The White House celebrated World Water Day on Tuesday by hosting the first national Water Summit. The day was taken to “shine a spotlight on the importance of cross-cutting, creative solutions to solving the water problems of today, as well as to highlight the innovative strategies that will catalyze change in how we use, conserve, protect, and think about water in the years to come.”

Over 200 experts, scientists, policy makers, and high tech innovators announced several initiatives aimed at encouraging more investment in water infrastructure, improving water data, and boosting technologies to shrink the country’s water footprint.

“We really just aren’t prepared for the new normal that we already are experiencing: not enough water in some places, and sometimes too much in others,” said Alice Hill, special assistant to President Obama and a member of the National Security Council staff. “We need to do more to conserve the water we have, and we need to invest in that water infrastructure that rests below our feet. We need to find new ways to work together to solve these problems.”

At the summit, the White House issued a presidential memorandum and plan to promote long-term drought preparedness, intended to permanently establish the National Drought Resilience Partnership as an interagency task force that will help coordinate efforts to prepare for and reduce the impact of droughts, improve the sharing and integration of water data related to snowpack, groundwater, streamflow, and soil moisture between federal, state, local, and tribal governments.

The summit also saw the commitment of nearly $4 billion in private capital for infrastructure investments, and private-sector plans to invest more than $1 billion in developing new technologies in advanced water treatment and reuse systems. Several projects were featured including:

  • Israel-California Green-Tech Partnership to bring 10 of Israel’s innovative start-ups to California to find new solutions to solve California’s drought
  • A project to improve weather forecasting for water-management operations put together by the US Army Corps of Engineers, USGS, NOASS, and Sonoma County Water Agency
  • A project to improve identification and monitoring of harmful algae blooms by the University of Michigan, NOAA, and Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • The launch of a water-innovation accelerator by Cleantech Open, based in Redwood City, CA
  • A multi-year initiative to develop data solutions in the water industry by San Francisco-based water-innovation accelerator, Imagine H2O
  • A $4 million fund awarded to four institutions, including Public Policy Institute of California, University of Utah, Water Research Foundation at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Clemson University.

The Obama administration will also spend about $35 million this year in federal grants to support water science and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) established the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, AL. The NOAA also announced plans to release a new National Water Model that will improve forecasting river flows and help agencies that manage water to make better real-time decisions.

Photo Courtesy of Ian James and The Desert Sun