Water Council President and CEO Dean Amhaus says technological innovation is needed to address national and global water scarcity.
Speaking yesterday to members of the Milwaukee Rotary Club, Amhaus highlighted a number of lakes and other freshwater reservoirs around the world that have shrunk dramatically in recent decades.
“In June 2020, the governor of Utah put out a message to his citizens in Utah and said, ‘we need to pray for rain,’” he said. “A year ago, farmers in Arizona were hoping that it might rain. We have to do much, much more than hope and prayer.”
He noted Wisconsin is “very, very fortunate” to be located so near the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes collectively hold more than 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater, according to the EPA.
But Amhaus argued “we have to not take this for granted,” explaining that two freshwater aquifers in the western part of the United States are “starting to dry up.” That’s of particular concern as about 20 percent of the world’s grain crop, 40 percent of U.S. beef production and 40 percent of vegetable, nuts and fruits consumed in the United States come from these areas.
“Not everything is all bleak; there are solutions that are out there,” he said. “And that really comes back to what’s going on here in Milwaukee.”
He touted a number of water technology companies located in Milwaukee, highlighting the Water Council’s BREW Accelerator for startup businesses in this sector.
Amhaus also discussed a method for rapidly cleaning wastewater being piloted in South Korea, as well as efforts to improve desalination technology. By using the energy from ocean waves to power the process, he said this system could change saltwater to freshwater without using the “huge amount of energy” that’s currently needed.
“That is what the technology advancements that are going on around the world, that have that potential, that give us a sense of hope,” he said. “While there are challenges that are out there, there are multiple technologies that are coming up — developments and solutions — that can really be novel.”
–By Alex Moe