Melissa Meeker is CEO of The Water Tower, the new non-profit innovation centre in Georgia, United States. She is building an innovation campus – and she wants to tell you about it!
Why are you interested in attending WEX Global?
WEX Global is a great event. I am most interested in how a digital twin can help in water utility management and am excited to see it in action at the GoAigua (Idrica) site visit. This will help me to get the support I need to make a digital twin a reality in US utilities. It will also be great to meet new people and develop relationships in this part of the world.
What is the Water Tower?
The Water Tower is a new innovation campus with a goal of advancing water resources management through an integrated approach to applied research, technology demonstration, workforce development, and public engagement. The Water Tower campus is located in Buford, Georgia, U.S., next to the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, a world-class treatment facility, and the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, which conducts educational programming. The Water Tower name was inspired by two nearby water towers which displayed the slogans ‘Success Lives Here’ and ‘Gwinnett is Great’. The water towers, once a prominent landmark for Gwinnett, have since become obsolete and removed. Our goal is that The Water Tower campus will become the landmark for water innovation and a place where you want to visit and be a part of the water ecosystem. It’s a hub for water pioneers intent on changing the game to connect, collaborate and build solutions. We launched in September 2019 and programming in our four key areas – research, technology, training, and engagement – has already begun. Construction of the campus is ongoing and anticipated to be completed in 2021.
In addition to these areas, we are also spearheading digital innovation. Data in the water industry is currently siloed. Historically, U.S. utilities are very protective of their data and are not taking advantage of what this data can tell them. Our goal is to facilitate the use of data from utilities across the U.S. and internationally to create simulations for training, resilience planning and technology demonstrations.
What about the Circular Economy?
In my experience, with water needs increasing worldwide and climate variability impacting traditional rainfall patters, it is essential that the water industry embrace the implementation of the circular economy for water. My background is in water supply development and research, with previous roles including CEO of The Water Research Foundation (WRF), and Executive Director of South Florida Water Management District, as well as a wide array of other related water and environmental roles. It has been fascinated to watch the recent and wide-spread pushback on single-use plastics. More and more countries and citizens are embracing recycling in multiple industries, such as plastics. In the water industry, we need to take note because water is an incredible renewable resource. We as a society need to improve our perception on the value of water, and The Water Tower will help us get there.