Administration Announces Public-Private Innovation Strategy to Build a Sustainable Water Future
Last week, representatives of more than 190 nations agreed to an unprecedented global climate agreement that establishes a long-term, durable framework to address one of the gravest threats facing humanity. As the President said, the agreement in Paris creates a mechanism for us to continually tackle climate change in an effective way and begin the next phase of building a low-carbon, climate-resilient future while generating new jobs and industries. That’s why today the Administration is taking action to build upon the tremendous progress we’ve made here at home by announcing a new public-private water innovation strategy. This strategy includes an aggressive two-part approach led by Federal agencies to address the impacts of climate change on the use and supply of our nation’s water resources and calls on private sector and other stakeholder groups to help significantly scale up research and investment in water efficiency solutions. The Administration’s new water innovation strategy calls for:
- Boosting water sustainability and long-term water security by increasing use of water-efficient and -reuse technologies. By continuing to support efforts by our businesses, industries, and communities to make efficient use of water—especially in water-stressed regions—and through better management practices and technology, we have potential to considerably reduce water usage by 33 percent. This would bring us closer in line with other industrialized nations, and could reduce the nation’s total CO2 emissions by about 1.5 percent annually.
- Promoting and investing in breakthrough research and development (R&D) that will reduce the price, energy costs, and emissions requirements of new water supply technology to achieve “pipe parity” in the next decade. High costs currently prohibit most communities from turning non-traditional water sources like seawater or brackish water into fresh water. Through new ambitious technical targets for cost-competitive new supplies of water from nontraditional sources, we can reach “pipe parity,” meaning costs equal to those from current processes for delivering fresh water. The technical targets include reducing the cost by four times, reducing electricity usage by three times, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by two times.
As drought conditions persist throughout the western United States, every drop of water counts. This innovation strategy means new cost-effective water solutions – and it means new businesses and new jobs for Americans. To kick-start this strategy and set up the United States as a leader on the path towards greater water efficiency and improved water technologies, today, the Administration is:
- Releasing a new report that lays out the water innovation strategy in greater detail and proposes strategies for addressing this challenge in the decades ahead.
- Hosting a Roundtable on Water Innovation today to engage with industry and public leaders to start building broader consensus on a path forward. The Roundtable will provide an opportunity for leaders from industry, academia, and Federal, State, and local governments to discuss how an aggressive innovation agenda can help America meet the challenge of a constrained water supply and increase the resilience of our businesses and communities in regions that will be affected by increasingly severe and lengthy droughts.
- Calling for commitments from private sector and stakeholder groups to advance innovation and technology for potential solutions to water issues so that sufficient water is available when and where we need it. Building a sustainable water future will require strong public and private collaboration. That is why on March 22, 2016, the United Nation’s World Water Day, the Administration will bring representatives from Federal, State, regional, local, and tribal governments together with private sector and other stakeholder groups to the White House to discuss ways in which the public-private water innovation strategy is making progress in this important area. For more information on this event, and to submit your input and examples of progress and responses to this call to action, click HERE.
- Launching a new Center for Natural Resources Investment at the Department of the Interior, which will promote increased private investment in water infrastructure and facilitate locally-led water exchange agreements in the western United States. Robust, inter-connected infrastructure and functional market institutions, like water banks, can increase the resilience of water supplies and enable and drive additional investment in conservation technologies. The Center is the third Federal financing center launched as part of the President’s Build America Investment Initiative.
- Announcing a new funding opportunity for over $20 million in water and energy efficiency grants through the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant Program at the Department of the Interior. Funding will be awarded for projects that conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water, or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict.
- Launching a new tool at the Department of the Interior to shed light on the ongoing drought in the Colorado River basin. The new tool is an interactive website that connects data from a variety of sources to provide a visual depiction of the complex relationship among water supply, water demand, and long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin.
- Announcing that the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is accepting applications for research, laboratory studies, and pilot projects that target increasing the usable supply of water in the United States. Part of the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program (DWPR), these projects will confront the widening imbalances between supply and demand in basins throughout the western United States through testing and development of new advanced water treatment technologies.
The public-private water innovation strategy expands upon the unprecedented action the President has taken to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect our natural resources for future generations.
The Obama Administration’s Actions to Help Communities Suffering from Drought
Even as droughts are expected to intensify in most regions of the United States, especially longer-term droughts in the Southwest, the southern Great Plains, and the Southeast, climate change is already putting pressure on our water resources and infrastructure. In 2012 alone, droughts affected about two-thirds of the continental United States, impacting water supplies, tourism, transportation, energy and fisheries, costing the agricultural sector alone $30 billion.
Throughout this Administration, Federal agencies, including those in the interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership, have worked closely with State, local, and tribal governments, cities and towns, and the private sector to promote near-term drought relief and invest in long-term water security. For example:
- In 2012, as part of White House Rural Council’s efforts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chaired a National Disaster Recovery Framework effort and hosted four regional listening forums to help communities respond to the 2012 drought. The National Integrated Drought Information System (NOAA/NIDIS), relying on its network of government agencies and organizations, also conducted drought outlooks around the country and convened, in partnership with Governors, a National Drought Forum in Washington, D.C. in December 2012.
- In 2013, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration announced an interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) to help communities better prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of droughts on American livelihoods, health, and the economy. The NDRP coordinates Federal government drought efforts, provides a central website for communities to access relevant information, collaborates with States on drought-response demonstration projects, and facilitates meetings with the private sector to support drought resilience innovation.
- In June 2015, the President convened Western Governors and senior Administration officials for an update on the Federal Government’s activities in support of drought-afflicted states.In July 2015, the NDRP hosted a White House Drought Symposium, bringing together a small group of high-level experts on water and drought issues across government, academia, the agricultural sector, conservation organizations, and others in the private sector to explore opportunities to improve long term sustainability of water resources through improved coordination, collaboration, and management.
- This past fiscal year alone, the Federal Government invested more than $270 million in the resilience and response measures around drought, including:
- $6.5 million by the Bureau of Reclamation to support water management improvement projects over the next two years. The Federal grants will be combined with local cost-share contributions, making a total of nearly $30 million available to help alleviate the impacts of drought on communities and agriculture.
- $130 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service (FS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to conserve and restore the Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters, as part of the Administration’s Resilient Lands and Waters initiative.
- $21 million by NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to mitigate the short and long term effects of drought.
- $44 million by USDA for payments to livestock producers through the Livestock Forage Program, which provides compensation for grazing losses due to drought or fire on land that is native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover that is planted specifically for grazing.
- $16.6 million by the U.S. Geological Survey to collect and disseminate data about water availability and use, and to develop tools to enable water managers to understand and address competing demands for water.
- $40 million by the National Science Foundation for research into desalination, water treatment, and water purification, including support for a new engineering research center for nanotechnology enabled water treatment systems.
- $13 million to support NOAA’s NIDIS program, which integrates basic and applied research performed by NOAA and other agencies into an adaptive decision-support framework for resource managers, farmers, and other water users.