Lake Sun Post Feature

“One Water” Resolution

I’m not keen on New Year’s Resolutions (especially the ephemeral ones that come and go faster than desert rain, which I happen to love) but 2013 deserves at least one good and lasting Resolution. Here’s mine:  I resolve to partner with individuals and organizations like never before to help advance “One Water” – the concept championed by the U.S. Water Alliance (Alliance) to change the way America views, values, and manages our most precious liquid asset.

With our partners and colleagues, the Alliance will have activities every month to educate, communicate, coordinate, and (in the highest form of partnering) collaborate for one water management (OWM). Whether you call it integrated water resources management (IWRM), the globally-recognized discipline that organizations like American Water Resources Association promote, or Total Water Management, a phrase used by other organizations, the core concepts are all the same: integrated plans and actions toward a more holistic approach to all stages of the hydrologic cycle. It can manifest itself in many ways, from municipal stormwater plans and permits under the federal Clean Water Act, to source water protection strategies among drinking water, wastewater, agriculture, parks, and forests interests, to integration of local water , wastewater, stormwater, and water reuse agencies into one single entity.

Here are some of the Alliance’s upcoming activities that will help turn a one water resolution into a One Water Revolution:

January: The new year begins with aggressive plans for climate-driven water adaptation and sustainability meetings, with continuing action on green infrastructure and resource recovery, key concepts in what the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and others are calling “utilities of the future”. The Alliance launches a four-part series of webinars with WaterWorld on hydraulic fracturing, Beyond Name Calling to Real Environmental Protection. There’s no better example of the need for OWM than the high profile, high stakes energy-water nexus issues of shale gas drilling and “fracking”. Water quantity and quality, resource recovery, and watershed protection above and below the ground all factor into the equation, which also involve questions of governance, “cooperative federalism,” states rights, and hometown rule.

February: This is the anniversary of the Alliance’s OWM meeting in 2012 of national leaders to share ideas and form a OWM Network. There are over a dozen national organizations collaborating with the Alliance to share ideas and promote integrated solutions to complex, multi-layered problems. With Bloomberg BNA, the Alliance will also hold a comprehensive, probing webinar on water adaptation to climate change.  Senior government officials and national experts will describe top issues and opportunities involving water, from coastal resiliency and sewage flooding, to drought preparedness, ground water recharge, and business risk management.

March: The Alliance will convene the first in our series of workshops on Mississippi River nutrients, bringing together local and regional leaders from agriculture and water/wastewater sectors to find common ground to reduce excess nutrient loadings. It’s a great opportunity to put “one water” principles into practice, uniting leaders on working lands and in water  and wastewater utilities for the benefit of watersheds, local economies, and downstream communities. Supporters such as the McKnight Foundation, the Johnson Foundation, the Meridian Institute and AGree, and  Sand County Foundation make it all possible. The Alliance’s Business Advisory Council, chaired by Alliance Board Member Brent Fewell of United Water, will also team up with the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association to host an Innovations  Roundtable in Washington, DC. Leaders from U.S. EPA and other public and private organizations from around the country will share ideas and experiences on how best to create opportunities for more innovative and collaborative technologies and regulatory and financial strategies.

April:  The Alliance will be celebrating its 2013 class of U.S. Water Prize winners this month on Earth Day – April 22nd. The Alliance will honor those who embrace the “Value of Water” and practice the Oneness of Water in our third annual national ceremony in Washington, DC. We’ll celebrate the winning organizations and individuals who excel in integrating, innovating, and educating for “one water” sustainability.

May: With the support of the Water Environment Research Foundation, the Water Research Foundation, and the WateReuse Research Foundation, the Alliance plans to bring OWM Network members together to update research priorities, identify website coordination opportunities and pilot projects for collaboration, and staff training and “cultural exchange” programs (where an employee in charge of one aspect of the water cycle walks in the shoes of one in charge of a different aspect of the water cycle).

June:  The Alliance will continue its series of workshops along the Mississippi River Basin to bring agriculture and water/wastewater interests together to find common ground in reducing nutrient pollution and advancing one water perspectives.

September: The Alliance will hold its annual Urban Water Sustainability Leadership Conference, which I like to call the “One Water Leadership Summit,” in Los Angeles, CA.  This is a great forum to celebrate diversity, integration, and innovation.  The program, developed by the Alliance’s Urban Water Sustainability Council, which Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District executive director Kevin Shafer chairs, will spotlight five cities and communities from around the country.  Each will have a team of champions to discuss their winning strategies in overcoming barriers and forging “one water” alliances.  Expect to learn a lot about public and private sector collaboration for innovation and putting green infrastructure and resource recovery principles into practice.

I’m excited about our plans beyond September, as well.  The Fall will be filled with “One Water” collaborations.  This may take the shape of a water quality trading conference or a followup survey and meeting on the range of institutional barriers to OWM.

Here’s to a year of commitments for not only communicating the Value of Water (which is hugely important) but also growing the OWM movement.  Finding unity and fostering collaboration are always worth the effort and , for calendar year 2013, more urgent than ever.

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