcoming forum are important because “water is something that touches us all.”
 
“Liquid Gold: The Cincinnati ‘Water’ Technology Story” begins at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton St. (at Reading Road), Avondale.
 
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