Global water demand is expected to exceed supplies by 40 percent by the year 2030. Moreover, large corporations are not using advanced tools available to manage water use.

These are findings in a recent study by Ecolab and GreenBiz Group.

To help address them, Ecolab has opened "Water University," with the idea of training thousands of customers and employees on ways to dramatically cut water use by 2020.

"In partnership with our customers, our goal by 2030 is to help save 300 billion gallons of water annually — equal to the yearly drinking needs of more than 1 billion people," said Christophe Beck, Ecolab's executive vice president and president of Nalco Water. "Water University is a state-of-the-art facility where 200 scientists share solutions to conserve our most precious resource — water."

Ecolab's goal is for its training center to train more than 2,200 customers, employees and other participants each year.

So far, customers like the idea, Ecolab said. Cargill and Exelon have enrolled several employees for training that begins later this month.

The training center opened last month in Naperville, Ill., on the former headquarters campus of Nalco Water, the water filtration specialty company Ecolab purchased in 2011.

The effort builds on Ecolab's existing businesses, which include water filtration and making sanitizing chemicals for hotels, restaurants, breweries, factories, oil refineries and hospitals.

The $13 billion St. Paul-based giant increasingly uses automated equipment and water analysis to help customers save money, eliminate water waste and address the water shortage problems that already affect many industries around the globe, officials said.

Educators and environmental stewards say Ecolab's newest venture is timely.

"As a society, we don't measure and monitor our water impact very well. The reality is that when you [measure] the monetary impact of water scarcity, that means a company can do something about it," said Kate Brauman, lead scientist for the Global Water Initiative at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment.

She noted that droughts and dirty water problems are soaring for farmers, city planners and multinational manufacturers. All are studying what more can be done to conserve water, she said, adding that efforts such as Ecolab's should help, especially if manufacturers and ag firms are willing to invest in staff training.

Remodeling the Nalco space into the Water University took Ecolab 18 months and "north of $10 million" to bring the project into reality, Beck said.

The training center will offer courses from one week to six months. Some laboratories will showcase industry-specific technologies that help manage water use. Other labs will teach students to use a range of equipment focusing on water usage, infection prevention, system controls, energy loads and improving work flows.

The curriculum will use a mix of classroom instruction, equipment training, computer analysis and 3-D interactive teaching tools. Combined they "will help our students learn virtually and [live]. We have every type of equipment, from filtration and automation equipment to treat waste water as well as boilers and cooling towers," Beck said, who did not disclose the cost for courses.

Water University expands on Ecolab's previous work with Microsoft, Marriott International and the environmental data firm TruCost. The four companies have worked together to analyze water usage, expose hidden water costs inside factories and data centers and reduce water use by employing different types of high-tech and automated equipment.

In the case of JW Marriott in Pune, India, the partnership and test project with Ecolab in 2015 that used Ecolab's water monitoring equipment saved Marriott than 1.1 million gallons of water in less than a year.

Ecolab officials hope Water University will multiply such success stories.

Ecolab's regular business has more than 6,000 employees who regularly service and train customers inside their own factories, hotels and restaurants across the globe.

The university is Ecolab's latest effort to expand such offerings by offering in-depth training on Ecolab's premises using state of the art equipment.

Ecolab, which generated $13.2 billion in 2016 revenue, has worked to diversify itself in recent years.

Last month it announced that it will buy the paper chemicals business of Georgia-Pacific for an undisclosed price. In February it bought the French disinfectant maker Laboratories Anios. In January, it bought the Michigan-based wastewater engineering firm Abednego Environmental Services, which specializes in water recycling, paint booth management and waste treatment services for auto manufacturers such as Ford Motor Co.

Company officials said it plans to share some of the technological expertise gained as a result of some of the acquisitions.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725