Lovell: No ‘silver bullet’ on water issues

First water task force meeting held Tuesday at Marquette

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Marquette University president Michael Lovell said Tuesday that Americans have undervalued water and events in Flint, Mich. could help alter how the country utilizes the resource.

Marquette University president Mike Lovell speaks to reporters during a press conference on issues in water and manufacturing.
Marquette University president Mike Lovell speaks to reporters during a press conference on issues in water and manufacturing.

“It’s clear by the amount of water all of us as citizens use, we kind of take it for granted and we need to be better stewards of it,” Lovell said.

His remarks came during a press conference for the first meeting of a national task force studying water security threats to American manufacturers. Leaders from a number of large manufacturers, including A.O. Smith, Badger Meter, CNH Industrial, Johnson Controls, Inc., Kohler Co., MillerCoors, Quad/Graphics, Rockwell Automation, Rexnord Corp., and Tamarack Petroleum Co., converged on Marquette University Law School for the event.

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Lovell said seeing events in Flint and droughts in the western United States gives those involved an extra level of interest and awareness on water related issues.

“It wasn’t that long ago when Milwaukee was facing some significant water challenges and I think that brought a sense of awareness and some significant changes in this city,” Lovell said. “Well, I think what’s happening in Flint might not just change Flint, but may change the way things go across the country.”

The task force is looking at issues of water technology, investment, talent and infrastructure. It is a partnership between Marquette and A.O. Smith that will feed into the U.S. Energy and Manufacturing Competitive Partnership, a national action plan driven by the Council on Competitiveness. The idea is to create a set of policy recommendations to give to the next president and Congress.

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Robert Heideman, A.O. Smith chief technology officer, said water is a critical resource for manufacturing companies, it is used as a part of testing, as a raw material, process component, for fire suppression and drinking water for employees.

“Having an adequate and consistent supply of fresh water is more than just a competitive necessity, without water, in many cases, our operations would cease to function,” Heideman said.

Lovell said he was pleased with the turnout for the first meeting of the task force. The goal was to secure 20 individuals but attendance was eventually cut off at 50.

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“There’s no silver bullet for any of this stuff,” Lovell said. “It’s going to be a combination of a lot of great ideas and that’s why I’m so excited to see the people who are in the room with us. We do have the thought leaders from industry, academia and the national labs and if anybody is going to figure it out, I think this group has a great chance.”

The next steps after Tuesday’s meeting will be the generation of a post-meeting report which will include the top recommendations from the day’s discussions.


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