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Center for Environmental Policy

Partnership on Technology Innovation and the Environment Advances Water Technology Adoption

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The Center for Environmental Policy is serving as the secretariat for a partnership with government, business, investment, academic, and environmental organizations to accelerate the development, adoption, deployment, scale-up, and export of technologies for energy, water, and materials that protect health and the environment.

Read summary report from the Expert Workshop on Water Technologies »

The Partnership on Technology Innovation and the Environment (PTIE) was founded on the premise that unique capabilities of the multi-sector collaboration can catalyze and enable substantive innovation and technology deployment that could not be achieved by any of these sectors acting independently. Currently members include:

The Partnership identified gaps in current efforts through a consultative process that began in January 2014 and included its June 27 Expert Workshop on Water Technologies. The Partnership focuses on scaling up water technologies in specific areas of the EPA Water Technology Innovation Blueprint where Partnership’s unique composition could be leveraged:

(1) Challenging nutrients: Technology innovation for better water quality; and
(2) Developing viable wastewater treatment business models by leveraging innovative financing and technology.

The premise of this initiative is that accelerating deployment of existing technologies holds great potential for addressing complex challenges for water resources and increasing climate resiliency.

The Partnership established corresponding workgroups composed of water technology experts from non-profits, industry, academia and the government. After assessing challenges and opportunities, each group developed an action plan for advancing specific water technologies which were refined at the June 27, 2014 workshop hosted at American University. A second phase of the Partnership will implement the action plan to meet defined metrics, and, as appropriate, use fast prototyping to test, learn, and enhance methods.

The Center for Environmental Policy provides management and analytical support for the Partnership. The Partnership grew out of the Technology Market Summit that was held at American University in May 2012. For more information on the Partnership, please see the Partnership Agreement.

For more information, contact Abby Lindsay at Abby.Lindsay@american.edu.

Workgroup 1 - Challenging Nutrients: Technology Innovation for Better Water Quality

Issue: Accelerating the development, adoption and use of nutrient sensing technology to track and reduce non-point source pollution.

Problem: The ability to eliminate nutrient pollution and improve water quality is hampered by an overall lack of data and currently high cost of technologies.

Actions:

  • Issue a Market Stimulation Challenge to accelerate sensor development and commercialization
  • Build consensus around a set of technical and use specifications for nutrient sensors with a desired price range
  • Demonstrate demand for and intent to purchase affordable and reliable sensing technology that meets user needs at specified price range
  • Identify manufacturers interested in submitting prototypes for testing for compliance with specification.

Planned Result: Achieve a significant reduction (target: 80-90%) within the next three years in costs of nutrient sensing technology while maintaining the quality and interoperability of monitoring.

Potential Impact: More affordable nutrient sensor technology that will support more effective non-point source controls, planning, and market-based solutions in watersheds across the country.

Update: AU and the Partnership assisted EPA with identifying market specifications for affordable nutrient sensors through a User Needs Survey, and now the Nutrient Sensor Challenge is being launched!  For more information on the Survey and Challenge, visit www.american.edu/spa/cep/projects/nutrient-sensor-challenge.cfm.

Workgroup 2 - Achieving Widespread Adoption and Scale-up of Innovative
Wastewater Treatment Technologies

Issue: Addressing obstacles to adequate development, scale-up and installation of cost-effective wastewater treatment infrastructure in the United States.

Problem: Much of U.S. wastewater treatment infrastructure is aging, outdated and inadequate but, using traditional technologies and business models, municipalities lack funding to make needed upgrades.

Actions: 

  • Identify and leverage current innovative wastewater technology activities or programs (LIFT, ISLE, others) underway that: 
    • have arrived at their priority technology areas through needs assessments driven by municipal utilities (purchaser or end user),
    • are considering later-stage, commercially ready technologies and are poised to scale them to meet increasing demand,
    • are considering or conducting performance testing of technologies through programs or activities that include utilities as test beds or participants.
  • Identify one or two technologies that, based on current programs, municipalities foresee difficulty in adopting due to one or more obstacles they cannot control (i.e., policy, financing, etc.). 
  • Determine which of the obstacles might be lessened or eliminated by leveraging the multi-sector involvement of the partnership. Coordinate with the Drinking Water Working Group if funding is identified as a key obstacle.
  • Work with the partners to address these obstacles and take other steps as needed to eliminate them.
  • When the obstacles for a given technology have been eliminated, develop a “paint-by-number” that any municipality or group of municipalities can use to implement the technology at scale. Coordinate with the Drinking Water Working Group for consistency in development and documentation.
  • Catalogue the role and impact of the partnership in the adoption process.

Planned Result Short-Term: Actions identified and implemented within 12 months that are a measurable step toward widespread adoption of innovative wastewater technologies by municipally-owned wastewater treatment or management facilities in the U.S.

Planned Result Long-Term: Faster innovation in wastewater treatment technology adoption for municipalities that leverages a multi-sector partner model.

Potential Impact: Material improvements in U.S. wastewater treatment infrastructure.