A.O. Smith CEO: Mindset shift needed on water

New report shows challenges faced by manufacturers

A.O. Smith Marquette
Bill Bates of the Council on Competitiveness; Ajita Rajendra of A.O. Smith Corp.; and Mike Lovell of Marquette University at the release of the "Leverage" study today.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:20 pm

Manufacturers large and small need to adopt a mindset that stresses water conservation over waiting for new regulations,  Ajita Rajendra, A.O. Smith Corp. chairman and chief executive officer, said during a press conference today.

“In the past it seems like the approach, to generalize, has been much more of waiting for regulation to tell us what we can’t do,” Rajendra said. “We need to all be taking a much more stewardship approach that says we all need to be looking at how we can conserve this very precious resource.”

Rajendra said water is an important resource for manufacturers to compete globally and many companies in the industry are already acting as careful stewards of it.

“Manufacturers are continually finding ways to reuse or recycle the water needed to keep our operations running,” he said. “This isn’t just good for the environment, it’s really good business practice also.”

He suggested large manufacturers can serve as example for small and medium firms, while also stressing there are often positive economic benefits to making conservation efforts.

Rajendra’s remarks came at the release of a report produced by A.O. Smith and Marquette University, in partnership with the U.S. Council on Competitiveness.

A.O. Smith Marquette
Bill Bates of the Council on Competitiveness; Ajita Rajendra of A.O. Smith Corp.; and Mike Lovell of Marquette University at the release of the “Leverage” study today.

“Leverage: Water and Manufacturing” showed water demand is rising, and innovation is needed in infrastructure, technology, investment and talent can help address the shortages. The report used Milwaukee as a case study.

“Leverage” was compiled with insights from a conference of 50 national water experts hosted at Marquette in February, which focused on the intersection of water and manufacturing and led to recommendations that will be included in the Council’s Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership agenda and action plan for the U.S. president-elect.

Among the recommendations were: Use a stewardship approach to water management in which laws and regulations surrounding water reuse support natural processes whenever possible and treat water as the limited resource it is rather than a limitless commodity; integrate natural infrastructure, including roof installments, rain barrels and constructed wetlands, into water management approaches to improve energy efficiency and water quality while reducing overall water infrastructure and investment costs; and increase federal funding available for water technology test beds to accelerate development and reduce cost and risk associated with deployment of advanced technologies for improving water quality and efficiency.

“Water is a critical resource that is essential for our businesses, communities and society to thrive, and we are proud to collaborate on this roadmap for our nation,” said Michael Lovell, president of Marquette University. “On this important strategic priority, many national leaders and water experts came together to focus on accelerating development and technology for all sectors of the economy.”

Read the full report here.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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