New Solutions For Lake Erie’s Challenges

A competition has launched to help bring new ideas for problems faced by utilities in the Lake Erie Basin.

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A new competition is aimed at solving the biggest challenges facing Lake Erie.

Erie Hack launched last week, a competition bringing together coders, developers, engineers and water experts to come up with new creative and effective hacks to tackle water problems. Teams with the best ideas will be awarded $100,000 in prizes, as well as startup assistance to implement their proposed solutions. Regional meet-ups in Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, and Windsor, Ontario, will help assemble teams, which will include participants ranging from high school students to industry professionals. Teams will present their solutions on April 13 in Detroit, and a panel will select eight teams to advance to the Erie Hack Innovation Summit May 2-3 in Cleveland. Among the issues teams are being asked to address are:

  • Excessive nutrient loads in Lake Erie from phosphorus and nitrogen. Teams are asked to develop solutions, devices, hardware or digital tools to measure and control phosphorus and nitrogen, and control excessive agricultural runoff.
  • Heavy metals such as mercury, lead and chromium. Teams are asked to develop hardware or digital tools to measure or mitigate the effects of these pollutants.
  • Managing aging water infrastructure systems. Teams are asked to develop tools to document the existence of lead pipes and to develop methods to detect, map and model other vulnerabilities in a water infrastructure system.
  • Developing public awareness about the value of fresh water. Teams are asked to develop technology-based innovations to make the public more aware about the consequences of how they use water.

“In general, it’s the chance to launch a serious focus on leveraging our water economy,” Beth Zimmer, managing director of Erie, Pennsylvania’s Innovation Collaborative, one of the competition’s sponsors, told

She points to other communities that have done that, like Milwaukee which was able to convince Zurn Industries, previously headquartered in Erie, to relocate to the city’s new water-focused technology park.

“It could be a really good chance for us to start building a water economy. Maybe if we had done this 10 years ago, Milwaukee wouldn’t have Zurn headquarters,” Zimmer says.

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