Guest Column | April 9, 2013

WWEMA Window: The Coming Innovation Revolution

Mike Dimitriou

By Mike Dimitriou, president, WRT - Water Remediation Technology, LLC

On June 10, Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) members will take part in a technical session at the American Water Works Association's (AWWA's) Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE13) in Denver devoted to “Overcoming Challenges to Innovation in the Water Industry.”

Many of us “old timers” have been involved in innovative technology for many years, but I see more innovation going on now than I ever have seen in my 35-plus years in the industry.

It’s not just equipment. We see it in treatment technology, pumping, monitoring, automation, and energy efficiency. We see it in groundwater, surface water, reuse, and wastewater. We see it in irrigation and industrial water use. We see it in financing and project funding. We even see it in distribution and metering. We are looking at a “wave of new” that has the potential to change the face of how we do things. It’s international. And it’s coming from both inside and outside traditional industry sources.  

This wave is coming at the right time because we face unprecedented challenges in preserving water quality, finding enough water for all our needs, reducing costs, dealing with aging infrastructure, and meeting the demands of a smaller and younger work force, as well as growing public concern and involvement.

We need innovation to meet these needs.

At the same time, we are faced with the daunting challenge of ensuring that these innovations are introduced in a timely manner, yet meet the rigorous requirements posed by the need to protect public health and the environment. Because we are all responsible for human health in all that we do.

Our present approach to introducing something “new” in North America is complex and costly. We stifle innovation with too many roadblocks. Not only does this result in less innovation, but also minimizes any innovation that does happen. Where do the new and truly “next generation” ideas go? Unfortunately, many die on the vine because it’s just too complicated and costly to bring them to market here. And equally unfortunately, many go overseas where they are developed and returned to the United States much later, to our country’s detriment.

It’s not unusual to see companies spend millions of dollars and upward of five years to meet the challenges of our industry when they want to introduce a new technology or practice. Many small companies simply cannot afford that time and cost.

How do we meet these challenges, come up with the “new,” and still meet the needs of regulators, utilities, and our clients — in other words, every American?

How do we streamline the process, allow for review and approval of new technology, reward investors for the risks they take, protect and reward utilities who participate, and provide a procurement process that allows for the value of innovative alternatives?

This is what we will explore in the upcoming session at ACE and continue to address over the next year. WWEMA is dedicated to helping our industry meet these challenges.

See you in Denver.

About the author:
Mike Dimitriou is president of WRT (Arvada, CO), a manufacturer of treatment systems for the removal of radium, uranium, and other contaminants from water.  He is a member of the WWEMA Board of Directors.