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Great Lakes Water Tech Leaders: Expanding Programs to Protect Freshwater Worldwide

Steve Cole, Vice President of Programs

In 2019, we launched the Great Lakes Leadership Awards to recognize six water technology innovators and their contributions to the health of the Great Lakes. We presented awards to the Aquahacking Challenge, Cleveland Water Alliance, Current, The Everglades Foundation, Imagine H2O, and The Water Council.

We gathered the leaders of these organizations for a roundtable conversation a couple of weeks ago. We were eager to catch up on their programs and hear how they are creating new ways to work together. Here are some takeaways:

  • Water technology is a vibrant, multi-dimensional, and growing sector spanning the landscape from farmland to the inner city. Each of the leaders spoke about the expansion of their programs. The Water Council’s expanding Water Tech Challenge is just one example of the exciting growth we heard about. Anyone with a new idea for a freshwater technology should check out their current challenges.
  • Each of the Leadership Award recipients has contributed to the health of the Great Lakes and their programs have national and global influence. It was gratifying to hear that Imagine H2O’s water startup accelerator has expanded to Asia, and Aquahacking has expanded its competitions across Canada to British Columbia.
  • Data about water are becoming more available across the Great Lakes. The Smart Lake Erie Initiative, founded by the Cleveland Water Alliance, is leading the way in collecting and managing water data about Lake Erie and making it available to decision-makers.

There’s plenty of innovative water technology in the Great Lakes Protection Fund’s portfolio of project investments, and we were happy to recognize the contributions of these leaders with special awards last year. In the Fund’s thirty-year history, we have seen innovations from our region have an impact across the globe. These Leadership Award recipients are continuing to push the boundaries to improve freshwater systems—here in the Great Lakes and beyond.

We’re developing new Great Lakes Leadership Awards for 2020. Stay tuned for updates over the next few months.

— Steve Cole, Vice President of Programs