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updated: 10/20/2017 6:42 AM

Nalco’s Water University in Naperville to teach conservation, innovation

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A new training facility inside a Naperville office building will help companies use less water, recycle more and decrease global water demand.

Water University by Nalco Water is a 9,380-square-foot training and education complex that opens Monday inside the Nalco Water/Ecolab campus at 1601 W. Diehl Road.

Nalco Water already helps its customers lower water use and recycle more of the water they need to power boilers, chillers, dishwashers, laundry machines and even respirators. But the new Water University, which has been under development since early this year, will make the learning experience more hands-on, interactive and responsive to new technology, said Andy Cooper, vice president of research and development.

"It's very much an experiential learning center," he said. "The latest, greatest stuff comes to Water University first."

Learning about water use and conservation in business processes is significant because of the growing demand for fresh water, which is expected to exceed supply by 40 percent by 2030, Cooper said.

Already, he said less than 10 percent of fresh water in the U.S. is reused, and only 3 percent of wastewater across the globe is recycled.

The new university will inspire customers, Cooper said, "about what we do as we save the world's water."

The learning space begins with an "immersion portal" and video room that digitally gives the feeling of being surrounded by water.

It also includes a training facility, a customer experience center, a system assurance center, several small conference or meeting rooms and an auditorium that seats 100.

The customer experience center is almost like a water-use museum.

Its centerpiece is an interactive "water table," a touch-screen display that allows visitors to explore several of the main industries Nalco Water has helped with innovations allowing them to better conserve water.

On the walls around the table are in-depth exhibits about paper and pulp production, mining and mineral extraction, heavy industries (think nuclear power), oil and gas, food and beverage, health care and life sciences, hospitality and transportation.

Each of these fields has benefited from changes Nalco Water has developed, such as ways to effectively kill bacteria on machines that produce paper packaging for snacks and drinks, ways to use less water in solutions that keep conveyor belts sliding, or ways to use less laundry and dishwashing water while still producing fluffy towels and sparkling dishes.

"There's a whole world of solutions out there that nobody knows about," Cooper said.

Nalco Water customers and sales employees will be the main beneficiaries of the learning once Water University opens. In its first days, the facility will host a Water Fundamentals workshop to teach several companies how to consume less of the life-giving liquid in their production processes.

"In a lot of ways, we don't really want to consume the water," Cooper said. "We just want to borrow it."

Next steps for Nalco Water include making the company's research and development facility as welcoming and interactive as Water University, so customers also can learn the science behind the solutions.

"Anyone who understands their water needs," Cooper said, "has an advantage."