Cleveland Water Alliance showcases network of water innovators at Erie Hack 2.0

Bryan Stubbs, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance, kicks off Erie Hack 2.0 in Cleveland on June 20.


The Cleveland Water Alliance welcomed a new batch of innovators to Erie Hack 2.0, a water innovation competition hosted by the group, on June 20 in conjunction with Cuyahoga50, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire.

Erie Hack is a $100,000 innovation competition designed to find and accelerate new solutions to Lake Erie’s biggest water quality challenges.

“There are so many great ideas and products coming to market to help keep our Great Lakes safe, healthy and accessible. We’re on the cusp of creating the first Smart Lake,” Bryan Stubbs, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance, said recently after the organization was recognized with a leadership award from the Great Lakes Protection Fund.

Before the June 20 innovation competition got underway, Erie Hack 2.0 kicked things off with a luncheon and a series of presentations from water sector innovators, whose products have been making waves in the U.S. market. Presentations were given by Fontus Blue, an Akron, Ohio-based company that develops tools for monitoring harmful algal blooms (HABs); Subterra.ai, a company that specializes in 3D mapping for sewer system inspection; Brilliency, a smart phone app that allows electric, gas and water utility end-users to track usage patterns; and Xylem brand Valor Water Analytics, which presented its Hidden Revenue Locator aimed at recovering lost revenue from apparent water loss.

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Also interspersed throughout the program were talks from researchers, state government officials and water organization and sector leaders including Peter Gravatt, CEO of the Water Research Foundation and former head of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.

The Erie Hack competition then got underway. The Hack was hosted by Andrew Humphrey, an Emmy award winning meteorologist and reporter at WDIV-TV Local 4, the NBC Detroit affiliate, who served as emcee.

Teams in the running pitched their ideas for new and tech-driven ways to help solve many of the challenges around Lake Erie, including algal blooms and other water quality innovations for source water protection and nutrient pollution reduction, among others. The finalists, which were chosen from local competitions in Detroit, Toledo, Ohio, Cleveland, Erie, Pa., Buffalo, N.Y. and Windsor, Ontario, presented before a panel of expert judges who selected the winners.

TACSO, a team from Cleveland that proposes a geodesic dome made of polymers to catch trash from stormwater run-off, was the first-place winner at Erie Hack 2.0. TACSO, which stands for Trap and Contain Storm Water Objects, was awarded $40,000.

Second place went to CCTronic, a technology company that develops products for soil and water conservation and pitched an idea to introduce a system of smart and connected valves and filters to intelligently clean runoff from drainage tiles on farms. Third place was awarded to Erie-duction, which proposed a new method that uses ochre pigment with farm drainage tile systems to help absorb phosphorus while letting the water drain through. Ochre is a natural clay earth pigment which is a mixture of ferric oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand.

“We are one step closer to creating the first Smart and Connected Lake thanks to the efforts of these Erie Hack winners,’’ said Stubbs. “The next step is to support these teams to get their ideas to market and drive our Blue Economy.’’

A proponent for regional innovation, the Cleveland Water Alliance is working to make Lake Erie the first Smart and Connected Great Lake that enables intelligent community water management. Through its Erie Hack innovation challenge and its work to create an early warning system for toxic algae in Lake Erie, the organization works to identify promising technologies that are poised to have a significant impact on water management and treatment.

The first Erie Hack took place in 2017. A team from Wayne State University in Detroit took home the top prize for its nano-sensors for phosphorous, nitrogen and lead, powered by a custom micro-battery. Teams from Akron, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y. also took home prizes that year.

Established in 2014, The Cleveland Water Alliance is a non-profit organization that seeks to better utilize the economic and job-creating potential of Lake Erie while also urging greater care of this valuable, natural asset. The CWA works with a network of partners throughout the region and engages hundreds of tech experts, engineers, data scientists and entrepreneurs to solve critical water issues in the region and beyond.

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