2014 Water Challenge Winners Take a Spot in WEFTEC 2014 Innovation Pavilion

Barry Liner, director of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Water Science and Engineering Center, participated as a judge at the challenge. From left, Liner stands with Steve Picou, from NOLA Vibe Consulting Inc. (New Orleans) who was moderator, and Harry Shearer, comic personality who was the master of cermonies for the challenge. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Mendoza.

Barry Liner, director of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Water Science and Engineering Center, participated as a judge at the challenge. From left, Liner stands with Steve Picou, from NOLA Vibe Consulting Inc. (New Orleans) who was moderator, and Harry Shearer, comic personality who was the master of ceremonies for the challenge. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Mendoza.

The 2014 Water Challenge marked a key event of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, March 22–28. Barry Liner, director of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Water Science and Engineering Center, appeared as one the featured speakers for the daylong challenge on March 24. Those attending WEF’s upcoming Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® 2014) will have an opportunity to see challenge winners at the Innovation Pavilion.

The Idea Village (New Orleans) and Greater New Orleans Foundation hosted the fourth annual water challenge to harness entrepreneurial expertise and address flooding, water quality, and coastal restoration. It included a morning session examining the international trend of clustering regional water expertise and an afternoon session addressing Louisiana’s major water issues and opportunities. The challenge culminated in a $50,000 business-pitch competition showcasing four entrepreneurs tackling flood protection, coastal restoration, rainwater management, and technology.

Tyler Ortego, winner of the 2014 New Orleans Water Challenge, presents information about his project during New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Mendoza.

Tyler Ortego, winner of the 2014 New Orleans Water Challenge, presents information about his project during New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Mendoza.

Tyler Ortego of ORA Estuaries (New Orleans) won the grand prize for the OysterBreak, which uses the shell building nature of oysters to create a living, engineered infrastructure for coastal restoration. ORA Estuaries works with oyster growers, provides installation services, and offers engineering consulting services related to estuarine sustainability. Challenge finalists were

  • Demetria Christo of EcoUrban Landscaping (New Orleans), a landscaping company specializing in sustainable products and eco-friendly practices, including decorative cistern-cladding solutions, rainwater irrigation, pervious patios, LED lighting, and native and edible plants;
  • Julia Kumari Drapkin of iSeeChange (Paonia, Colo.), a climate almanac and information service using aggregated analysis to help clients make informed business decisions and save money by staying weeks or months ahead of the mainstream news on potential climate and weather risks in the marketplace; and
  • Wayne Erdman of RiverView Construction (New Orleans), which designs and markets an innovative flood barrier product called the Aqua Flood Barrier™, a fast-deploying water barrier system.
The audience listens to business pitches by entrepreneurs tackling flood protection, coastal restoration, rainwater management, and technology during the challenge. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Mendoza.

The audience listens to business pitches by entrepreneurs tackling flood protection, coastal restoration, rainwater management, and technology during the challenge. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Mendoza.

Past challenge winners include Pierce Industries (Cut Off, La.), which developed the sediment-capturing Wave Robber, Tierra Resources (New Orleans), and NanoFex (New Orleans). ORA Estuaries, 2014 finalists, and past winners will all be featured in the Innovation Pavilion Theater at WEFTEC® 2014 in New Orleans.

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