Multi-sector collaboration is key to building a sustainable water future in the United States

blogimage_waterAt the Paris COP21 climate summit earlier this month, representatives from close to 200 countries gathered to address pressing global climate change issues. Public-private partnership emerged as one tactic to reach some of the goals included in the COP21 agreement. On the heels of the summit, with the western United States facing increasingly severe droughts, the White House announced a national water innovation strategy that calls for engagement from the public and private sectors.

“Building a sustainable water future will require strong public and private collaboration,” the Administration explained in the announcement of the new strategy. The strategy has two goals, both of which need the support of government and business to succeed. The first is to boost water sustainability and security by increasing the use of water-efficient technologies in order to reduce usage by 33 percent (a percentage closer in line with other industrialized nations). The second goal is to promote and invest in research and development to reduce the price, energy costs, and emissions requirements of new water supply technology.

“Building a sustainable water future will require strong public and private collaboration.”

Face-to-face meetings of public and private sector leaders helped catalyze the new water innovation strategy and will continue to be crucial throughout its implementation. On December 15, the White House hosted a Roundtable on Water Innovation, providing an opportunity for multi-sector dialogue “to start building broader consensus on a path forward.” Leaders from industry, academia, and Federal, State, and local governments discussed ways in which innovation can address constrained water supply and support resilient business and communities in drought-affected regions — droughts the announcement alerts will be “increasingly severe and lengthy.”

In March 2016, the White House Water Summit  will bring representatives from Federal, State, regional, local, and tribal governments together with private sector and other stakeholder groups to discuss the progress of the strategy. By building in this opportunity to assess the progress of the collaborative effort from the beginning of the strategy’s implementation, the White House is ensuring that cross-sector partners are given the opportunity to Manage Expectations of Processes and Results. Communicating progress and celebrating success are key tactics for complex, long-term projects with multiple stakeholders, as they allow the collaboration to maintain engagement and momentum.

Multiple resources also accompany the announcement of the water innovation strategy, including a report laying out the strategy, an interactive data-connecting website, and the launch of the Center for Natural Resources Investment, as well as funding opportunities for research, laboratory studies, pilot programs, and water and energy efficiency programs.