2021 US Water Prize Winners
Outstanding Cross Sector Partnership
KC Water Green Stewards Program
KC Water’s Green Stewards Program emerged out of KC Water’s Smart Sewer Program, a 25-year plan to reduce and prevent sewer overflows in Kansas City, MO. The Green Stewards Program is a workforce development program that supports the maintenance and monitoring of green infrastructure across the city. The program focuses on the development of skills in green infrastructure and landscape maintenance to develop qualifications for long-term employment in those fields. To run the program, KC Water partners with Bridging the Gap, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting environment, economy, and community. Read more about the Green Stewards Program here.
Friends of Gadsden Creek
Friends of Gadsden Creek mobilized as a grassroots, community-led campaign dedicated to opposing the destruction of Gadsden Creek—the last remaining salt marsh ecosystem on the peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina. The portfolio of Friends of Gadsden Creek envisions the revitalization of Gadsden Creek and surrounding wetlands as an essential part of repairing the social, environmental, and economic injustices that have been inflicted upon the neighboring community. The Friends of Gadsden Creek collective is comprised of passionate scientists, designers, an oysterman, a radio show host, students, educators, and naturalists. The collective’s work as activists, educators, environmental scientists, and historians continues to raise awareness of this resilient, invaluable, and beautiful community and creek. Read more about Friends of Gadsden Creek’s work here.
Outstanding Private Sector Organization
Microsoft is a leader in their field for adopting their Water Positive Program and committing to being water positive by 2030. Microsoft recognizes our world’s existing water shortage and is taking steps to meet this goal in two ways: by reducing water use intensity across their operations, and by replenishing more water in stressed basins than global water consumption across all basins. Microsoft has made impressive strides toward this goal by using data from the World Resources Institute to focus their replenishment efforts on approximately 40 highly stressed water basins in areas where the company has operations. Additionally, Microsoft’s new Silicon Valley campus features an on-site rainwater collection system and waste treatment plant to recycle and reuse rainwater and wastewater, saving an estimated 4.3 million gallons of potable water each year. Read more about Microsoft’s water initiatives here.
Salmon Speakers first came together with the goal of amplifying Indigenous voices on both sides of the US-Canada border and inspiring collective action in communities within the Stikine, Taku, Unuk, Nass, and Skeena River valleys. Their efforts center around Indigenous sovereignty, equity, sustainability, food security, and food sovereignty. The team began their work by facilitating gatherings, story circles, and interviews in southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team quickly adapted their work—moving from planning a live theatrical performance to a digital production. “When the Salmon Spoke” was produced by Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission and Ping Chong + Company, collaborating with SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and Salmon Beyond Borders. The production features life stories of ten Indigenous citizens tied to the Stikine and weaves together cinematic imagery and Indigenous music and visual art. Read more about Salmon Speakers’ work here.
Outstanding Nonprofit Organization
San Juan Bay Estuary Program
San Juan Bay Estuary Program, also called Estuario, is focused on the restoration of water bodies in the metropolitan area of Puerto Rico. As part of its mission to restore and conserve the quality of the waters of the Estuary ecosystem, Estuario launched the Illicit Discharges Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Project, the only long-term strategy on the island for detecting and correcting illicit charges. Estuario attributes the success of the IDDE Project to the organization’s multisectoral and community-led approach. By empowering residents as citizen scientists, Estuario engages community members whose efforts improve the health of water bodies and related ecosystems. Read more about Estuario’s work here.
Outstanding Public Sector Organization
Tucson Water is ensuring the city of Tucson, AZ is an independent sustainable desert community, now and fifty years in the future. In the past two years, Tucson Water undertook three One Water projects that advance the goal of effectively managing Tucson’s multiple water resources. The first of these projects is the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, which reintroduced flowing water to the Santa Cruz riverbed after a 100-year absence. The second project is the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Fund that originated with Tucson Water developing a proposal for a green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) fee and program. The third project is the South Houghton Area Recharge Project, which is a 40-acre recharge and recycle project. Read more about Tucson Water’s work here.
Outstanding Rising One Water Leader
Dr. Lindsay Birt
Lindsay has extensive experience in digital intelligence for water and wastewater networks and water resource engineering, including nutrient management, stream water quality monitoring and modeling, stormwater management, sustainable design and performance assessments, geospatial information systems, and watershed management. She currently serves as the Watershed Committee Chair and on the LIFT-Innovation Subcommittee Member for the Illinois Water Environment Association. Dr. Birt completed a PhD in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue University with an emphasis in environmental and natural resources engineering. She holds an MS and a BS in biological and agricultural engineering from Texas A&M University. Read more about Dr. Birt’s work here.
Outstanding Journalism on the Value of Water
Ian James and Colleagues, The Arizona Republic
Journalist Ian James, along with colleagues Rob O’Dell, Mark Henle, David Wallace, Nick Oza, and editor Shaun McKinnon at The Arizona Republic, have devoted extensive work to spotlighting pressing water challenges in the state of Arizona. The high-volume portfolio James continues to build upon includes detailed stories on groundwater depletion, the overall lack of water regulation in large portions of Arizona, and promising water management solutions, which have spurred water-related policy proposals in Arizona’s state legislature. His reporting has also examined the widespread problems of inadequate water access in Navajo and Hopi communities, which are compounded by the impacts of climate change and the lasting effects of mining and water sources tainted with hazardous contaminants. Read more about this reporting here.
Outstanding Public Official
Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury (NM-1)
Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury is the recipient of the 2021 US Water Prize for Outstanding Public Official for her work as a water champion in her home state of New Mexico. Prior to her election in 2021 to represent the first congressional district of New Mexico, Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury served as a State Representative. As a state representative, Congresswoman Stansbury crafted, sponsored, and led the groundbreaking bipartisan legislation of the Water Data Act, which was signed into law in 2019. The Water Data Act has already streamlined data sharing and improved collaboration between agencies, especially for water managers who now have access to previously siloed data on water resources. Read more about Congresswoman Stansbury’s work here.