A new partnership between the Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC) and the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) will help boost Ontario’s role as a global leader in the advancement of water technology.

The two organizations recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreeing to work together to support the research, development and demonstration of water technologies and practices and to provide strategic support to technology companies.

“I think we can do more together than as individuals which is why we created the MOU,” says Rob Andrews, chief executive officer of OCWA. “OCWA brings a hands on approach to water technology. We are good at identifying the needs of the water facilities in Ontario and the technology that will help us improve operations. SOWC brings access to the leading innovations in water technology. They are good at staying on top of the global advances in water treatment technology and finding areas for advancement and opportunities. As partners, OCWA can bring the practical side and SOWC can bring the research and innovation side and together we can promote the technologies that will have the greatest public benefit.”

OCWA is the largest organization of water operators in North America. It works with 150 municipalities throughout the province maintaining and operating 250 wastewater treatment plants and 250 drinking water treatment plants. As part of its role, OCWA has a provincial mandate to support the development of new water technology innovations and is able to connect companies looking to pilot a technology with a municipal plant that has a matching need.

However in some cases, a technology may not be at the stage where it can be piloted with a first client in an actual municipal plant, which is where SOWC comes in. The SOWC’s state-of-the-art facilities are geared toward testing and demonstrating water technologies in an environment that mimics the real world so that researchers and industry can make the necessary developments to move a product to the next step.

“Through this partnership, OCWA can refer companies to SOWC to do the real world demonstration required to continue through the commercialization process,” says Brenda Lucas, SOWC executive director. “The same goes for SOWC. We can also make referrals to OCWA and help companies advance their technologies by connecting them to potential municipal clients. A big part of moving innovation forward is helping companies find situations where the technology can actually be incorporated by an interested municipality. It gives companies another reason to work with us because we can connect them to OCWA once their technologies are ready for market.”

Not only will this referral process help companies advance their technologies, but it will also benefit municipalities working with OCWA by providing them improved access to the latest developments in water technology innovations, adds Lucas.

“OCWA is hired by municipalities to run their systems as well as to give advice on infrastructure and to ensure operations are working properly to treat wastewater and clean drinking water,” says Lucas. “This partnership will give these municipalities exposure to new technologies that may be able to provide efficiencies or address problems they may have.”

The two organizations are hoping this team approach will also help clarify each other’s roles, highlight existing synergies and educate stakeholders in Ontario’s water sector on how the two groups work together.

“We saw a continuum but also a bit of an overlap,” says Andrews. “There was also some confusion in the marketplace about what the SOWC and the OCWA roles are among universities, technology companies and municipalities. This partnership will help calm the confusion and streamline the process.”

As part of the MOU, SOWC and OCWA plan to include each other in any educational events and promotional efforts. Both will also continue to work closely with WaterTAP, the organization created to promote and support Ontario water technology companies and build awareness about its water sector.

“WaterTAP is extremely supportive and excited by the MOU between SOWC and OCWA, as the validation, demonstration and deployment of innovative new water technologies is critical to the development and growth of emerging companies in the water sector that all three organizations have a mandate to support,” says Dr. Peter Gallant, President and CEO of WaterTAP.

“This partnership will entail hosting some events together that will spur people within the sector to think about technology advancement,” says Lucas. “We want to work together to foster engagement between municipalities, industry and researchers. We want to show that Ontario is a leader and that there is support in place here to help successfully advance technologies.”

Ultimately, the joint efforts that will result from the MOU will help maintain and even strengthen Ontario’s reputation as a leader in water technology innovation, says Andrews.

“Ontario is recognized as one of the few global water technology innovation clusters,” he says. “It’s important to maintain momentum and promote this recognition in order to move technology from the lab to commercial feasibility. By working together, OCWA and SOWC will be more effective at supporting Ontario as a place where innovation happens.”