basketball in water

March Madness and the Sweet Six

This busy time of year means more than just the beginning of Spring and the madness of NCAA basketball: It’s a time to commemorate water and its champions locally and globally, including our very own six winners of the U.S. Water Prize.

The U.S. Water Alliance (Alliance) created and launched the U.S. Water Prize in 2010 as a way to bring positive recognition to deserving organizations, companies, and individuals. In 2011, the Alliance celebrated the inaugural class of U.S. Water Prize winners: the City of Los Angeles, Milwaukee Water Council, National Great Rivers Research & Education Center, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the Pacific Institute.

This year’s winners are an equally impressive compilation of public and private sector organizations that are demonstrating superior leadership in integrating, innovating, and educating for water sustainability. The Alliance’s six 2012 U.S. Water Prize winners are:

PepsiCo Frito-Lay

PepsiCo Frito-Lay is deserving of the U.S. Water Prize because of its corporate-wide stewardship on water and energy conservation. Its Casa Grande, AZ snack facility is leading the way in energy efficiency and process-water reuse. Water is an essential ingredient to the food and beverage industry and both Frito-Lay and PepsiCo are demonstrating how to manage water efficiently and save dollars along the way.

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is being recognized for its pioneering watershed-based permitting (WBP) pilot program that many of its other cutting-edge approaches fall within. The pilot WBP extends to the natural boundaries of Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers’ watersheds rather than being confined to political jurisdictions or industries. This has the potential to be more effective and efficient than traditional strategies in reducing water pollution within a watershed.

Philadelphia Water Department

The Philadelphia Water Department is receiving the U.S. Water Prize for “Green City, Clean Waters.” This far-reaching program is uniting the city with its water environment, creating a green legacy for future generations and finding a balance among ecology, economics, and equity.

Project WET Foundation

The U.S. Water Prize goes to Project WET Foundation for its success in building an extensive, grass-roots network of school and community educators.  The program reaches thousands of formal and non-formal educators and millions of children annually with water-science education locally and globally.

Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative

The selection of the Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative for the U.S. Water Prize highlights the importance of inter-jurisdictional partnerships to protect and sustain drinking water supplies. This interstate collaborative between Maine and New Hampshire unites local, state and federal partners to protect forests and reduce stormwater pollution from anticipated development.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission merits the U.S. Water Prize because of its holistic approach to energy, water, and urban watershed management. Its strategy for stormwater includes innovative regulation, collaboration with other enterprises, and financial assistance and outreach campaigns to increase community awareness and participation to enhance the function of the city’s watersheds.

What’s your favorite team? Weigh in. Show your support. The competition is getting stiffer and that’s exactly what we want. After we celebrate the six winners in high style in Washington, D.C. on April 23, we’ll begin planning for next year’s “tournament”.  I’m not a betting person but I’d bet big money the competition will grow even more intense.

Bonus Points:

March 22, World Water Day, adds to the wonderful, waterful madness in March. This special day is a reminder for all of us about the value of water and the important work ahead in reducing the number of people lacking access to safe water (884 million) and sanitation (2.6 billion).

It’s also special this year because the Global Environment & Technology Foundation, U.S. State Department, Global Water Challenge, World Resources Institute, Environmental Law Institute, UNC Water Institute and other key partners are using the occasion to launch a U.S. Water Partnership. The effort is a global rescue mission, forming a broad and diverse network of experts to practice “wet diplomacy,” save lives, and protect ecosystems. The Alliance is proud to be one of the many partners helping build this network.

March 22nd also marks the day SIWI announces the winner of the 2012 Stockholm Water Prize: the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).  Headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, IWMI is being honored for its pioneering research to improve agriculture water management, enhance food security, protect environmental health and alleviate poverty in developing countries.

Having served as one of the nine international judges for the Stockholm Water Prize over the last four years, it is a special honor for me to see IWMI get the award. As water and food security challenges continue to rise across the globe, it is important to recognize and celebrate the leaders and innovators who are tackling these issues head-on. May the achievements of IWMI and the six winners of the U.S. Water Prize spread the wealth of water stewardship far and wide.

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