Imagination Challenge: Water’s Role in the Race to Zero

In 2021 the US Water Alliance, together with four core partners, launched the Imagination Challenge as part of our Recovering Stronger and Climate Initiatives. An Imagination Team of diverse experts will tackle water’s role in climate mitigation and set a strategic pathway for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. 

About the Imagination Challenge

Scientists say we have less than a decade to act on climate, and any efforts to help the water sector recover stronger must contribute to progress on the climate crisis. The water sector has ample opportunities to contribute to climate mitigation and adaption efforts while pursuing sector goals like resilience and sustainability. From renewable energy generation to carbon sinks, water can help reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.
The Imagination Challenge was developed to create the intellectual, creative, and collaborative space that surfaces innovative solutions and an overarching strategy to reduce water’s GHG footprint across the nation. A sector-wide Imagination Team will undertake this challenge, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Challenge kicked off with an International Water and Climate Mitigation Symposium, co-hosted by the US Water Alliance and Xylem. This symposium explored insights and recent developments from international water partners pursuing the Race to Zero vision: net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To learn more about the symposium and watch the recording, click here.
Following this symposium, the Imagination Team will take a deep dive into understanding how the US water sector can advance these efforts and unite around a vision and strategic pathway for water’s role in climate mitigation. The Imagination Team will be guided through a series of strategic dialogues, as well as a cross-sector roundtable in partnership with the Aspen Institute. A shared vision and codifying principles are expected for release in early 2022. 
Read more about the Imagination Challenge here.

Meet the Imagination Team

Comprised of over 35 diverse experts from across the sector, the Imagination Team will work together throughout 2021 to tackle this Challenge. The team includes representatives from water associations, utilities, academia, consulting firms, environmental organizations, equity leaders, rising One Water professionals, and artists.

*Core partner or supporter.

Barb Martin, Director of Engineering and Technical Services, American Water Works Association (AWWA) 
Diane VanDe Hei, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) 
Ifetayo Venner, Vice President, Arcadis 
Cindy Wallis-Lage,* Executive Director, President, Water Business, Black and Veatch   
Nancy Andrews, Managing Principal, Solids and Energy, Brown and Caldwell
David Gadis, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, DC Water 
Dr. Beverly L. Wright, Executive Director, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice 
Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome,* Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Empowering a Green Environment and Economy, LLC  
Erin Genia, Multidisciplinary Artist, Educator, and Organizer, Erin Genia Studio 
Snehal Desai, Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer, Evoqua Water Technologies, LLC
Walt Walker, Associate / Water Equity Practice Leader, Greeley and Hansen 
Yvonne W. Forrest, Director, Houston Water  
Chauncia Willis, Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management 
Susan Moisio, Global Water Director, Jacobs 
Matt Bond, Deputy Director, KC Water 
Adel Hagekhalil, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California 
Hardeep Anand, Deputy Director, Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department 
George Hawkins, Founder and President, Moonshot Missions
Adam Krantz, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) 
Jane Atkinson Gajwani, Director, Office of Energy and Resource Recovery Programs, New York City Department of Environmental Protection 
Heather Cooley, Director of Research, Pacific Institute
Michael McAfee,* President and Chief Executive Officer, PolicyLink  
Terisa Thomas, Director, Clean Water Finance, Quantified Ventures 
Ari Neumann, Director, Community and Environmental Services, Rural Community Assistance Partnership 
Jason Bregman, Partner, Singer Studio 
Janene Yazzie, Chief Executive Officer, Sixth World Solutions 
Dr. Newsha K. Ajami, Director of Urban Water Policy, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment 
Art Umble,* Global Wastewater Practice Leader, Stantec  
Erik Meyers, Vice President, Climate and Water Sustainability, The Conservation Fund 
Ashwin Dhanasekar, Research Program Manager, The Water Research Foundation (WRF) 
Dr. Christobel Ferguson, Chief Innovation Officer, The Water Research Foundation (WRF) 
Dr. Jose Pablo Ortiz-Partida, Bilingual Climate and Water Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists 
Dr. Diego Rosso, Professor and Director, Water-Energy Nexus Center, University of California, Irvine 
Dr. Barry Liner, Chief Technical Officer and Director, Water, Science, and Engineering Center, Water Environment Federation (WEF) 
Sonia Brubaker, Director, Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, US Environmental Protection Agency 
Katy Lackey,* Senior Program Manager, US Water Alliance 
Renée Willette,* Vice President, Programs and Strategy, US Water Alliance  
Al Cho,* Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, Xylem 

For more information on the Imagination Challenge, please contact Katy Lackey at

Thank you to the Imagination Challenge core partners and supporters!