Fresh Ideas, Frank Conversation and New Water Tech Sizzle at Klir’s Boiling Point Summit
We talk with our CEO David Lynch, EPA's longest-serving administrator Carol Browner, General Manager and CEO of Moulton Niguel Water District Joone Kim-Lopez, and award-winning journalist Erica Gies about the future of water and tech.Download
“I’ve spent my entire career building technology in water: in many ways it has all led to today.”
That’s how Klir CEO David Lynch summed up Monday’s Boiling Point summit, which brought luminaries from the world of water to Toronto for an evening of eye-opening conversations, crucial network-building, and a glimpse into the future of effective water management
Held alongside the world’s premier water conference, ACE23, the event began with an introduction from the EPA’s longest-serving administrator Carol Browner, who moderated a provocative panel discussion on technology and the challenges of 21st century water stewardship.
“Based on my experience, change and disruption are important, but they’re not the same thing. Water is a highly complex system, so we have to think very carefully about change,” Browner told attendees, encouraging them to think about the many ways technology and responsible water management intersect.
Joining Browner and Lynch on stage were Joone Kim-Lopez, GeneralManager and CEO of the Moulton Niguel Water District, Erica Gies, an award-winning journalist who covers the water system, and Klir’s own Tom Stafford, who took to the stage to announce a slew of updates to the Klir platform.
Reconnecting Customers With Water and Returning to ‘Science-Based’ Policy is a Must Says Longest-Serving EPA Head
Browner, who successfully led the world’s most powerful environmental regulator through one of its most challenging periods between 1993 and 2001, spoke candidly about what she thought were the biggest opportunities facing water policymakers today.
“I think it is probably fair to say they are not fact-based or science-based, and my hope is that the states will rise up and adopt their own protection regimes,” said Browner, alluding to the US Supreme Court’s highly-controversial decision to slash decades-old federal protections for wetlands.
Browner said protections for wetlands are crucial not just from a hydrological standpoint, but also because they can help build stronger connections between people, the environment, and the water they consume: a crucial step towards solving the water crisis.
“The more we can reconnect people to waterways, the more we can make them understand: where does that water you drink come from? Where’s it going? The better, I think.”
Journalist Erica Gies, author of the groundbreaking survey of nature-based water interventions Water Always Wins, echoed that sentiment and emphasized the need for a cultural reset around our relationship with water.
“We tend to think of water as either a commodity or a threat. But not everybody in the world thinks about it that way. Some people think about it as a friend or relative, which can sound a little strange.”
Innovation is ‘Critical’ to Attracting Next Generation of Water Experts Says Head of Moulton Niguel Water District
“I just want to realistically set this conversation. You’ve got visionaries; you’ve got people with amazing experience. But from a practitioner level at the utility, the world is very different.”
That’s how Joone Kim-Lopez, who serves more than 170,000 customers at California’s Moulton Niguel Water District, framed the water challenge from the perspective of large US water systems, which continue to struggle with outdated infrastructure, an aging workforce, and a rapidly-changing climate.
Lopez also leads the California Data Collective, a nonprofit representing 21 million Californians focused on leveraging technology to bring much-needed modernization to the state’s water system.
“We have over 7,000 water providers in California. Most of them actually don’t even have SCADA. 600 systems are on the brink of failure or move in and out of failing. Nearly 1 million Californians do not have access to safe drinking water.”
While those are sobering numbers, Lopez said that sophisticated technological interventions like AI could be a game-changer not just from an engineering standpoint but also by helping attract the next generation of talent to the water sector.
“If we don’t modernize, we’re not going to get the best people,” said Lopez. “I wish I could pay my people what some of these other private companies are paying; I wish I could compete with that market.”
Klir Debuts Groundbreaking New Compliance Tools and AI-Driven Assistant
Tom Stafford, Chief Product Officer of Klir and former senior manager at the EPA in Ireland, drove home the importance of empowering workers and drawing on the experience of utility operators with a presentation on how water-related media fiascos in Ireland and the UK regularly push systems into reactive modes of thinking.
“It’s probably twice as expensive to be reactive as it is to be proactive,” said Stafford, referencing the consultants utilities were forced to hire after protests in Ireland against combined storm overflows and water rate changes—some of the largest in the country’s history.
Stafford took the stage to announce Klir Comply, a groundbreaking new platform from Klir that will help water workers at all levels of the utility access the compliance information they need, tackle challenges more proactively, and avoid expensive consultant fees.
“Whether you’re a CEO or a plant operator, Klir Comply is all about managing your data, putting it together and easily generating the information you need.”
Klir CEO David Lynch echoed the need for crystal-clear compliance management while announcing another exciting new feature: an AI-driven assistant named ‘Boots’ that will help Klir users search for data quickly, draft emails, generate reports, and save hours on administrative busy work.
“I’m excited to finally share the biggest enhancement to Klir to date. This new generative AI tool, which uses the power of ChatGPT, our own proprietary LLMs, as well as the Microsoft AI stack, to help humans to do what they do best: exercising their best judgment.”
Lynch emphasized the need to create a ‘safe space’ for innovation and said Klir’s new tools delivered just that. World-class cybersecurity combined with powerful new integrations with the Microsoft product stack would ensure that Klir users would see continuing and compounding improvements in the months ahead.
“Without our passionate customers, those users, advocates and even those detractors, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be better every single day.”
Should it be "I just want to sort of realistically set this conversation" or "I want to realistically set this conversation."