What is the Water Research Consortium?

The Confluence Water Research Consortium is a network platform for connecting researchers affiliated with member organizations to develop sustainable, innovative, environmental technologies in response to today's regional, national and global water challenges.

Types of support offered by WRC: basic and applied research, technology development, problem solving, prototype testing, short courses and training, specialized consulting, workforce development.

Ecosystem:  Regional Water Utilities, Entrepreneurial Small Businesses, Large Businesses, Consulting Firms, Federal Laboratories, Federal Government Contractors, State and Local Government, Regulatory Agencies, Foundations.


Water Research Consortium Challenge

2019 Water Research Consortium Challenge

Goal:  The goal of the 2019 Water Research Consortium Grant Challenge is to incentivize greater participation and support of faculty and their students at regional colleges and universities in Confluence and the needs of its stakeholders. 

Eligibility:  Faculty, research staff and students affiliated with regional colleges and universities are eligible to participate in the program.  The college or university must be a member of Confluence at the time of award notification to be eligible for funding.  Past awardees are eligible for this competition.

Focus Areas:  Specific research focus areas are given below.  Proposals must be responsive to a specific focus area to be considered for an award.

Focus Area 1:  Lead Safe Cincinnati Initiative

Exposure to lead results in significant human health problems that include damage  to all of the body systems, including the heart, bones, kidneys, teeth, intestines, reproductive organs, and the nervous and immune systems.  Young children, especially before 6 years of age (due to developing brain/central and reproductive systems) are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. It can irreversibly damage mental and physical development.  Statistically, around half a million children in the United States between the ages of 1 and 5 years are believed to have lead levels in their blood that put them at risk of lead poisoning.  The most common sources are lead-based paint and water pipes in older buildings, lead-based dust, and contaminated water, air, or soil.  Lead Safe Cincinnati is a multi-partner program, utilizing the collective impact model for social change, committed to dramatically reducing lead exposure in children (0-72 months), pregnant women and other vulnerable populations in the City of Cincinnati.  Initial partners include Greater Cincinnati Water Works, Cincinnati Health Department, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Confluence.  Lead Safe Cincinnati is looking for novel, cost effective ways to address the following:

1.     Quantifying the risk of lead exposure under various water use scenarios

2.     Non-invasive identification of lead service line locations

3.     Real-time detection and reporting

4.     Educational outreach programs for schools with a focus on primary and secondary students

Additional information about gaps in understanding with regard to lead in water can be access here: White Paper FINAL.docx

Focus Area 2:  Detection and Monitoring of PFAS and Related Compounds

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals.  PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s.  PFOA and PFOS have bene the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals.  Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body.  There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.  Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals.  Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals.  The most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposure populations, with more limited findings related to:  low infant birth weights, effects on the immune systems, cancer (for PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOA).  Members of Confluence are looking for novel concepts to address the following challenges:

1.     Development of early warning and/or real-time detection methods with a focus on PFAS and 1,4-dioxane coupled to treatment strategies (detect and treat)

2.     Modeling of the fate and transport of PFAS under conditions relevant to the Cincinnati – Dayton – Northern Kentucky region and actionable recommendations

Focus Area 3:  Health of Urban Streams

Urban areas put stress on their waterways in many ways, all of which can impact usability and quality of life for nearby residents, as well as threaten public health for entire communities.  Cincinnati, like many older cities, have combined sewers in which the stormwater and the domestic and industrial sewage is mixed together in one pipe on its way to the treatment plant.   These sewers overflow when it rains too hard, discharging diluted sewage and runoff into the creeks and streams that still meander through our urbanized watershed.  When they do, E.coli and other pathogens are present in the waterbody at a level that can preclude its use.  Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District, a member of Confluence, is 10 years into what will be a multi-decade program to reduce these overflows, but the price tag is staggering:  over $3.2 Billion (in 2006 dollars).  To find more cost effective ways to address this challenge, GCMSD are looking for the following:

1.      Improvements in sensor technology for detecting E.coli or other surrogates for water quality degradation

2.      Processes to predict water quality conditions from weather forecasts, routine sampling, modeling, or other tools so that the public can be warned of water quality issues

3.      Suggestions for new business models or partnerships to address urban stream health, ranging from grassroots, citizen-scientist actions to formal public-private partnerships

Focus Area 4:  Other Areas of Interest

Members of Confluence are also looking for novel concepts to address the following challenges:

1.     Water reuse/recycling:  Innovative approach(s) to enable affordable, process water effluent treatment and recycling systems for Utilities and Process Water. The technology should:

·       Optimize energy use

·       Produce waste streams that can be easily disposed of or sold

·       Provide a step change vs. current available technologies, e.g. reverse osmosis, including life cycle costs and reliability

2.     Rain water:  Technology to enable affordable, modular treatment systems for rain water capture and use. System will be capable of producing potable water quality

3. Cooling systems: Technology to replace traditional chillers that enables both water and energy savings vs traditional air or water cooled systems

4. Water quality measurement: Identify breakthrough approach to enable affordable, small scale inline water quality measurement systems to identify/verify water’s biological oxygen demand

5.     Source water protection:

a.     Innovative ways to incorporate source water protection strategies into the economic and land use development planning process

b.     New methods for nutrient removal or removal of other contaminants from municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges

c.     Real-time monitoring of biological oxygen demand

Submission Requirements:  Although proposals involving a single faculty member are eligible for funding, proposals that show a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach involving faculty from two or more universities or community colleges are desired and will be considered more favorably during the review process, all other factors being equal.  There are no restrictions to the number of additional collaborators, e.g., consultants, government and industry researchers, other interested parties.  Budget requests must not exceed $20,000.  A cost match from the participating universities is strongly encouraged.

Proposals no longer than 5 single-spaced pages in addition to cited references, single page biosketches of the lead investigators and key personnel, and a budget and budget justification (no more than 2 pages) are requested.  The total package should not exceed 10 pages in length.  The proposal narrative should include the focus area being addressed and a description of the proposed research (work plan) and what will be achieved (likely outcomes) with the funding.  The proposal must also describe how the research supports the mission of Confluence and how the funding will be leveraged to pursue additional funding from external sources.  Allowable expenses include materials and supplies, analytical services, and financial support for undergraduate or graduate students.  

Review Process:  Dr. Phil Taylor, Executive on Loan to Confluence, will manage the proposal submission and review process.  Each proposal will have two reviewers that will prepare written reviews based on review criteria developed by the Confluence Board of Trustees.  As part of the review process, finalists from the review process will be invited to give an oral presentation of their proposed research at the Tech Showcase event to be held December 11, 2019.  The Board will announce the winner(s) of the competition in January 2020.  Dr. Taylor, with assistance from the Board, will be responsible for assuring there are no conflicts of interest in the review process. 

Submission Instructions:

Submission deadline:  November 15, 2019.  Final proposals are to be submitted via email to Dr. Taylor at Taylorp4@ucmail.uc.edu in the form of a PDF file. The email subject line should contain the following:  2019 Water Research Consortium Challenge Proposal.  Technical or administrative questions regarding this challenge competition should be addressed to Dr. Taylor using the email address above.

Key Dates:

Oral presentation by finalists at Tech Showcase event:  December 11, 2019

Awardee notification:  January 2020

Period of award:  1 year.  Estimated start dates are February 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, subject to change.