The Water Council and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will host two conferences in China next month to highlight how Wisconsin’s water technology companies can help that country address its water challenges.
“One Water, One World: The U.S.-China Conference on Water and Sponge Cities” will take place on Nov. 27 in Nanjing and Nov. 30 in Beijing. The conferences are expected to bring together more than 200 leaders from government, water technology companies and academia in both countries. These will be the first conferences between the U.S. and China to focus on the concept of “one water” as a complete water cycle – from the removal of water to its sustainable return to nature.
In China, rapid urban development and use of impervious materials prevent soil from absorbing rainwater, which is causing serious flooding problems in the country’s major cities. To address the issue, the Chinese government in 2015 launched its “sponge city” initiative in 16 cities. The goal is to upgrade urban infrastructure to allow for better retention and drainage, as well as natural purification and infiltration.
“We’re seeing that the water cluster is increasingly becoming an asset for companies outside the Wisconsin region,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council. “Through our established ecosystem of academic and research expertise, technological subject-matter experts and support at the regional and state level, we have a special opportunity to assist other countries on their endeavors toward developing ‘one-water’ cities.”
“This conference is another indication of the international reputation that Wisconsin has achieved in the water technology sector, thanks in large part to The Water Council and its many statewide partners,” said Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Helping China address some of its water challenges not only benefits that country’s citizens, but also presents new opportunities to some of the more than 200 Wisconsin-based companies currently in the water technology sector.”
The conferences, which are being held with support from the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, will feature panels of experts from Wisconsin talking about stormwater management and efficient water use. Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, will give a keynote address on the “one water” concept and how it could be implemented as part of China’s “sponge city” initiative.
In addition to Shafer and Amhaus, the event will also feature representatives from some of the state’s industry leaders: Rockwell Automation, Rexnord, A. O. Smith and InSinkErator. John Kissinger, president and CEO of GRAEF, a Milwaukee engineering firm, and Doug Buch, founder and president of PaveDrain, a Milwaukee company that makes permeable paving surfaces, also will speak at both conferences.
Ajita Rajendra, the chairman and CEO of A. O. Smith Corp., will make closing remarks at the Nov. 27 conference, while a representative of Rockwell Automation will do the same at the Nov. 30 conference.
The Chinese partners that will participate in the conferences include: the International Water Association; Sino-Singapore Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island; Jiangsu East High Group Hi-tech Industry Co. Ltd; the Beijing Water Authority; the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and Management; the China Investment and Promotion Agency; and the Shanghai Foreign Investment Development Board.
The conferences closely follow a speech by David Garman, associate vice chancellor for water technology, research and development of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and chief technology officer of The Water Council, in August at the China Sponge City International Exchange Conference in Beijing.
In addition, during a trade venture to China in March, leaders from WEDC and The Water Council met with key government organizations that are responsible for the development of “sponge cities.” Those meetings provided Wisconsin officials with a better understanding of water ecosystem in China and how “sponge cities” are being developed, and laid the groundwork for the council and WEDC to jointly develop a strategy to help the country address its water challenges.