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Changing the Game on Water, One Year Later

A year after the White House launched a new water innovation strategy, the Administration continues to act to mobilize innovators and investors and meet our targets.

One year ago, the White House issued a new water innovation strategy that outlined the need to develop and deploy the technologies and practices that both conserve water and generate new, clean supplies. We aimed to accomplish this by laying out clear technical targets and mobilizing innovators and investors. The strategy focused on new cost-effective climate solutions to spur new American businesses and jobs.

Since then, the private sector has played an active role in advancing the strategy – committing nearly $4 billion in private capital for investment in water infrastructure projects nationwide, and more than $1 billion over the next decade to conduct research and development for new technologies.

Now, we are arming that collaboration with another powerful tool: with its release of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program rules, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is standing up a new credit program that can spur innovation in water by providing direct loans for the construction of domestic water and wastewater projects. This new mechanism supplements the existing EPA State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs and promotes innovative and emerging technologies like environmentally-minded desalination, increased aquifer recharge, and water recycling. WIFIA can help jumpstart not just new projects, but also fundamentally novel approaches – the sort of innovation that will power new American businesses and jobs.

Supporting the uptake of new technology-, data-, and market-driven solutions is a goal shared by all of our agencies and programs; and an objective emphasized in the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Report to the President on Science and Technology to Ensure the Safety of the Nation’s Drinking Water. One example where this aligned and accelerated approach is making a difference is the Interior Department’s (DOI) WaterSMART program. Today, DOI will release its progress report on WaterSMART, highlighting that over the last six years, projects initiated under the WaterSMART program are expected to result in savings that are roughly equivalent to the amount of water used by 4.6 million people. But we’re not stopping there: the Interior Department also released a data visualization tool today to make the lessons learned from these WaterSMART projects accessible to stakeholders and state and local governments. And last week, the White House and the California Governor’s office held a water data challenge where programmers and developers built new data projects to help address California’s water priorities.

"Global water crises...are the biggest threat facing the planet over the next decade." -World Economic Forum Global Risks 2015 report

But there’s more to do. Water supply challenges are felt around the world; in fact, water scarcity tops the World Economic Forum’s list of long-term risks to the health of the global economy. The innovation we’re pioneering domestically can mitigate these risks in countries around the world just as it helps promote economic growth at home by supporting continued market opportunities for American businesses. That’s why, last month at the United Nations international climate conference in Morocco, the Administration announced steps to build on successes of our domestic innovation strategy for global impact. These steps will reduce water and food security risks through innovation, finance, and data and technical assistance. They will promote economic stability and protect our national security. They will unlock new markets and growth for American businesses; and keep the United States at the forefront of developing and deploying the next generation of food and water security technologies, preserving our competitive advantage internationally.

In just a year, our water innovation strategy is in robust implementation across Federal agencies and alongside the private sector. The impact is already measurable. And the momentum is irreversible.