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White House Hosts Water Innovation Summit

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Greetings from D.C. Against the backdrop of mounting water challenges in the U.S. (i.e., drought in the West, flooding in the Southwest, water quality in Flint, Mich.), the White House hosted a Water Innovation Summit on March 22 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.”

The Summit follows on the Administration’s call to action in December to develop a new public-private water innovation strategy that would include “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.” To get the ball rolling on the new effort, the White House released a copy of its new strategy, called for private-sector commitments to new research efforts, and pointed to the growing commitment by the public sector to meet these water challenges.

The recent Summit was the next step in the “sustainable water future” effort. During the Summit it was noted that over 150 institutions have stepped up to join the federal government in announcing new commitments to meet this challenge. Some of those commitments include: nearly $4 billion in private capital committed to investment in a broad range of water infrastructure projects nationwide; more than $1 billion from the private sector over the next decade to conduct research and development into new technologies; and nearly $35 million this year in federal grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support cutting-edge water science.

This is certainly not the first time this or other administrations have focused attention on a specific technology issue or challenge to be solved (see the recent call for the Cancer Moonshot initiative, another extremely worthy call to action by the Administration). As noted on the fact sheets, the technical challenges with a “sustainable water future” are many, and they have broad potential impact across the U.S. I presume many of our community are already working on these challenges (both in developing new innovations and working to transfer those advances to the commercial marketplace). In fact, you can find a commitment made by the FLC in the link provided (a partnership designed to make data from the federal labs more accessible through an online research tool).

Keep an eye out for more announcements and opportunities to support this initiative, including efforts by the FLC.

See the White House fact sheet on the December call to action here (including a link to the new strategy) and the recent water innovation summit here (including a link to commitments to date).

Gary can be reached at gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org.

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